Surging Cardinals still have the same shortstop problem

Elsa

The St. Louis Cardinals have the best run differential in the National League and the best record in the National League Central, but they're hardly perfect.

See, they've got a shortstop who can field but can't hit at all, and they've got a shortstop who can hit -- well, he can hit maybe a little -- but can't field at all. So what should they do? What can they do? Bernie Miklasz lays out the obvious options:

1. Go with Kozma's good and dependable glove, and forget about the offense.

2. Reduce the quality of SS defense by playing Descalso with the hope and expectation that he'll launch another offensive with his bat _ as he did in May, June and the first part of July.

3. Or, Matheny can just continue to let Kozma and Descalso share the position. In terms of Wins Above Replacement _ which factors in defense _ it doesn't matter much. Kozma has a minus 0.2 WAR; Descalso is minus 0.3.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago, and suggested another solution: Call up Ryan Jackson and let him play shortstop. But as Bernie points out, "since the All-Star break Jackson is batting .221 with a .284 OBP and a .231 SLG."

Well, yes ... but "since the All-Star break" is one month. Jackson's still a 25-year-old shortstop with a 717 career OPS in 233 Triple-A games. Yes, that's a lot of Triple-A games and we might assume the Cardinals know something about Jackson that doesn't show up in the raw numbers. But I'm not ready to assume he can't play because he's had a lousy month in the Pacific-Mississippi-Gulf-of-Mexico League.

Or what about 23-year-old Greg Garcia, who Bernie also mentions? Garcia's actually played a lot more shortstop with Memphis than Jackson has this season, and Garcia's out-hitting Jackson, too. According to Baseball America, Garcia didn't enter this season among the Cardinals' top 30 prospects, but just looking at his Baseball-Reference.com page, it's not clear why; you'd think a .390 on-base percentage would turn some heads.

I don't know. Maybe Jackson and Garcia are both clodhoppers at shortstop. But I'm re-reading this ...

In terms of Wins Above Replacement _ which factors in defense _ it doesn't matter much. Kozma has a minus 0.2 WAR; Descalso is minus 0.3.

... and I can't help wondering if the Cardinals really can't do better than two replacement-level players at a key position in the middle of a thrilling pennant race.

But I don't think they'll do anything at all. Nobody wants to mess with success. And it probably won't matter much. Unless it does.

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