NL Central Second Baseman: Brandon & Then The Others

Second base is a divisional question mark with one exception–the Reds Brandon Phillips does it all except hit for average.  Once that’s accomplished, Phillips will move into the top tier of Major League Baseball’s second baseman.  A lofty home occupied now by Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler.  

But this is the NL Central where depth beyond Phillips is not apparent.  There is Phillips and then well, frankly,  the rest.  Sure, there is hope from each team’s player, but it’s a little detailed.  The Cardinals Skip Schumaker made a move tosecond base which has been essential for the team, and could provide the Cards even more upside. 

For the Pirates, the position was an organizational void that required them to acquire  Akinori Iwamura to man the position.  Iwamura hopes to be recovered from 2009 knee surgery.  What happens after three months is anyone’s guess. It’s a similar situation for the Chicago Cubs and Jeff Baker.    

Like Iwamura, Rickie Weeks is planning to rebound from an injury which limited his 2009 playing time.  In Houston, the Astros are hoping for a rebound from a walk year Kaz Matsui.


1. Brandon Phillips stands out as the best in the division.  The 29 year old perenial All-Star will have another big year for the Reds.  The former Gold Glove winner combines nicely with Joey Votto (NL Central 1B Positional Rankings) to make up a potent right side of the infield behind the Reds solid pitching staff.

Phillips feasted on Pirate pitching in 2009 piling up a monsterous 21 RBI and 41 total bases.  He slugged 813 and had a 486 OBP at Great American Ballpark with 14 hits in 32 at-bats including three homers.  Pirate arms slowed Phillips at PNC Park a little bit, but Phillips still had 11 hits in 34 at bats with a homer and a double.

Phillips will put up even bigger numbers in 2010.  We see 30 HR and 105 RBI and 30 stolen bases will be close, but Phillips will come up just short.

Phillips 2009 STATS

VORP 25.6

BA: .276
OBP: .329
SLG: ..447
H: 161
HR: 20
RBI: 98
Runs: 78

2. Skip Shumaker was a Cardinals outfielder at this time a year ago.  The Cardinals moved him to 2B in spring training.  It was essential for their lineup and it worked a little better than the Delwyn Young experiment in Pittsburgh.  To see Schumaker improve enough to become an average fielder, as UZR showed over the last three months, is remarkable.  He has a rocket arm and has been an adequate player at the position finishing with the same average as he had as an outfielder.  

More upside?  We think we will see a hint more this year as the repetions and his extensive work with Mark McGwire continues.  10 plus HR is a sure thing.  The Cards continue to make great moves.  Ugh.  Here is another one, Schumaker’s new contract at Redbird Rants.   

Schumaker highlight videos here.

Skip Schumaker 2009 stats:
VORP: 22.9

 BA: .302
OBP: .364
SLG: .393
H: 161
HR: 4
RBI: 35
Runs: 85

3.  Rickie Weeks certainly made an impression in just 162 plate appearances.  The grinding, oft-injured Weeks being in the Brewers lineup everyday makes them a much improved team.  Last May, he was second to Utley in homers with nine when he tore the sheath in his wrist.  It was similar to a tendon injury he suffered on his other wrist in 2006.  He also injured his thumb in 2005. 

Weeks flashed the long ball against Pirate hurlers in 2009 with just five hits in 22 at-bats, but it included three HRs and 10RBI.  His average was held below 230 against the Bucs.

So the big question is will the power return?  If it does, the beer will be flowing as Brewers fans have longed for a healthy Weeks to be a regular in their potent lineup.  We can see Weeks scoring 70 plus runs and hitting 20HR this year with a VORP in the mid 20’s.  

Look at how much Weeks signed for this offseason at ReviewingtheBrew  It’s everyone’s favorite game show:  How Many Times Can Rickie Weeks Say ‘Ya Know’

Rickie Weeks 2009 stats:

VORP 9.8

BA: .272
OBP: .340
SLG: .517
H: 40
HR: 9
RBI: 24
Runs: 28

4. Kazuo Matsui will be wrapping up his 2008 contract so expect to see a nice rebound in 2010.  We see 10 plus HR, a 285 average with 25 stolen bases and 60 plus runs scored.

Kaz Matsui 2009 stats:

VORP: 0.4

BA: .250
OBP: .302
SLG: .357
H: 119
HR: 9
RBI: 46
Runs: 56

5.  Akinori Iwamura is a stop gap.  Do you think Aki and his intrepreter will feel that atmosphere when he arrives in Pittsburgh?    How will he react as mid season nears and a decision looms?  One would believe that he will play like a man possessed in order to snag that next big contract.  I know that’s what Neal Huntington is counting on. 

The more we analyze, we expect something much less, maybe 6 or 7 HR, a 270 average with a 340 OBP.  If Pirate fans are lucky, a few of his fly balls sail over the Clemente wall which can increase what we expect to be a 10- 12 VORP.   Hitting behind McCutchen will be fun to watch early in the season as well.

Aki will begin regressing soon, so here’s hoping he proves us wrong, kills it for a few months and makes this decision a perplexing one for the Bucs.  

Personally, we enjoy Pirate fans complaining at the trade deadline, it’s a sickness.  Really is.


Iwamura 2009 Stats

VORP: 10.4

BA: .290
OBP: .355
SLG: .390
H: 67
HR: 1
RBI: 22
Runs: 28

6..  Jeff Baker performed nicely for the Cubs after the July trade with 4HR and 21 RBI.  Current Cub SS Ryan Theriot will likely become the  Cubs 2B when super prospect, 20 year-old Starlin Castro arrives in mid season.  

Baker had 10 hits in 34 at-bats against the Bucs in 2009 hitting two doubles and a HR to go with 7RBI.  All of the extra base hits and 6 of the RBI came at Wrigley.  He struck out eight times.

In the meantime, we can see Baker being steady in 2010, however a low average and reduced RBI production will make the move a no brainer for Cubs GM Jim Hendry. 

If you enjoy slow, sad, goodbye tribute videos, this one from a Colorado Rockies fan is right up your alley.  Or to read more about what’s on Hendry’s mind as it relates to all things Cubs go to the source this year, Cubbies Crib.


Baker 2009 Stats:

VORP 11.5

BA: .288
OBP: .343
SLG: .425
H: 65
HR: 4
RBI: 24
Runs: 27


Tags: Aki Iwamura Brandon Phillips Jeff Baker Kaz Matsui Rickie Weeks Skip Schumaker

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