2006-2007 Cardinals by Position: Third Base

The fourth in a new series analyzing each position on the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals ball club and grading the outlook for 2007.

Jasper, Indiana is a place for basketball players, and the 6-foot-4, 240 pound Scott Rolen was one of them at one time. Luckily for the St. Louis Cardinals, Rolen decided to go on to focus his considerable talents on baseball. In what has become one of the most successful careers for a third baseman in recent memory, Scott Rolen has come through time and time again for both the Cardinals and his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies.

Rolen has long been known for his stellar defense, producing seven Gold Glove Awards already over his ten-year career. He has committed a total of 137 errors in that time, with his career high of 24 coming in his rookie season in 1997 with the Phillies. An interesting stat to go with that is Rolen's total of 12,028 innings-played in is the fact that he has committed just one error every 88 innings. That's about one error every ten games, or one error for every 263 batters to step up to the plate.

Rolen's defensive ability has never been questioned, especially with a career fielding percentage of .966. Rolen's errors are a bit higher as of late, but much of that has been attributed to his injured shoulder he played with all of 2006 and a little bit of 2005.

2006 was an alright year for Scott Rolen, as he was just coming off a shoulder surgery in the off-season. Many believe he was still not 100% healthy in '06, but his offensive numbers were still good. His stats in 2006 compare favorably with those he put up in his fifth season with Philly (the 2000 season).

























If one were to read between the lines, something important could be unearthed. Rolen played in fewer games in 2000, but hit four more home runs. In fact, his home run totals starting from his true rookie season in 1997 to his most recent season in 2006 looks like this:

21, 31, 26, 26, 25, 17, 14, 28, 34, 5, 22.

Notice that Rolen was fairly consistent from his rookie season until his fifth season, when he was easily playing in 110 or more games. In the first season he hit under 20 home runs, his sixth season in Philadelphia, Rolen only played 100 games. Perhaps this had something to do with hitting only 17 home runs, but what about hitting only 14 the next season and only five in 2005?

The answer to those questions is simple. In 2002, in his first season with St. Louis, Rolen's 17 home runs came in only 55 games, a pace that would have had him on track to hit around fifty for a full season. As for his lackluster home run totals in 2005, Rolen once again missed over 100 games, playing in only 56. As for hitting only five home runs, Rolen played most of those 56 games with that injured shoulder – reducing his power to where it was basically non-existent.

In 2006, Rolen started off at a pretty good rate, but slowed down as the season went on. On June 14, Rolen's average was .358, which is incredibly high. He maintained an average above .300 all the way until late September, when it finally dropped into the .200's. This resulted from a 20-for-88 performance in that month (a mediocre average of .227).

Rolen was obviously fatigued from having to play so many games after playing not even 60 games in 2005. The wear and tear of the schedule was grinding him down, and he still was not truly healthy – having not been able to completely recover from his off-season surgery.

Luckily for Rolen, a little bit of rest in the '06 offseason and a World Series Championship should be the medicine he needs to have a productive 2007 season. Rolen is said to be feeling healthier than he has in quite some time, which bodes well for the Cardinals in '07. He should be able to perform the way he did in past season, and now that he can freely swing, look for his power numbers to go up a bit, as well. He should be able to continue to impress on defense, but his offense is what will be watched the most in the upcoming season.

One drawback for Rolen is the continued disagreement between he and manager Tony La Russa. The two have supposedly not spoken at all since St. Louis's World Series victory, something that could cause a distraction for a team that already was rumored to have unrest in the clubhouse. These two are professionals in every manner, and the fans are hoping that they can sort it out soon before it becomes too much of a distraction.

In case Rolen goes down with another injury in 2007, look for Scott Spiezio to take his place at third base. Known for his flaming red chin patch and his clutch hitting in 2006, Spiezio should be able to come off the bench and produce once again in 2007, but for now, most are hoping that Rolen can stay healthy a whole season – because there's no telling what kind of numbers he can put up.

Rolen has earned himself a less than stellar grade for '07 for his off the field actions and the fact that he cooled off so much at the end of the 2006 season. Hopefully he proves me wrong.

Overall Position Grade: B-

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