The St. Louis Cardinals' bizarre IF-OF hybrid is now the Dodgers' to deal with. What does that mean?
The Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Skip Schumaker on Tuesday, and as a fan of his previous employers, the St. Louis Cardinals, I feel compelled to give Dodgers fans a brief rundown on proper (and improper) usage patterns of one of baseball's strangest utility infielders. So here's the good and bad about Skip Schumaker, a guy you'll grow to love and hate, sometimes simultaneously.
First: Here's why he's strange. Schumaker was drafted, came up through the system, and briefly started for the Cardinals as a slap-hitting center fielder. Good arm, bad range, useful at .300 and unpleasant at .265--you know the type. In 2009, though, Tony La Russa and the Cardinals inexplicably decided to convert him to second base. He hadn't played it as a pro, and he showed no indication of being able to; the clearest rationale for the move is that he looked and hit kind of like a second baseman.
Somehow--credit Schumaker's admirable work ethic and Tony La Russa's instincts--it worked out, kind of. He has even less range at second than he did in center, but the arm worked to his advantage and he looked positively competent on the double play. When he was hitting .290 or so, he was a kind of poor man's Dan Uggla, providing league-average offense and wiping out his positional adjustment with bad defense.
Unfortunately, he doesn't always hit .290. When his BAbip-driven offense fell off, or when the Cardinals would inexplicably play him against the left-handers he's constitutionally unable to hit, he would combine terrible defense with terrible offense to form a terrible Megazord.
The Cardinals eventually lost confidence in his defense, even when he was hitting. The Dodgers, who don't have the specter of Skip-Schumaker-the-starter hanging over their heads; they might be able to just get a nifty utility infielder-outfielder out of him, without any of the excess baggage. But if the field staff gets too enamored--and they will, because Schumaker is universally regarded as a great guy, a scrapper, etc.--you might run out of patience.