I’m sure if you asked Cardinal fans at the beginning of the season which two players would be keys to a postseason run, I don’t think anyone would say David Freese or Jason Motte. Now it’s time to figure out who will be the guys who come out of nowhere and help in 2012.
The 2011 St. Louis Cardinals had a revolving door at closer. Eight different pitchers recorded a save, as the season started with Ryan Franklin at the position, who was demoted from the spot and then released in June. Fernando Salas ended up leading the team in saves with 24, however he wasn’t the closer down the stretch. That spot belonged to Jason Motte who recorded nine saves and had a 2.25 ERA during the regular season. Motte recorded five saves during the postseason and will be the closer in 2012.
David Freese is loaded with talent but couldn’t stay healthy in 2010. This was again the case during the 2011 regular season, as Freese only played 97 games due to various injuries. He put up very respectable numbers for the 97 games, hitting .297 with 10 HR and 55 RBI. It was the postseason when he came alive, hitting .397 with five HR and 27 RBI and winning World Series MVP.
Skip Schumaker may be the hitter in 2012. Schumaker will have to fight for the second base job with Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene. He’s been a .300 hitter in the past, as recently as 2009. That year was also the last year he played over 150 games. He makes a ton of contact. In 2009 he struck out only 69 times in 532 plate appearances. He also only made nine errors as a second baseman that year so he wont hurt you defensively either. Schumaker is definitely a better hitter than either Descalso or Greene. Greene has nice minor league numbers, but in his appearances at the major league level haven’t yielded good results. Descalso played well in 2011, hitting .264 in over 300 plate appearances. He will be Schumaker’s main competition. Schumaker is the kind of gritty player that all winning teams need at a spot on their team. If Schumaker is given the chance to play a lot and not have to worry about his spot in the lineup, he just may flourish.
Kyle McClellan was a yo-yo between the rotation and the bullpen last year. He started 6-2 as a starter but finished up at 7-6. McClellan in his last full year as a reliever had an ERA of 2.27. He also only had a .210 BAA. That ballooned to .267 this past season. He also led the team in holds that year with 19. Kyle also ranked 11th in innings pitched for relievers. There’s no reason to think he can’t be a part of the bridge that sets up Jason Motte at the end of games with Fernando Salas.
They may not be as good as Freese and Motte, however Schumaker and McClellan may become important pieces if the Cardinals want to repeat in 2012.