Let’s get an early jump. Based on what we have now and what we know about Tony let’s try to set the lineup for 2009. You can enter names or stats or just general wants.
Leadoff, RF, Skip Schumaker. – Schumaker really proved himself as a leadoff hitter last year. In fact, Shoeman batted .309 with a .370 obp from the leadoff spot in 485 abs and scored 81 runs. Only Kinsler and Ichiro had higher batting averages from the leadoff spot. The one knock against him would be that he only stole 8 bases but only had 10 attempts. I really believe the Cardinals were too worried about taking the bat out of Pujols hands and didn’t try to steal enough when he would be due up in an inning. Some people have Rasmus penciled in as the leadoff batter, but why put all the added pressure on the kid, especially when Schumaker has already shown he can do it. Another big knock on Schumaker, and one reason I think we need a true leadoff hitter, is that vs lefties Schumaker really struggled. A .168 average and a .238 obp. That ain’t going to get er done.
batting 2nd, Colby Rasmus, CF – Rasmus is supposed to be a good contact hitter that won’t strike a lot. He has the power that Tony likes in the 2 hole and has the speed to keep from hitting into double plays. If he hits like he’s capable of I envision a lot of 1st and 3rds with nobody out and Pujols coming up next year. Tony might not want to have two lefties leading off, but unless they sign a leadoff capable 2nd baseman then I think they have to go with that. If they would sign a right handed hitting 2B that is a leadoff hitter, then you could put Shoemaker 9th if you wanted and have the flexibility to bat him leadoff as you wanted. What better way to let Rasmus see great pitches to hit than to bat him in front of Pujols. I like that a lot!
3rd – Pujols, no comment necessary
4th – Ludwick, LF – Really another key player here. Ludwick will absolutely have to repeat or even build on his incredible year. Pujols can get walked, but there has to be a price to pay. I really wanted to see Holliday here, or a ‘name’ player that can strike fear into an opposing pitcher. I remember last year listening to Cardinal broadcasters talking to Bobby Cox about Ludwick before a game, and paraphrasing he said, “well, I really don’t know much about him but he’s certainly putting up numbers”. With 37 HRs, 113 RBIs, and 104 runs scored, at least people will have heard of Ludwick this year, but still that won’t keep them from walking Pujols to get to him considering he also struck out a whopping 146 times while only walking 62. Hopefully he learn to be a bit more selective without hurting his power numbers.
5th, Troy Glaus, 3B – What’s not to like about Glaus. He plays hard and is a team guy. I remember with Toronto when he voluntarily moved over to SS to cover an injury of another player. Last year Glaus batted .270 with 27 HRs and 99 RBIs. He also had a .372 obp taking 87 walks. He also struck out 104 times which was low for him. Hopefully he can be as selective at the plate again this year. Glaus has a full year in the national league now and I really expect a huge year out of him. Just wish he liked batting 4th as then there would at least be an option if Ludwick struggles.
6th – I’m not sure if this is Greene or Molina. Problem right now is we’re going lefty, lefty, righty, righty, righty, righty, righty and Tony is very unlikely to use that lineup. But we can’t really hit Kennedy this high can we? Probably not, especially as I don’t even think Kennedy is going to crack my lineup. Since we have two high strikeout guys at 4 and 5 I think I’ll have to pencil in one of the hardest guys to strike out last year, that being Molina. Problem is that he is also going to hit into double plays being so slow and Glaus possibly on first. Hard to use Greene here though as he strikes out at a rate equal to Ankiel. Again, I think the answer is a right handed hitting leadoff 2B and then you could put Shoemaker or Ankiel here, depending on Tony’s gut that day. We could at least break up the string of righthanded bats and go with either contact or power.
7th – Greene, SS – I’m really afraid that Tony is going to put Greene in the 2-hole. I just don’t think your two hitter can strike out so much. His average has been consistently around .250 and his obp less than .300. I’ve heard his stats away from Petco are much better. Certainly a change of scenery will do him good, but I’m really thinking a 2nd Kennedy here. Hope I’m wrong.
8th – pitcher – duh
9th – For now I’ll go with Miles at 2nd base. Kennedy wants to play everyday which isn’t going to happen so they should really find a way to trade him for something. A 2B that can lead off should really be a priority. A Brian Roberts or Ian Kinsler needs to be here. Not going to happen, I know. Maybe Miles could make a decent lead-off batter.
Bench, leaves Ankiel as the 4th outfielder. He’ll get plenty of playing time since Tony is the manager. Duncan gives left handed power and is the only real option to back up Pujols at 1B now and then. Rest of the guys will need to show us who stays and who goes. Big problem I see is that many of these guys are too similar. Power hitters that strike out a lot. That is ok while everyone is hitting, but 2 or 3 of those guys get into a slump and you suddenly can’t score runs. I’d like to see the option of having some more speed, stealing 2nd and 3rd and really pressuring the defense. Have a couple of guys that handle the bat really well, contact hitters, whether slap hitters or gap hitters. Last year our fastest players couldn’t handle the bat all that well.
Lots of time to make some changes but that is about how I would see it right now. Obvious need for a 2B with base stealing potential. Obviously can’t spend the farm either. The answer might just be to sign Felipe Lopez once he gets his head out of the clouds. It would be nice to have a switch hitting lead off batter. Then you could have more options with mixing in lefties like Ankiel and Schumaker between Glaus and Molina/Greene. Not sure who would bat 9th, but I guess you’d put Schumaker 9th on days he started and Ankiel 6th and Greene 9th on days Ankiel started, although I would rather get a set lineup and go with it rather than moving people around everyday. Thinking about it more, maybe even Miles could lead off. As good of choice as anybody right now. A switch hitter that doesn’t strike out that much. Could even bat him 2nd after Schumaker and let Rasmus bat 6th. I might like that even more.
Overall I think we are asking a lot and have too many question marks. Rasmus is almost certain to struggle at some point. Very few players come up and instantly strike gold without some struggles along the way. Rasmus could be one of the fortunate few, but I would bet a few years will be in order to make all the needed adjustments. Asking Greene and Kennedy to have rebound years could be asking too much. Miles is probably more suited to be a utility player. I think Ludwick and Ankiel will both be fine, but both need to cut down on their K’s. Gluas should be fine as will Pujols and Molina will probably regress a bit on the hitting. Overall looks like a fine hitting lineup, just not sure it will mesh well to be a consistent slump proof lineup. The addition of a Roberts or Utley or Kinsler type at 2B would be huge.
Go ahead a rip it apart and tell me what you would like to see or what you think we will see as the Cardianls 2009 lineup!