Rafael Furcal: 2012 a Career Year for Cardinals Shortstop

Alex SchuhartCorrespondent IMay 18, 2012

Rafael Furcal
Rafael FurcalDilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

In 2010, St. Louis Cardinals’ shortstop Rafael Furcal hit .300 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Last year, in a season split between the Dodgers and St. Louis, his average dropped to .231. And this season, it has jumped to .367.

To say that Furcal has had an up-and-down career is an understatement—but this year has definitely been one of the ups.

Along with his .367 batting average, the 34-year-old shortstop has posted an on-base percentage of .439 through his first 37 games. He has 11 doubles and seven triples, and his slugging percentage is hovering near .500.

He is among National League leaders in multiple categories. He ranks behind only David Wright in batting average and is third in runs scored. In on-base percentage, he is fifth, and in doubles, sixth.

Defensively, he has been solid as well—and solid isn’t something he has always been in the field. The active career leader in errors among shortstops is currently third in the league in shortstop assists and fourth in fielding percentage.

If he can keep performing well, the two-time All-Star may be suiting up for another Midseason Classic in July.

2012 is also a year of milestones for the Dominican Republic native. On April 24, against pitcher Carlos Marmol and the rest of the Chicago Cubs, he scored the 1,000th run of his career on a home run by Matt Holliday. Just four days earlier, he hit his 300th double against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In recent years, consistency has not been easy for Furcal. Injuries have played a part—he has only appeared in 100 or more games in a campaign once since 2008—but so has a decline in speed and a higher-than-desired strikeout rate.

The 13-year veteran was one of the top shortstops in the game through 2006—he came up with the Atlanta Braves in 2000 and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award that season.

In his first seven campaigns, he averaged 10 home runs, 32 stolen bases and 95 runs scored a year. In the five seasons to follow, those numbers dropped to seven, 15 and 65, respectively.

It seems, however, that his recent struggles may be behind him.

With his fast start to 2012, Furcal may be reclaiming his spot as one of the top shortstops in the National League. As this moment in 2012, there aren’t many who have been better.