In case you missed it, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a fabulous piece on Shane Robinson on Monday, in which Rick Hummel chronicled the challenges Robinson has faced in becoming a big leaguer. Missed it? Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait.
… great, right? A season-ending injury in 2010, followed by that terrifying collision in 2011, only to spend time on the team that made its way to the greatest playoff run in recent history. Oh, and a World Series title. That part’s cool, too.
Yes, last year he spent 102 games with the Major League club. But, over the off season, he became a name that many Cardinals fans — and experts, mind you — believed might not make the cut again this time around.
His 42 hits in 166 at bats tallied just 17 RBI in 2012, and in a bench situation in dire need of a steady bat, Robinson didn’t appear to be the likeliest fit.
Then spring training happened. A .500 batting average happened, along side a .559 on-base percentage and a .967 slugging percentage. Eleven times he’s knocked in a run. Oh, and there was also THIS.
Yeah. That happened (along with two other home runs this spring).
This isn’t a Love Letter, though Shane is fast working his way towards one all his own! This is, however, me taking a closer look at a guy who has done what we as Cardinals fans love: worked hard and earned a chance to help his team win ballgames.
He’s had a rough go of it since his professional career started, but offensive prowess isn’t exactly new for the Florida native. Have you looked at the kid’s college stats? Hey, why stop there? How about Robinson as a high school center fielder?
How does career low average of .364 sound? That was as a freshman. His junior year, he bumped that number to a season high .431.
Then, as a Florida State Seminole, Robinson dominated the college baseball scene. His sophomore season earned him a Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Year award, thanks in large part to things like a 40-game hitting streak, leading the nation in hits (122) and runs scored (96). He also also ranked in the top 10 nationally for walks (57), total bases (173), and batting average (.427) on his way to an ACC batting title as the lead-off man in all 73 games that season. Oh, he was also named to the USA National Team.
No wonder sitting out much of two season was hard on the guy! It appears baseball is kind of his thing, wouldn’t you say?!
Okay, I know. High school and college success doesn’t always translate on the professional level. In fact, most high school and college success doesn’t translate into any kind of Major league career. So, I’m not attempting to justify a spot on the Opening Day roster for Robinson based on past performance — especially not the kind that came from the dramatically different game of college ball. I’m not even daring to compare college statistics with minor league numbers, and certainly not with big league at bats. That’s not my point at all.
I’m just saying that his 122-game big league “career” average of .242 doesn’t tell the whole story.
Back to Hummel’s piece for a moment. The Cardinals desperately need some pop off the bench. Maybe, Robinson is exactly the guy to provide it.
“I want to do whatever I can to impress the coaches. I want to show them I can be that guy.”
So far, he’s doing all the right things (and I’m not talking about the whole mashing-baseballs-left-and-right part!).
Last year, he sought advice on pinch hitting from then assistant hitting coach John Mabry, who finished his career as a successful pinch hitter.
“I learned a lot,” said Robinson. “There’s a different mind-set. And sometimes, it’s not about getting a pitch to hit.
“If we’ve had a long inning in the field and if you’re leading off as a pinch hitter, you might look at a couple of pitches before you swing because you don’t want to send your team right back out there.”
Mabry, now the hitting coach, said, “As a hitter, you’ve got to read about what’s going on in the game.
And the skipper himself has been mighty pleased with young Robinson’s approach — and his improvement.
“He plays the game right. He plays the game hard,” said Matheny.
“Now you see he’s on a mission to prove something, not just to us but to everybody. You don’t see people putting together the kind of spring he’s done so far.”
I do love a good comeback story. Robinson’s tale has been a long time in the making, but perhaps this is the year it turns into a fairy tale.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.