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

  • Pingback: / archive » Latest Hot Stove Notes: Phillies, Red Sox, Cubs, Tigers, Yankees, Twins, more

  • A Real Fan

    Hey Nostradamus!

    Since you can predict with certainty how bad the Pirates will be (before they even report to Spring Training) why don’t you use your phenomenal prognosticating abilities to pick PowerBall numbers?

    That way, YOU could buy the team and show all of us how it’s REALLY done!

    Sure, the ’10 Bucs might not be the ’27 Yankees, but at least give ‘em til’ Opening Day before you lump them in with the failures of the past.

    Do a little research of your own before dusting off an old Bob “I hate the Pirates” Smizik column from a decade ago and start changing names.

    The Pirates CURRENT management team has been in place since September 25th, 2007.

    Any complaints about the handling of this franchise prior to that date should be stamped “RETURN TO SENDER”.

    For YEARS Pirates fans have been promised a “Rebuilding”.

    After more failed “Five Year Plans” than Josef Stalin we finally, we have a GM (Neal Huntington) with a true vision for reviving this once proud franchise.

    While Huntington’s mid-season trades of popular, but under-productive players (Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Freddy Sanchez, etc.) sent ripples thru the fan base, the ultimate goal of those deals was not to merely shed salaries while stripping the roster of talent but to stock the shelves for the coming decade with better, younger players to lead the Pirates Renaissance.

    As an example, I present the case of Jack Wilson.

    Personally? I liked “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.

    He was a very serviceable shortstop for nearly a decade. He was involved in the community and, from all accounts, seemed to be an all around “Nice Guy.”

    Didn’t Leo Durocher have a saying about nice guys..?

    (But, i digress…)

    Wilson’s defense was steady (and sometimes spectacular) which won the deserved admiration of the Bucco faithful who appreciated his hustle and gritty determination.

    However, from a business aspect, Wilson was a commodity.

    Jack (like all of us) wasn’t getting any younger, his offense was spotty, he had little power and stole few bases.

    Factor in the salary that he would command for 2010…and beyond?

    The decision was clear: Move him!

    But, in a crucial change from the approach of the past:

    Don’t give him away!

    The Pirates grabbed a quality shortstop in Ronny Cedeno plus a handful of actual prospects in return for Wilson; a player who could have walked away for nothing at the end of the year.

    Sure, several million dollars was saved in the exchange; but that was a beneficial side-effect of the deal… not the focus.

    This was NOT an “Aramis Ramirez for Jose Hernandez and a bag of broken bats” salary dump: This was a practical BASEBALL decision to improve the overall health of the organization and to establish a foundation on which to build a perennial contender.

    It’s easy to cut a guy hitting .089.

    But, it takes brains AND balls to pull the trigger on deals that negatively effect the hearts of the fans in the short-term in return for sustained success in the long run.

    Now just days away, Spring Training 2010 should be incredible!

    This is the year that many of the players assembled by Huntington (and Frank Coonelly) have their first real chance to shine.

    A REAL Pirate fan should feel optimistic for the first time in YEARS!

    But you?

    You’re already ordering flowers for the funeral.

    Decide where you stand, man!

    Are you a fan, or not?

    LET’S GO BUCS!!!

    Kevin Stiffler

    • Shaftie

      Thanks for stopping in to read an article on RumBunter Real Fan. Sounds like your a Real Fan that gets it. But doesn’t get RumBunter.

      I wish you would stop in more often because we need Real Fans like you. I agree whole heartedly with your post Real Fan other than these comments.

      I have done quite well with the lottery over my lifetime Real Fan.

      I dislike Bob Smizik’s attacks on the Pirates, Real Fan.

      My preseason rankings of the players are an educated guess, a fun way to take a look at what the Bucs are up against and for you to call it dusting off an old Bob Smizik article. Come on Real Fan. Seriously?

      Do some research of my own? We don’t cheerlead here. We certainly don’t buy flowers as you suggest either.

      Am I a REAL fan? How about knowing what we are about here at RumBunter before you start throwing up all over the comment board. But I digress.

      I dislike annoying Pirate jokes told by WDVE Experts Real Fan.

      I don’t care how long the management team has been in place Real Fan because I love that the mangement team doesn’t care what anyone thinks Real Fan.

      The management team never bothers reminding fans how long they have been in place–who cares? I love that they make unpopular decisions to improve this once proud franchise Real Fan. It takes balls to do that.

      I utterly dislike Jack Wilson Real Fan. Wholeheartedly. I could care less how he was ”off the field” Real Fan. It angers me that I even have to type his name.

      I dislike Leo Durocher quotes Real Fan. I dislike that he wore a Yankee, a Dodger, a Cub, an Astro uniform. I dislike his .241 average and most everything about the teams he played for and managed. RIP Leo.

      You probably will never be back, but in case you do… how about doing some research on our vintage articles before you make me type that, that shortstop’s name again.

      The Pirates still have some work to do Real Fan.

      And in your eyes I guess RumBunter does too. Do you have a manual on how to be a Real Fan like you? We sure would like to read it.

      Jack Wilson Is Your ExGirlfriend Keep It That Way

  • Pingback: NL Central Shortstops: Plenty of New Faces | Rum Bunter | A Pittsburgh Pirates Blog

  • Pingback: Then others | Handbagfanatic