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He's not helping on offense either

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Most of the discussion re: Skip Schumaker to this point in the season has revolved around his defense. It makes sense, of course. His conversion from outfielder to 2nd baseman was the most noteworthy news item of the Cards’ spring and the discussion of his play at the keystone is significant in determining the efficacy of the experiment. Though the coaches and the organization have lauded his defense so far the numbers don’t reflect the organization’s optimism. It’s been noted more than once that, according to UZR, he’s been the worst defensive 2B in the majors so far. According to THT’s RZR, he’s only the 4th worst 2B in the majors. Perhaps that’s as good as one could expect given Skip’s inexperience at the position.

There’s been relatively little discussion of Skip’s offense so far this season but it’s taken a notable step backwards from a very good 2008 season. Skip, of course, is the team’s leadoff hitter and the team’s offense right now is its biggest problem. One major reason for the offensive backslide is the lack of production from the top of the order. Skip’s most important job as the leadoff hitter is to get on base – a job he performed admirably last year (.359 OBP). This year, however, his OBP is more than 30 points lower than last year’s OBP. A .327 OBP is just unacceptably low for your leadoff hitter. Unfortunately, it’s not like the Cards’ roster is littered w/ other players who have been appreciably better at getting on base. Still, Skip’s OBP isn’t the only offensive statistic to have regressed so far in 2009. A closer look at the numbers indicates that Skip benefited from a .328 BABIP and this year he’s much closer to league average -- .302. Maybe he needs to slide head first into first base more often (but I digress)!

I’d like to believe that Skip has been a victim of bad luck so far this season but that notion is difficult to support when looking at the numbers. It may be more likely that he was lucky last year as opposed to unlucky this year. His line drive percentage is almost exactly the same this year as it was last year and since his BABIP is closer, this year, to league average, this year’s numbers may be more representative of his true ability than last year’s.

OBP BB% K% LD% XBH% ISO P/PA
2008 .359 8.0 11.1 21.7 21.5 .104 3.59
2009 .327 6.8 10.6 21.5 25.9 .106 3.94

You’ll see that Skip is doing some things at the plate this year better than last year. He’s reduced his strikeout rate and is hitting more extra base hits. He’s also seeing more pitches. Unfortunately, the extra pitches he’s seeing aren’t manifesting themselves into more walks. He’s also seeing about the same number of strikes he saw last year. Perhaps that lends some optimism to the idea that he may be able to increase his walk rate back to where it was last year. The problem is that this year’s walk rate is much closer to his career rate (7.1%) than last year’s rate was. Perhaps there’s some hope that the drop in Skip’s BABIP reflects some bad luck considering his relatively high GB% (61.8%) – maybe his BABIP should be somewhat higher than league average. The thing is, though, Skip can’t control his luck. Whether it was unusually good last year or unusually bad this year, it’s out of his control. What he can control is his walk rate and, given Skip’s limited offensive skill set, if he’s not walking any more than 6.8%, he’s not helping the team much offensively. Hell, even Ankiel’s BB rate is higher than Skip’s. He simply has to take more walks in order to be a good enough offensive player to justify the poor defense he’s playing at the keystone.

Night game on espn tonight. Hopefully everyone will join in for the discussion. Game thread will go up around 6:30 or 6:45.