Pete Kozma's having a tough season. So tough, in fact, that the Cardinals' every-day shortstop actually getting a few days off, "to search for his swing and his confidence." From Jenifer Langosch (via MLB.com):
Manager Mike Matheny discussed his intentions with Kozma after his second straight 0-for-5 game on Wednesday. During that meeting, Matheny specifically lauded Kozma for his defensive steadiness and let him know that the organization still views him as the starting shortstop.
How many days Kozma will sit out will depend upon how much progress he makes during his side work.
"You go through periods where you're just trying to figure things out," Matheny said. "[He's] going through [his] sophomore year where teams have more information on you. Then you go through not having as much confidence as you should. All of that combines to overthinking at times. That puts us in a situation to go get some work with [hitting coach] John [Mabry] and with [assistant hitting coach] Bengie [Molina] and get a little bit of rest. But more importantly, get a little bit of time to really work on his swing, where he doesn't have to try to take the things that he's working on and put them in game time speed."
So Kozma's going to search for his swing, to which I have a simple question ... What swing?
Pete Kozma has looked like a major-league hitter for approximately one month in his entire professional career: September, 2012.
Last year, the Cardinals had a pretty good shortstop: Rafael Furcal. He got hurt at the very end of August. Daniel Descalso took over at shortstop, but Mike Matheny seems to have become tired of watching Skip Schumaker trying to play second base, so Descalso -- not really a shortstop anyway -- shifted to the keystone. Which left, again, an opening, at shortstop. Management installed Kozma there, and he wound up batting .333 with power in 26 games.
But in the space of two months (if you count October), Pete Kozma essentially went from third-string shortstop to every-day player on a team expected to contend for yet another World's Championship this season. And here's the really funny thing ... Before those two months, he'd spent the better part of six years demonstrating that he shouldn't be an every-day player on a team expected to contend for a World's Championship.
At 21 and 22, Kozma played in Class AA, and posted a .305 on-base percentage in those seasons.
At 23 and 24, Kozma played in Class AAA, and posted a .286 on-base percentage in those seasons.
So are we really supposed to be surprised that now, at 25 in the majors, he's got a .281 on-base percentage? The only thing that's surprising is that Kozma's hit just one home run this season ... actually, it's also surprising that he's got 14 doubles. Really, the only surprising thing is that a few of his doubles haven't been home runs.
But that's it. Based on nearly everything that happened in Kozma's professional career before 2013, we (and the Cardinals) should have expected him to play good defense while doing very little at the plate. Which is exactly what's happened.
Is Kozma's glove really good enough to carry his bat? Well, that depends on your options. Kozma's not Brendan Ryan, but his defense makes him better than replacement-level, overall. Which means he belongs in the majors. Just not with a team that's got somebody better, and a lot of teams have somebody better.
Do the Cardinals? Hard to say. Descalso's an awful fielder, and probably is most valuable as a utility guy. The club does have Ryan Jackson in Triple-A, and last winter Baseball America described him as "one of the best gloves in the system" and "the finest college shortstop in the 2009 draft."
At the same time, BA ranked Jackson as the No. 15 prospect in the system ... and Kozma No. 13, with Kozma getting a small benefit of the doubt because of his performance last September. There's not much evidence that Jackson's a great player, or a particularly good one. Except he's got a career 755 OPS in Triple-A, compared to Kozma's 610. Wouldn't Kozma have to be a lot better with the glove to make those 145 OPS points melt away?
Look, the Cardinals might be stubborn for a while. And they've got a huge margin for error, since they're well ahead of the Nationals in the battle for the second wild card (if it comes to that). But there's overwhelming evidence that Pete Kozma just won't ever hit well enough to play every day for a really good team.