My first post on the Cardinals focused primarily on the major off-season signing of Matt Holliday, the devastating middle of the order it would create, the bullpen and some other needs. This time around it’s time to focus on the supporting cast .
With the obvious exception of Albert Pujols, who has had enough written about him to stun a team of oxen in it’s tracks, the Cardinal infield is a group of unsung, non-household names who still get the job done every day.
Brendan Ryan is a potential gold glove winner at shortstop who brings an adequate enough stick to be in the lineup every day. With 2009 being his first full season, Ryan played in 49 more games and had 211 more plate appearances. In this increased time we saw his average raise from .244 to .292 while maintaining a good BB/K ratio (16/31 in ’08, 24/56 in ’09). The “real” Brendan Ryan is most likely somewhere in between a .280ish hitter who will steal some bases (14 in ’09) and provide very solid defense up the middle (8e’s in 507 chances in ’09). Tyler Greene will help spell Ryan along with Julio Lugo. Greene didn’t get much of a chance to show anything in ’09, but when he did it was unimpressive. A bit of speed (3sb), but whiffed in nearly 1/3 of his ab’s and only walked 4 times in 116 PAs.
Skip Schumaker will be manning second base again and as another unsung guy, really deserves some recognition. If we count the 88 games he played in ’07 (you can or can’t, doesn’t matter), Skip has been a .300 hitter with a .350+ obp each of his 3 years in the majors. The speculation at the beginning of last year was that Skip’s hitting might suffer as he tried to make the transition from OF to 2B. Those critics were pretty well silenced with a .303/.364 season and playing a very solid second base. It’s very hard not to be pleased with a fielding% of .983 and only 9 errors in 544 chances from a guy who hadn’t played infield in years. The double plays didn’t suffer badly either with Skip turning 80 and Lugo chipping in 16.
Ample credit needs to be given to Yadier Molina. Not only for the gold glove defense and run stopping arm, but for a real quiet talent. Molina is nearly impossible to strikeout. In 2009, Molina had a career high 544 plate appearances and struck out an incredible 39 times. A career high of 50 walks helped him to another career high OBP of a .366, not bad for a low end of the order hitter who is most known for his defense. Throw in a 41% caught stealing rate and you have one of the most, if not the most, valuable catchers in the NL.
At the time of this post, the Cardinal bench is more foggy and muddled than Tony LaRussa at stop light in Florida.