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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

2012 St. Louis Cardinals reach historic heights at second base

Ok, I admit the title is a teaser, yet as you will see, it has merit – just not in the way you probably suspected.

For the better part of a decade, second base has remained the biggest ongoing question for the St. Louis Cardinals. Since the departure of Fernando Vina in 2003, the position has been a revolving door with no sniff of an all-star level performance registered by a player calling second base his home.

In recent seasons, we have seen a strategy to convert agile, decent-hitting players from other positions to second. This began with outfielder Skip Schumaker and continued more recently with shortstops Tyler Greene and Ryan Jackson.

As coaches searching for more offense think even more outside the box, there is the even longer move from third base to second.

Cardinals fans anxious for more scoring any way it can be delivered were briefly excited last summer when third baseman-turned outfielder-first baseman Allen Craig received a nine-game trial at second. That experiment ended as Craig’s knee woes heightened.

One year later, another up-and-comer has assumed Craig’s 2011 role. Matt Carpenter, like Craig a third baseman in the minor leagues, has expanded his glovework beyond the hot corner. Also like the 2011 Craig, Carpenter is without a full-time job, needing to seize his at-bats anytime and any place he can.

Once again in 2012, offensively-minded Cardinals-watchers were teased when it was divulged that Carpenter had been working out at second base. An ankle injury reportedly related to that work may have dampened some of the enthusiasm – at least temporarily.

What appeared to be a token late-game appearance at the position on July 5 by Carpenter was followed by no second base encores for almost two months. There has been a recent change, however.

Manager Mike Matheny has substituted Carpenter in at second base in two of his most recent six outings, including as recently as Wednesday afternoon. The motivation was undoubtedly to get Carpenter’s bat into the game to try to help address the club’s run-scoring woes.

Furthering the speculation into 2013 was a recent tweet by Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch, who had apparently spoken with Carpenter about the matter.

“Matt Carpenter admitted over weekend that his best chance for more playing time in ’13 may come at 2B,” typed the beat writer.

If Carpenter is coming to 2013 spring training with a plan to compete at second base, that is an entirely different proposition from a few double-switches with relievers in the final innings of a handful of games.

Carpenter – tall, slender and notably batting glove-less – is listed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. As such, he elicits exponentially more comparisons to former Cardinal utilityman and current assistant hitting coach John Mabry than he would to a prototypical second baseman like the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Vina.

The idea of elevating Carpenter from a second-base curiosity to receiving consistent playing time at the position led me to wonder how he would measure up – literally – against past regulars at his position.

My next stop was researcher Tom Orf. As we discussed what I was looking for, the subject of boundaries came up, as it seemingly always does. To ensure we had only legitimate second basemen, we settled on 100 career games played at the position as our floor.

Had we not done that – instead including anyone ever to play at the position – none other than current Cardinal Jackson would stand alongside Carpenter among the tallest second basemen in team history at 6-foot-3. To date, Jackson’s only four games played in the field as a major leaguer have been at second.

Perhaps Carpenter or Jackson has the potential to pass 100 games at the position next season and move from the one-off curiosities to the following group – the 31 over-six-foot second sackers in team history.

Most interestingly, at 6-foot-2, now-Houston Astro Greene currently single-handedly holds the record as the tallest second baseman to play at least 100 games at the position as a Cardinal. Greene made the list in his final days with the team, ending with 103 career games at second base.

Among notables on the list are Hall of Famers Red Schoendienst, Frankie Frisch and Rogers Hornsby plus current Cardinals Schumaker and third-base coach Jose Oquendo. Alas, Mabry pitched twice, but never played second as a major leaguer.

(Notes: Heights (Ht) are listed as inches in the table below: 74” = 6-foot-2. The data is the players’ total at all positions as a Cardinal, but they must have played 100 games at second to be included.)

Tallest second basemen, minimum 100 games at the position, St. Louis Cardinals history

Cardinals Ht From To Age G AB R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
Tyler Greene 74 2009 2012 25-28 227 495 61 108 9 47 43 143 .218 .295 .329 .624 4/659783
Mark Grudzielanek 73 2005 2005 35-35 137 528 64 155 8 59 26 81 .294 .334 .407 .741 *4
Delino DeShields 73 1997 1998 28-29 267 992 166 291 18 102 111 133 .293 .363 .440 .802 *4/3
Geronimo Pena 73 1990 1995 23-28 373 1001 161 264 29 122 111 251 .264 .346 .427 .773 *4/75
Mike Ramsey 73 1978 1984 24-30 348 701 78 172 2 54 46 94 .245 .293 .305 .598 46/57
Julian Javier 73 1960 1971 23-34 1578 5631 719 1450 76 494 308 801 .258 .297 .356 .652 *4/65
Phil Gagliano 73 1963 1970 21-28 468 1121 115 265 14 124 109 138 .236 .303 .319 .622 45/9376
Tom Herr 72 1979 1988 23-32 1029 3722 498 1021 19 435 438 388 .274 .349 .354 .704 *4/6
Ken Oberkfell 72 1977 1984 21-28 724 2336 295 682 11 210 265 158 .292 .364 .381 .744 *54/6
Mike Phillips 72 1977 1980 26-29 231 476 54 117 2 50 41 64 .246 .306 .315 .621 *4/65
Red Schoendienst 72 1945 1963 22-40 1795 6841 1025 1980 65 651 497 287 .289 .338 .388 .727 *47/658
Stu Martin 72 1936 1940 23-27 528 1766 256 475 15 147 157 148 .269 .330 .369 .699 *4/536
Adam Kennedy 71 1999 2008 23-32 235 720 81 182 6 70 46 84 .253 .300 .344 .645 *4/936D7
Dal Maxvill 71 1962 1972 23-33 1205 3087 274 678 6 231 336 470 .220 .296 .263 .559 *64/579
Lou Klein 71 1943 1949 24-30 254 891 140 236 11 84 95 106 .265 .339 .382 .721 *4/6579
Emil Verban 71 1944 1946 28-30 302 1096 110 294 0 115 38 29 .268 .296 .319 .615 *4
Frankie Frisch 71 1927 1937 28-38 1311 5059 831 1577 51 720 448 133 .312 .370 .423 .792 *45/6
Rogers Hornsby 71 1915 1933 19-37 1580 5881 1089 2110 193 1072 660 480 .359 .427 .568 .995 *465/3798
Dots Miller 71 1914 1919 27-32 697 2521 286 647 10 275 163 224 .257 .308 .336 .645 *34/65
Chappy Charles 71 1908 1909 27-28 220 793 72 173 1 46 50 82 .218 .270 .264 .533 *4/65
Pug Bennett 71 1906 1907 32-33 240 919 86 228 1 55 77 103 .248 .312 .297 .609 *4/5
Skip Schumaker 70 2005 2012 25-32 788 2396 336 697 23 206 206 312 .291 .347 .381 .728 *4798/1D
Placido Polanco 70 1998 2002 22-26 489 1563 218 462 15 134 73 129 .296 .331 .385 .716 546/D3
Joe McEwing 70 1998 1999 25-26 162 533 70 145 9 45 42 90 .272 .330 .392 .723 *4/789536
Jose Oquendo 70 1986 1995 22-31 989 2685 287 709 13 227 414 290 .264 .359 .331 .690 *46/5937812
Ted Sizemore 70 1971 1975 26-30 679 2504 299 650 11 230 262 170 .260 .329 .319 .648 *4/6975
Don Blasingame 70 1955 1959 23-27 602 2415 367 663 11 145 273 190 .275 .350 .352 .702 *4/65
Burgess Whitehead 70 1933 1935 23-25 219 677 102 183 1 58 23 34 .270 .299 .329 .629 *4/65
Specs Toporcer 70 1921 1928 22-29 546 1566 223 437 9 151 150 93 .279 .347 .373 .720 64/539
John Farrell 70 1902 1905 25-28 406 1617 229 416 1 78 141 121 .257 .320 .318 .638 *4/687
Dick Padden 70 1901 1901 30-30 123 489 71 125 2 62 31 36 .256 .315 .331 .646 *4/6

Taking it one step further, I asked Tom to pull the same list for all of Major League Baseball. Two players – Andy Fox in the last decade and aptly-named old-timer High Pockets Kelly – share the MLB second base height record at 6-foot-4. Only 14 long-time second basemen in the history of the game have been at least as tall as Carpenter and Jackson.

Carpenter or Jackson would have to grow at least an inch taller plus earn much more playing time at the position to reach the top of this list.

Tallest second basemen, minimum 100 games at the position, Major League Baseball history

MLB Ht From To Age G AB R H HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
Andy Fox 76 1996 2004 25-33 776 1925 248 461 30 168 .239 .324 .338 .662 645/9738D NYY-ARI-FLA-TOT
High Pockets Kelly 76 1915 1932 19-36 1623 5993 819 1778 148 1020 .297 .342 .452 .794 *34/79851 NYG-TOT-CIN-BRO
Geoff Blum 75 1999 2012 26-39 1389 3966 446 990 99 479 .250 .310 .384 .694 546/379D MON-HOU-TBD-TOT-SDP-ARI
Neil Walker 75 2009 2012 23-26 407 1504 200 421 38 218 .280 .339 .427 .766 *4/5D PIT
Ben Zobrist 75 2006 2012 25-31 734 2571 389 666 87 370 .259 .353 .440 .793 496/873D5 TBD-TBR
Jorge Cantu 75 2004 2011 22-29 847 3128 367 847 104 476 .271 .316 .439 .755 534/D6 TBD-TOT-FLA-SDP
Mike Benjamin 75 1989 2002 23-36 817 1926 227 442 24 169 .229 .277 .339 .616 654/3D91 SFG-PHI-BOS-PIT
Jeff Huson 75 1988 2000 23-35 827 1879 242 439 8 150 .234 .304 .295 .599 645/3D798 MON-TEX-BAL-MIL-SEA-ANA-CHC
Rene Gonzales 75 1984 1997 23-36 705 1539 185 368 19 136 .239 .315 .320 .634 546/3971D MON-BAL-TOR-CAL-CLE-TEX-COL
Mike Sharperson 75 1987 1995 25-33 557 1203 149 337 10 123 .280 .355 .364 .719 54/639 TOT-LAD-ATL
Steve Lyons 75 1985 1993 25-33 853 2162 264 545 19 196 .252 .301 .340 .642 8543/79D621 CHW-BOS-TOT
Bill Almon 75 1974 1988 21-35 1236 3330 390 846 36 296 .254 .305 .343 .648 6574/39D82 SDP-TOT-CHW-OAK-PIT-PHI
Mike Andrews 75 1966 1973 22-29 893 3116 441 803 66 316 .258 .353 .369 .722 *4/3D65 BOS-CHW-TOT
Don Kolloway 75 1940 1953 21-34 1079 3993 466 1081 29 393 .271 .305 .353 .658 *43/58 CHW-TOT-DET-PHA

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7 Responses to “2012 St. Louis Cardinals reach historic heights at second base”

  1. Nutlaw says:

    Hrm. In some cases, these seem like baseball heights, and not actual heights. I wonder.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Fair point, but that we will never know. I hope you are not doubting the legitimacy of High Pockets Kelly, though! ;-)

      Seriously, having looked him in the eye on multiple occasions, I do believe that Carpenter is a legitimate 6-foot-3. If anyone else was fibbing, they would almost certainly be even shorter than listed.

  2. blingboy says:

    I was surprised Jackson is 6’3″.

  3. Kansasbirdman says:

    Jeesh. What’s with the inches thing, my brain hurt from dividing by 12 with the remainders. Too much math!

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