Friday, May 25, 2012

Why Tyler Greene Should Be the Everyday Second Baseman

Second base has been a revolving door in St. Louis for quite some time. Tommy Herr was the last All Star the Cardinals have had at the position, and that was in 1985. Since Herr was traded during the 1988 season, the Cardinals have had many second baseman come through. Jose Oquendo, Luis Alicea, Gerinomo Pena, Mike Gallego, DeLino DeShields, Joe McEwing, Fernando Vina, Bo Hart, Tony Womack, Mark Grudzielanek, Aaron Miles, Ronnie Belliard, Adam Kennedy, Skip Schumaker, and many others have manned the position with varying performances. This season, three different players have gotten starts at second; Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, and Tyler Greene.

So far, second base has been a three headed carousel. Greene has recieved the most playing time, getting 22 starts. Descalso has been the starter for 14 games and Schumaker has started 9 games at second. I think its safe to say Tommy Herr will remain the last Cardinal second baseman to make an All Star team this year. 2011 first round pick Kolten Wong will eventually take over this position in the next year or two, and he might be the one to bring stability to the position. However, there isn't much on the trade market this year and there will not be much on the free agent market in the offseason either.

Schumaker is the most consistent of the three, but he is a below average defender at second. Skip isn't a natural second baseman though, he's better in the outfield. Skip became a second baseman by necessity in 2009 after the Cardinals released Adam Kennedy. Tony La Russa thought Schumaker could play second, and to Skip's credit he's worked hard at it. Skip always plays hard and is a .290 career hitter. While he is a .290 career hitter, Skip is pretty much a singles hitter. He doesn't have much power, doesn't draw many walks, not the fastest player on the basepaths, and despite his best efforts a below average defensive second baseman. He kills righties, but is a career .212 hitter against lefties. Mike Matheny has recast the Schuman as a utility player this season. He is serviceable as a second baseman, but needs someone to split time with him for the reasons I listed above(defense, struggles against lefties).

Descalso is the best defensive player of the three. He was one of the finalists for the Gold Glove at third base last season despite not being a fulltime player. Descalso's big weakness is his bat, and he has looked lost at the plate this season. Last year, Danny D came up with some big hits and finished with a respectable .264 average. This year, he is down to .213. I don't think Descalso is a bad at the plate as he's performed so far, but I don't think he's a starting caliber player in the majors either. Descalso's most likely going to be an utility infielder in the majors. He's more like an Aaron Miles type player with better defense.

Greene has been up and down from St. Louis and Memphis the last few seasons. He never really got a chance to play on a consistent basis in the majors until this year. He made his debut in 2009, but only had 359 plate appearances in the three seasons prior to this one. Although he was demoted several times, Greene kept his head up and worked hard on his game in the minors. Last year Greene hit .323, had a .422 OBP, with 14 home runs, 43 RBIs, and 19 steals in only 66 games in Memphis after being demoted. Greene has struggled in previous stints in the majors, and fans have had various opinions why. Some people think Greene is a 4-A player, meaning a player who dominates Triple A but can't perform in the majors. Other people think Greene needs consistent playing time for him to maximize his talents.

Former manager Tony La Russa never seemed to be a big fan of Greene, and he has got a fresh start with Mike Matheny. Greene seemed nervous in the past, and didn't look as confident as he has this year. Like it has with Mitchell Boggs, I think Matheny has had a positive effect on Greene. Greene is one of the most athletic players on the team, and the fastest guy as well. He has some pop in his bat as well, and on Monday hit a game winning home run. Greene hit a 100 mph pitch off of Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner. ESPN's Buster Olney said that was the fastest pitch a major leaguer has homered off of since 2009. I think Greene could hit 15 to 20 home runs in the majors if he was a fulltime player.

According to baseball, Greene is 5 for 13(.385) with a walk and a home run in late and close situations this year. Greene only played sparingly last year after being recalled in September, but when he did play he came through. He had a pinch hit double that scored a run in the 11th inning in a key game against the Phillies late last year. In a late season tie game against the Cubs last year, Greene was put in as a pinch runner. He then stole second, went to third on a bad throw from the catcher, and scored the game winning run. Greene has had a knack for coming up with some big plays other than the game winning home run he hit on Monday.

I can understand why some people have been frustrated with Greene. He hasn't fully maximized his talents. He has had some lapses on defense, including botching a hard hit ball by Alfonso Soriano that lost the game earlier this year. Greene has worked hard on his defense, and has improved on that lately. He is better going to his right than left, mainly because he's a natural shortstop. Greene also struggles against righties and inside pitches, but kills lefties and outside pitches. He's still only batting .239 this year, but he does have a .466 slugging pct.(pretty good for a middle infielder). Greene has been putting in some extra work with hitting coaches Mark McGwire and John Mabry. He has hit alot better in May, hitting .264 with a .328 OBP, and a .566 slugging pct.

Greene has also stole 6 bases so far, and led the club with 11 last year despite only playing in 58 games. For his career, Greene is 22 for 23 on stolen base attempts. The only time he has gotten out was on that botched hit and run play at the end of the Milwaukee game earlier this year. In the minors, Greene was 144 for 166 on stolen base attempts, so he has pretty good baserunning instincts. If given a chance to play a full season, I think Greene could steal 30 to 40 bases.

I'm not sure if Greene is going to make it as a major league starter or not, but I'm alot more optimistic lately than I was in the past. Matheny has given him a second chance this year, and Greene has been taking advantage of it recently. At age 28, its time to see if he can cut it or not. I'm hoping he's going to be a late bloomer like David Freese. With the injuries to Allen Craig and Jon Jay combined with Carlos Beltran's knee problems, Schumaker will be needed more in the outfield. If Greene can maximize his talents, he could be a big help for the Cardinals. He has a mix of power and speed, and has the potential to be a dynamic player in the big leagues. It looks like he's going to get a chance to be a fulltime player, and hopefully he will take advantage of it.

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