The Case for Skip Schumaker in Left Field

If you’ve made it this far, hear me out: Skip Schumaker as the Cincinnati Reds everyday left fielder is not the clearest path to a National League pennant, I realize that much in the same way that you do. But, where we more than likely differ is that you believe Skip cannot man the position everyday, and I, oddly enough, believe he can (or sure as hell hope so).

According to, our go-to source for everything, the Reds’ payroll is projected to round out at $114.3 million, which would be the second highest in the National League Central behind the St. Louis Cardinals and their $119.5 million, and sixth in the entire National League. The disclaimer underneath that states oddly enough that, “All values are estimates and should not be used by GM’s for actual team planning.”

You have been deceived. In a country where it seems the one per cent is pulling further and further away from the rest of society, we all begin to assume that owners of baseball franchises are like Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street when he begins to flip $100 dollar bills of his gold-plated yacht, when in actuality, that’s not the case. Yes, the Reds have gone “all-in” on Joey Votto, but prior to get injured in 2012, Votto was approaching the type of elite territory that no other player was even moderately coming near. (For that story, click here.) The idea is that while the club may make a significant investment in one player, it doesn’t always mean they can be as spendy as they would like.

It has reached the point where anything the Reds do concerning left field would be a panic move. Nori Aoki, at anywhere from $7-8 million a season for two or three years is not an investment the Reds can likely make, especially with the impending free agency of many of their pitches and young franchise cornerstones beyond that.

By not dealing for a Justin Upton, Wil Myers, or Matt Kemp (who all coincidentally wound up in San Diego, so don’t tell me the Reds didn’t have the prospects), they bound themselves to the one rock steady quality that has come up in Cincinnati Reds lore time and time again: grit.

You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. When nearly all of players in Spring Training are using that time to get ready for the season and gradually build their strength and athleticism back up, Skip Schumaker is out on the field diving in every which direction as if he’s trying to make the team, despite his newly-signed two-year/$5 million deal. Stretching out for a ball in left field, Schumaker would dislocate his left shoulder. He’d never fully recover in 2014.

As his year would begin with injury, it would end with injury. With an influx of young outfielders for the stretch run, the Redlegs decided it best that Skip get surgery on his torn labrum that affected him all season long. For the first time since 2007, Schumaker wouldn’t appear it at least 100 games in a season.

Lost on some: Skip Schumaker can actually get on base quite well. At age 35, do I believe he belongs anywhere near the top of the batting order under any circumstances? Not at all. Oddly enough, Schumaker batting in the seventh spot in the order, as the Reds’ “everyday” left fielder may be more beneficial than you believe.

For his career, Schumaker is a .281 batter. His on-base percentage is .339, which is serviceable, and something I think any Reds fan would sign up for right now if they could be guaranteed it. He doesn’t strike out a ton, he walks a whole lot more than the average hitter, and he plays like someone lit his jersey on fire; what is there not to like about Schumaker?

If you want to go a bit deeper into the stats, Schumaker’s .284 BAbip (batting average on balls in play) in 2014 was 35 points below his career average of .319. When he was a full-time player with the Cardinals in 2008 and 2009, those numbers read .328 and .341, respectively.

One of my personal favorite statistics that aptly applies to Schumaker’s situation is OWn%, which is short for Offensive Winning Percentage. The gist of the statistic is that if there were nine Skip Schumaker’s, what would the team’s winning percentage be? For 2014, Schumaker was a nightmare, finishing at .367, easily the lowest number he has had since 2006. For his career, his average is at .499, yet during his three best seasons with the Cardinals from 2007-2009, he would have years of .570, .520, and .568. In short–Skip Schumaker wins ballgames.

It may seem that handing the reigns to a 35-year-old role player who hasn’t held down a position full-time since 2009 is a risky proposition. That’s more than likely because it is. By no means is Schumaker a guaranteed success, but based on his track record, he’s a better bet than taking a gamble they cannot necessarily afford.

Schumaker will make $2.5 million from the Reds in 2015. After that, he will either make the same sum from them in 2016, or be paid $500k to leave. Depending on how well he plays in 2015, that deal may serve to be a steal for the Reds, despite how poor his 2014 play was. At the very least, Skip won’t go down without a fight.