To paraphrase another Cardinals former head coach, Arizona’s Dennis Green, St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma is what we thought he is.
No one can take away the huge contributions made by Kozma last September, stepping in when Rafael Furcal went down and helping his club reach the playoffs.
Still, only the very most optimistic could somehow convince themselves to believe that his .978 OPS to close the regular season was anything other than a short-term spike – Kozma’s 15 minutes of fame.
After all, Kozma has six years of minor league results to look back upon. His Memphis 2012 stats were comparable to the body of his career work. Using that season to translate to a major league expectation using the Minor League Equivalency Calculator, told us to look for a .551 OPS from Kozma with St. Louis.
|Kozma in minor leagues||BA||OBP||SLG||OPS|
|2012 Major League Equivalence||0.203||0.253||0.298||0.551|
Kozma’s predictable offensive slide began almost immediately after his huge September. In the post-season, Kozma batted just .214 and his OPS was .686. Further, the usually sure-handed fielder committed several key miscues.
The decline in Kozma’s production has continued almost uninterrupted in each month since. April’s OPS was lower than the post-season, with May worse than April, and so on. While one could excuse the subpar offense give the steady defense, the problem has reached what I consider a critical level in August.
|Kozma in 2012||BA||OBP||SLG||OPS|
|Kozma in 2013||BA||OBP||SLG||OPS|
|August (thru 13th)||0.115||0.207||0.154||0.361|
In fact, it may almost be time for Mike Matheny to consider resurrecting the Tony La Russa gimmick of batting the pitcher eighth, ahead of Kozma. After all, Cardinals pitchers this season are hitting a collective .114, just one point worse than the depth to which Kozma has sunk this month.
Then again, if that lineup change had occurred, Kozma’s only three walks this month – all intentional – would surely have been erased. That would sink his August OPS to an amazingly-bad .269.
|Kozma August (thru 13th) w/o intentional walks||0.115||0.115||0.154||0.269|
|St. Louis pitchers (season)||0.114||0.148||0.140||0.288|
Still, in all seriousness, considering the entire season, Kozma’s .565 OPS isn’t far away from that .551 equivalency the calculator told us to expect.
Those who consider Ryan Jackson down in Memphis to be like the backup quarterback who should be starting, ponder this. He hasn’t had an extra-base hit in almost two months (since June 17) and is batting .190 with a .433 OPS over the last 30 days. Though the Cardinals have been very productive in player development in recent years, shortstop is an obvious gap.
The Cardinals must understand this, which is probably why they were reportedly looking to upgrade the shortstop position at the trade deadline. While they were unsuccessful pulling off a deal in a seller’s market, the club must find a way to address the position in the off-season – because Kozma is what we thought he is.