Soft In The Middle

by on June 17, 2011 · 10 comments

“A man walks down the street,
He says, Why am I soft in the middle now?
Why am I soft in the middle?
The rest of my life is so hard! ”  ~You Can Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
Paul had it right.  Why are the Cardinals so soft in the middle?  The answer is right in front of all of us.  Just look at all the guys who they have played at either SS or 2B for a significant length of time.  Keep in mind that the numbers only tell part of the story, because guys like Allen Craig and Descalso accumulated a lot of their stats while playing other positions.  Still, they have 3 out of the 5 players below playing at below replacement level (as determined by WAR). 
  • Ryan Theriot.296 / .347 / .358 / .705 with -0.1WAR (0.9 oWAR & -1.0 dWAR)
  • Tyler Greene.194 / .307 / .265 / .572 with -0.1WAR (0.3 oWAR & -0.4 dWAR)
  • Daniel Descalso.240 / .294 / .357 / .651 with 0.7WAR (0.6 oWAR & 0.1 dWAR)
  • Allen Craig.336 / .405 / .523 / .928 with 1.7WAR (1.3 oWAR & 0.4 dWAR)
  • Skip Schumaker.233 / .276 / .310 / .587 with -0.6WAR (-0.4 oWAR & -0.2 dWAR)

If TLR wants to tinker with the lineup to get the best matchups, I wish he’d look at a complete, balanced picture and throw out his old notions of what will work.  We know he won’t do that, but here is what max offense lineups could look like until the team is completely healthy.  Note that I’m ignoring the “Pujols at 3B” possibility, because it greatly weakens the defense at 1B.  Pujols >>> Puma at 1B.

Against RHP:

Against LHP: 

So, why is Tyler Greene at 3B?  Well, he played over 100 innings at 3B in 2009 and 2010 combined, and he only made 2 errors there.  More importantly, Descalso is only hitting .067 against LHP this season.  If the pitcher bats 8th, then Greene could hit 9th and be another leadoff hitter at the bottom of the lineup.  Ignore the batting average for a moment and look at his OBP.  If he can reach base safely 3 out of 10 times, then the pressure shifts to the pitcher with the top of the lineup coming to bat. 

Unfortunately, there seems to be someone left out of the picture, and the odd man out right now is Skip.  Well, Skip is currently hitting .230 vs RHP and .250 vs LHP, so he could give Craig a breather occasionally, and he would definitely be useful for double switches.  He could also fit into the outfield rotation with Jon Jay, and I suspect that there will be plenty of games available as the team gets deeper into the season.

Finally, there is the question of what the Cardinals will do once everybody is healthy (assuming that ever happens).  Well, Descalso provides a great substitute for Freese to ensure that Freese has plenty of days off between his return and the end of the season.  As an added bonus, I don’t see why he couldn’t be a defensive replacement for Theriot, either.  After all, he’s up near the top of the NL in terms of range at 3B, and he’s 2nd in fielding %.  Not bad for a 2B who is playing out-of-position. (Bonus Info:  He’s played SS in both the minor and major leagues, albeit for a very, very brief time for the Cardinals.) 

Maybe the Cardinals are a little soft in the middle, but maybe that’s because they have guys in the wrong places.  Injuries to key players have a lot to do with that.  Don’t underestimate just how much they miss Nick Punto.  Without Punto, they’ve had to rely on guys like Pete Kozma and Matt Carpenter at key times, and that certainly wasn’t part of the plan for 2011.

TIDBIT:  Once completely healthy, the Cardinals have power, average, or both at all positions, and they even have some bench depth.  The real question mark is pitching, and it is not just the bullpen, either.  I have my own ideas on who needs to go.  Who should they target?

Follow gr33nazn on Twitter for more Paul Simon lyrics now that the song is stuck in your head!

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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