only one question mark remains vis-vis the cards' postseason roster. the pitching staff is set: brad thompson is out, everybody else is on. some of us would just as soon see ray king left off, but la russa is too loyal and not nearly cruel enough to dump him. as for the bench, which will comprise six players, five slots are already spoken for:
- diaz, c (rhb)
- taguchi, of (rhb)
- mabry, of/3b (lhb)
- rodriguez, of (lhb)
- luna, rf/2b/ss/3b (rhb)
- scott seabol
- mike mahoney
- john gall
- skip schumaker
above all, seabol ostensibly fills an important hole on the bench, ie right-handed pop. so taguchi would be the first rh bat off the bench, but after him the only options are einar diaz and hector luna. diaz can't hit and is the only catcher on the bench; luna has hit surprisingly well (.733 ops) but is the only backup middle-infielder. they need a plain ol' bat . . . . and unfortunately, seabol doesn't have one. he is surely a better hitter than his current stat line suggests, but that line is so far below replacement level that he could improve by leaps and bounds and still suck out the wazoo. overall he's at .212, with a .288 slugging avg and a .554 ops. but he's been unimaginably bad in his second tour of duty, which began july 22 -- his ops of .366 is barely higher than his strikeout rate, .333. these are miniscule sample sizes, but they're also pretty unequivocal stats -- the guy has barely been getting the ball into play.
gall is the same type of hitter as seabol -- swings right-handed, has some pop -- and has posted similar minor-league numbers. if you factor in age, gall is easily the more promising prospect. and he has far outperformed seabol at the major-league level this season. he has nearly as many extra base hits (5 to 6) in about a third as many plate appearances; he's 4 for 13 as a pinch-hitter -- seabol is 4 for 26 -- and he has gone 5 for 16 (.313) vs left-handed pitchers and posted a 1.103 ops; seabol is 10 for 48 (.208) with a .553 ops. simply put, gall has hit the ball a lot harder than seabol. one big caveat -- he's done most of his damage against minor-league-caliber pitchers: three of his five xbh (including both homers) have come against below-replacement-level hurlers.
mike mahoney . . . . well let's not even bother with his stats. he can catch, and the thought of getting caught short at that position terrifies managers; this alone may get his ticket punched, but i hope not.
finally there's skip schumaker, an increasingly intriguing option. he has the small-ball skills -- speed, bat-handling -- that have, of necessity, become integral to the st louis offense. he's a good defender who can play all three outfield positions. unfortunately he swings left-handed, which would leave the cards a little thin vs left-handed pitching . . . .
but does that even matter? if we play the padres, it doesn't. san diego will carry only one left-handed pitcher into the playoffs, reliever chris hammond. he's not a bad pitcher, but taguchi/luna should be enough to cover that matchup; a third rh bat isn't really necessary. moreover, small-ball skills can be useful in the padres' pitcher-friendly ballpark, whereas warning-track power (ie, gall/seabol's specialty) is decidedly useless. so if, as seems likeliest, we play the pads, put me down for skip schumaker.
if we play the phils, different story. philadelphia has two good left-handed relievers (wagner and aaron fultz) and a bad one (rheal cormier), and they may also carry a southpaw starter, eude brito, into the postseason. against them, another right-handed hitter seems necessary -- and in their park, warning-track power can go a long way. in my mind, seabol's strikeouts alone disqualify him; that leaves johnny b gall.
i kinda think, though, that la russa's going to reward seabol for being a good soldier. tony's own playing career was very similar to seabol's, and he has always had a soft spot for can't-play utility types. and he (ie tony) never got a taste of playoff baseball . . . .