Entering the 2013 season, the St. Louis Cardinals have a lot of decisions to make. One of those decisions is whether or not they want offense out of their second baseman or defense. This is a question that seems to come up every spring for the Cards, as there has been a revolving door at the position for better than 25 years.
The last time the Cardinals have had a second baseman last for more than three years was way back in 1987 when Tom Herr was playing in his ninth consecutive season there. Since Herr was traded away in April of the following year, the Cardinals have had no luck finding consistency at second base. Their streak of 26 years without a second baseman lasting more than three seasons is the second longest in the NL, trailing only the San Diego Padres. If nothing else, this streak shows that the Cardinals simply cannot make up their minds as to what they want from the position. 2013 will be no exception.
The Cards used 25-year-old Daniel Descalso as their everyday second baseman last season. He played excellent defense throughout the year, but he provided very little in the way of offense—4 homers, 26 RBI, .227 batting average in 143 games. In the postseason, Descalso was one of the heroes in St. Louis’ come from behind victory over the Washington Nationals to clinch game five of the NLDS. But the Cardinals are promising Descalso nothing as the team heads into spring training.
Following their elimination in the NLCS, the Cardinals instructed rookie Matt Carpenter to work on his defense at second base over the off-season. Carpenter was a utility man extraordinaire last season, playing five different positions. He saw action in 114 games and responded with a .294 batting average and an OPS of .828. His rate of an RBI for every 6.43 at-bats was almost identical to that of third baseman David Freese (6.34). If Carpenter had as many plate appearances as, say, Matt Holiday, his numbers would pace out to 12 home runs, 89 runs scored, 93 RBI, and 69 walks. That would be amazing production coming from a second baseman. That’s obviously what the Cardinals are thinking. The only question will be whether or not Carpenter can handle the job defensively.
It will be an interesting battle throughout camp this spring. The clash of Descalso’s glove versus Carpenter’s bat will provide Cardinals fans with a great preseason debate. May the best player win.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)