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Kozma is what we thought he is

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
2007-2012 0.236 0.308 0.344 0.652
2012 Memphis 0.232 0.292 0.355 0.647
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
Sept-Oct 0.343 0.392 0.586 0.978
Post-season 0.214 0.353 0.333 0.686
Kozma in 2013 BA OBP SLG OPS
April 0.259 0.311 0.346 0.657
May 0.267 0.330 0.311 0.641
June 0.209 0.226 0.275 0.501
July 0.206 0.254 0.254 0.508
August (thru 13th) 0.115 0.207 0.154 0.361
Season 0.228 0.277 0.288 0.565

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.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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27 Responses to “Kozma is what we thought he is”

  1. DMENS says:

    Wow those numbers are scary.

    It became more evident to me last night than ever before that Kozma’s inability to get on base, or even put forth a competitive at bat, is seriously hindering this offense. You could walk the bases loaded just to get to Kozma and be better off in that situation than pitching to anyone ahead of him.

  2. Bw52 says:

    Could Kozma turn into Dal Maxvill the 2nd? Seems like he turning into Eddie Brinkman or Ray Oyler.

  3. Bw52 says:

    Some names to consider for SS next season;
    Dee Gordon LAD.25 year old LH batting youngster with some speed.
    Cliff Pennington AZ-under team control thru 2014.Having a bad year and losing time to Didi Gregorius
    Andrew Romine Angels
    Taylor Pastornicky ATL-young prospect has been passed by Andreton Simmons.Might be worth kicking the tires on these guys to get a feel for what it would take to trade .

    • crdswmn says:

      Dee Gordon is a worse hitter than Kozma and his fielding is awful too. That would just be going from bad to worse.

      Cliff Pennington is a decent fielder but he can’t hit either.

      It’s Tyler Pastornicky. No power and can’t field.

      Personally, I think we have to either develop a SS or shell out the bucks to get an impact player. Messing around on the fringes gets us nowhere.

      • Bw52 says:

        The AA shortstop is Greg Garcia along with Ryan Jackson…………….Jackson is doubtful to see STlouis in September and Garcia is struggling at AAA. So really no help on the immediate horizon.So what do you suggest? Another year of a;lmost automatic outs and clutch errors.

        • Brian Walton says:

          You mean AAA. Garcia has actually been hitting pretty well recently. He is the opposite of Jackson in that he started very poorly and has steadily improved. Not all that surprising as this is his first exposure to the level.

        • crdswmn says:

          We see how some of the SS we have in the minors (like Garcia) are working out while being on the lookout for an impact SS either through FA or trade. In the meantime, we make do with what we have and the hitting coaches must continue to work with Kozma to see if they can get his hitting up to a tolerable level. He’s never going to be a good hitter, but then most SS aren’t. The ones that are are expensive and tough to get.

  4. Bw52 says:

    Another thing to consider for 2014……………..a platoon of Kozma/Descalso.Kolton Wong can be spot starter at 2B to spell Matt Carpenter or when MC is used at 3B to spell Freese(if he is still a Card).

  5. blingboy says:

    So, if I am reading the article correctly, Kozma at .228 is outperforming expectation by .025. An overachiever, in other words. So, what is the problem?

  6. JumboShrimp says:

    Ozzie Smith’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seasons (1979-81), his OPS each year was in the 500s. This may help explain his trade to the Cardinals. San Diego reporters and fans must have been fed up with Ozzie’s hitting.

    • Nutlaw says:

      So Pete is the Wizard in training now, is he? You don’t happen to live under a bridge, do you, Jumbo? 😉

    • blingboy says:

      Ozzie becoming a hitter that could fit into a Whiteyball offense seems like a better bet than Kozma fiting in to the kind of offense we have now.

    • Bw52 says:

      A few points Jumbo…………………..Ozzie was a great fielder…………….a very good base stealer……………….a switch-hitter who could also bunt fairly well……………….Kozma is a above average glove man……….no threat on the bases……………a poor hitter.If Kozma`s glove keeps him in the lineup next year that means Mo failed badly at upgrading SS.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        The fact of the matter is Ozzie was terrible offensively during his second, third, and fourth full seasons in San Diego. The Padres must have been fed up. Super Pete is certainly hitting as well as the Wizard did at a similar point. So we may want to be patient, in case Mr. September winds up in the Hall of Fame.

        • Bw52 says:

          What you forget is that SD was getting a SS Garry Templeton who had been a All-star with a better bat and a above average glove.The general thinking at the time was that Templeton had worn out his welcome in STL.SD obviously felt Templeton `s all-around ability more than offset Ozzie`s great glove work and his offensive woes.Ozzie worked hard at getting better with the bat and Templetons career just kind of turned average after his early good seasons in STL.

      • crdswmn says:

        The problem with upgrading SS in the offseason is that the coming class of free agent shortstops is incredibly bad. Not a one on that list that bowls me over.

        If Mo wants to get a good shortstop who can both field and hit, he is going to have to trade for one.

  7. JumboShrimp says:

    So we did what had to be done, took 2 from the pirates in our own house. Yadi and Shane are back. Wacha and Wong are up, as Mo looks to help the roster as much as possible from Memphis.

    Wong has had an excellent rookie season in the PCL. He can play 2B, allowing us to move all star Matt Carpenter over to 3B and let Freese grab some time on the bench.

    • Nutlaw says:

      So how long until Wong gets thrown in at shortstop? Don’t say that he doesn’t have enough range or that he didn’t play it in the minors, because that hasn’t stopped the team from throwing infielders anywhere at any point in the last number of years.

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