Skip to the Schu

Give the Cardinals credit for innovative thinking. Often we see teams turn defensively sluggish second basemen into outfielders, but rarely do we see outfielders turning into second basemen. In fact, the only outfield-to-second transition I could come up with is Jeff Baker, who played third base, the outfield, and first base before spending 49 games at second this year. His defense actually got worse if you rely on that one data point.

In case you hadn’t heard yet, there’s a possibility of former part-time college shortstop Skip Schumaker moving to second base. The odds of this occurring are rising given Adam Kennedy’s release. Schumaker will have competition from players familiar with the middle infield, like Joe Thurston and Brendan Ryan, but for a team stacked with outfielders the Cardinals are at least trying to put their best eight on the field.

Unfortunately, it may not work out.

Moving from the corner outfield to second gives Schumaker roughly 10 more runs in value – or a win – considering he would earn -7.5 runs in either corner and 2.5 at second. CHONE projects his bas to be worth 0.2 runs while Marcels says 0.9 runs. Let’s be generous and assume Schumaker’s 2008 offense would repeat, 6 runs above average. Schumaker’s outfield defense has yet to rate as anything but average. That raises the question, how poor defensively can he stand to be at second base and still hold value?

Over the last five years, the worst defensive second basemen with at least 500 innings have been Jeff Kent (-11.5), Dan Uggla (-13), Jose Vidro (-14.2), Robinson Cano (-18.4), and Vidro again (-13.5). That’s an average of -14 runs. If we assume Schumaker is at least -14 and at worst -20 runs at second base we come up with the following:

OFF: 6
POS: 2.5
REP: 20
DEF: -14

14.5 runs/1.45 wins.

OFF: 6
POS: 2.5
REP: 20
DEF: -20

8.5 runs/0.85 wins.

The first scenario isn’t too bad, but Adam Kennedy was worth 1.7 wins last year. If the Cardinals are looking for an upgrade they need Schumaker to improve on an all ready generous offensive estimate or be better than hideous at second base. The Fans Scouting Report does suggest that Schumarker has a good first step, speed, and an arm that would seemingly play up at second base. In fact, his most similar fielders include two second basemen, Howie Kendrick and Robert Andino. Both of those are above average fielding second basemen.

Schumaker’s conversion will be one of the more interesting stories in spring training. If this works out, the Cardinals will successfully reallocate assets on the diamond without taking on excess salary or baggage.

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19 Responses to “Skip to the Schu”

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  1. Dave Cameron says:

    As the guy who thinks that defense at second base is far easier to find than MLB teams may think, I’m quite excited to see this play out.

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  2. mymrbig says:

    If the conversion doesn’t work, their are still a glut of FA secondbasemen (Durham, Grudzalaniek, Hudson). I think there is a good chance at least one of those guys is still hanging around if Schumaker can’t cut it and they don’t want to live with the other guys.

    I wonder if the Cards have given any thought to trying Joe Mather at 2nd? He’s hardly prototypical at 6-4, 200+ lbs, but he was drafted out of HS as a SS and stayed at SS for most of his minor league career. Of course, he didn’t start hitting until he was moved to the OF, which makes you wonder whether a re-conversion to the infield would be a smart move.

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    • greenback06 says:

      Mather was mainly an OF in his minor league career with some 1B thrown in. He’s got 25 games of non-1B infield experience above short season ball, and that goes back to 2004.

      I’m wondering if there’s a halo or Nichols effect for evaluations of Schumaker’s defense. Watching him every day, his first step/instincts looked well below average to me. He’s built like a middle infielder, but that’s a compliment in the same way ‘throws as hard as Glavine’ is a compliment for a LHP.

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      • mymrbig says:

        My bad. I looked at this before and mistakenly thought he played SS through (or at least into) 2004/2005. I was wrong and you were right:-)

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  3. Eric Blair says:

    Didn’t Kelly Johnson make the OF -> 2B shift for the Braves? Or were you talking about somebody with a longer track record? According to Baseball Reference, Johnson didn’t play a game at second until moving there in 2007.

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  4. Jason C. says:

    The best part of this potential position switch is the huge offensive upgrade that will take place. You would end up replacing Aaron Miles and Adam Kennedy with Colby Rasmus. I like that idea quite a lot

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  5. philosofool says:

    The way the fan graphs model of WAR works, all players are the same defensively no matter where you put them on the field because the position adjustment is just based on the average difference in performance of players who play multiple positions relative to the average at those positions. According to the model, if Pujols is a +10 defensive 1B, he’ll be a +5 corner OF or a -2.5 2B/3B/CF. That’s how the model commensurates the value of various positions.

    Schumaker’s value according to WAR doesn’t change when you move him to 2B.

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  6. chuckb says:

    I looked at this a couple of days ago, right before the Cards dumped Kennedy, and used Chone’s projections as my guide. The assumption with which I worked was that Schumaker, having not played the middle infield since 1999, would be about as bad as the worst defensive 2B last year — Jeff Kent. I, further, assumed that Kennedy wouldn’t be as good defensively as he was last year, but would rather be as good as he’s been throughout his career — a UZR/150 of 9.9 rather than 22.2. I used their UZR/150 and projected their wRAA to 600 PAs in order to be consistent w/ using UZR/150. I determined that Schumaker would have to play roughly league average defense in order to be as good as Kennedy.

    The primary difference between your assumptions and mine seems to be that you assume that Skip will perform as well in ’09 offensively as he did in ’08 — a big step up from Chone’s projections (or maybe using Chone’s projections is a big step down from his performance last year). Perhaps the real question, therefore, is how well will Skip have to hit in order to compensate for what would, in all likelihood, be dreadful defense at the keystone in ’09.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      I don’t think that Tony will let him play if his defense is truly dreadful. He has always valued good defense up the middle and he has always put together excellent defensive teams. If Schu is really that bad than he won’t be playing a lot of second.

      A decent comparable to Skip is probably Kelly Johnson, who was an above average left fielder when he first came up. He played SS in the minors, but he wasn’t considered a very good defender. He played left field for his first year, then he moved to second and has been bad, but not quite Jeff Kent bad. His UZR/150s have been around 8. If Shcumaker is able to manage that, then he could potentially be a 2 WAR player if he outperforms his offensive projections a little bit and gets enough playing time.

      Obviously it isn’t a great situation, but Schumaker likely won’t have a negative affect on the club, and his upside is decent.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        sorry -8 UZR/150s for Johnson.

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      • chuckb says:

        I don’t agree that Kelly Johnson is a good comp. Sure, he was -8 last year, but he had played 1 year of 2B prior to that and had 221 minor league games of infield experience as well. He may be the closest comp but there’s little doubt that Kelly Johnson had vastly more infield experience than Skip will have had when he takes the field in a couple of weeks. If anything, we can use Johnson as a best case scenario for Skip and, truthfully, if he ends up around -8 defensively, Cards’ fans ought to be fairly content.

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  7. Lex Logan says:

    So how does the experiment seem to be working?

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    • gnigx says:

      While his stats may lie to you, the experiment is actually going very well. He’s shown so much potential and it keeps getting better every day. Although he’s probably a below average defender at second, he makes all the routine plays and a lot of plays that shock you to see that he makes. All while doing this, he’s kept a .300 avg. Very very impressive. Such a great guy.

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