February 6, 2009

Lineup issue on Cards horizon

Regardless of how well or poorly the Cardinals' organization does regarding player acquisition (or deletion) during the off-season, there will be no perfect roster, no perfect lineup.

Gives us something to analyze, discuss, sometimes rant about.

I wonder, though, with Spring Training days away, when someone in the Cardinals' system wakes up and realizes they have a potential issue coming through the blinding morning sunrise.

It's not a big thing. Just...

... who bats one-two?

Okay, the leadoff man is obvious, for now: Skip Schumaker. (Josh Martin, of the blog, That's a Winner/MVN.com, last year was all but screaming in print to make Schumaker the leadoff man, at a time when Skip was unproven.)

Hitting Schumaker at the top of the order isn't something that appears to have been crafted, however. Seems more like salaries created player movement (away, mostly), and Schumaker was pretty much the only guy left.

But that's not to say Schumaker shouldn't be the leadoff man. His stats say he can be the leadoff man, but only against righthanders. I say, the guy won't get better against lefthanders if he doesn't get to face them. Given the chance, his current performance can be the determining factor.

The one-two issue could escalate in a hurry is Schumaker doesn't pan out, because the Cards, while blessed with a lot of good batsmen, don't seem to have a proper fit for the post-leadoff-pre-Pujols slot. (That's PLPP, in case the issue gets really big.)

Of course, if the Cards came up with a leadoff man that wasn't Schumaker, as far as batting second, he could join the ranks of the roster that is like a bunch of shoes (pun definitely intended), meaning they are all loose fits when it comes to the PLPP thing. [Insert your own Schu pun here, regarding his potential for batting second.]

On the Cardinals, manager Tony La Russa probably doesn't care all that much if the two-hitter is speedy, due to Albert Pujols hitting three-hole. But I don't think having a road runner batting second is all that bad, and that's because of Pujols as well. By my thinking, you would, at minimum, be happy with a baserunner who has a great chance of going first-to-third on most singles, which means, if that same baserunner has the ability to accomplish that with little difficulty, then it stands to reason that he always has a decent shot at going first-to-home on an extra base hit. And once more: who bats third for the Redbirds?

(On a recent United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour, guest Dustin from The Birdhouse/scout.com and Whiteyball, mentioned that it's probably more important for the Cardinals' early lineup hitters to get on base, regardless of all other qualities or lack therefore. At least, that's what I felt he was getting at.)

Anyone remotely familiar with the Cards' roster can bring up one possibility after another, but there are no "locks" on the one-two spots in the lineup. (Wishful thinking: I know there would be salary issues around second base, but I'd be tickled Cardinal-red if that Arizona fellow was snatched up. Trivia: who am I thinking of?)

By the time anyone notices the one-two issue is simmering, it'll already be heating into a rapid boil. For this reason, and maybe this isn't the best situation for the youngster (and then again, maybe it is), I believe Colby Rasmus is going to get one heckuva serious look come Spring Training. And the more everyone looks, the more crowded that outfield is going to become.

Why do you think the Cardinals are getting an accurate picture on whether Schumaker can or cannot play second base? Or any position west of first base on the infield?

Can you scribble in the one-two spots on the lineup card with the current roster? And if so, who would you choose? Why?

Or do you have another way to resolve the potential issue?

photo by Barbara Moore