St. Louis Cardinals’ Pete Kozma Is Great

by Chris Moran | Posted on Thursday, October 17th, 2013
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Pete Kozma

What?! you say, how could a shortstop with a .217/.275/.273 batting line and one home run possibly be anything less than terrible? Pete Kozma possesses a wRC+ of 50. Six pitchers managed a better mark than that. He compiled 0.0 WAR, there must be thirty guys that played for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013 that fared better.

Well, if you’re letting WAR or those other sabermetrics fool you, you’re missing the point. Kozma bring intangibles to the table that can’t possibly be measured by newfangled stat crap or old stat crap. Let me list the ways in which Pete Kozma, or Kozmic Pete as he is known to some, is the Most Valuable Player on the Cardinals. Since there’s an 8 on Kozma’s jersey, I’ll give you 8 reasons, in no particular order of importance.

1. Kozma is a great hitter with a runner on second base. Sure, you might know that Allen CraigMatt Adams, and Matt Holliday and pretty much the whole Cardinals team was great with RISP this year. But, do you know who had a better batting average than all of those hitters with just a runner on second base? That’s right, it was Pete Kozma, at .387. So, next time Kozmic Pete comes up with a runner on second, think long and hard before you curse Matheny for not pinch hitting.

2.  Kozma has done a pretty good job of keeping Daniel Descalso from playing shortstop. Ok, I’ll use some stats to back up my point here. In 400 inning at shortstop, Descalso has cost the Cards four runs, while Kozma has saved them seven.

Would Descalso make that play? No. Would anybody else on the Cardinals make that play? No. Would Ryan Jackson make that play? No, certainly not without any playoff experience. I hardly even need to mention Kozma’s excellent defense in Game Four of the NLCS when he entered in the 6th inning.

3. Kozma led the team in intentional walks. What does this indicate? Obviously that he’s the most feared hitter on the team. Maybe it has something to do with him batting 8th, but I think Occam’s Razor favors the first explanation. The Cardinals might not have scored any runs after a Kozma IBB, but he performed the thanklesss task of clearing the pitcher’s spot. Once the Cardinals broke a 1-1 tie by scoring two runs off Jose Fernandez the inning after a Kozma IBB.

4. Kozma is a great hustler, perhaps even better than Nick Punto. He uses his hustle in a variety of ways. Only Matt Carpenter grounded into double plays at a lower rate. Also, Kozma led the team in bunt hits, and had the best rate of infield hits. He doesn’t steal very often, but he sure gets down the line.

5. Kozma is really good against Clayton KershawThe best pitcher in the MLB is no match for Kozmic Pete. While he sustained an 0-2 against Kershaw in Game Two, Kozma is 4-7 lifetime against Kershaw. Don’t think TBS won’t show that stat if Kozma is in the lineup Friday against the Dodgers ace.

6. Kozma has flow. Need I say anything more?

7. Kozma has the highest OBP in NLDS games of anybody on the Cardinals roster. Back-to-back years with a .455 OBP in the NLDS, and a .955 OPS? That’s right, not even Carlos Beltran can top that OBP. He might make outs during the regular season, but you can count on Koz in the NLDS.

8. Drafting Kozma kept the Cardinals from making horrible decisions in 2007. Imagine this Darkest Timeline. Unsatisfied with their light-hitting catcher, who had just a 64 wRC+ in his first three major league seasons, the Cardinals decide to select J.P. Arencibia with the 18th overall pick in 2007 and fast-track him to the majors. Arencibia quickly shows off his power in the minors, and he’s up with the big league club by 2010, with a starting job by 2011.

Meanwhile, Yadier Molina was dealt to the Chicago Cubs to make room for Arencibia and his power bat. The Cubs enjoy the fruits of Molina’s late-career offensive spike, while the Cardinals suffer through a .258 career OBP before handing the starting job to a combination of Tony Cruz and Rob Johnson. You thought Yadi was the Cardinals MVP? Well, he might not even be here were it not for Kozma.

Instead, they took Kozma with the 18th pick, and let Arencibia slide to the Toronto Blue Jays three picks later. Or, instead of Kozma, they could have selected reliever-turned-felon-turned-reliever Josh Lueke. Sure Lueke went 15 rounds later, but who knows where the Cardinals had him rated?

Well, I hope you have been disabused from your foolish notions that Pete Kozma is terrible. Maybe you thought the Cardinals needed to acquire a new shortstop for 2014, or that Descalso should be starting more playoff games. Well, you were wrong. Pete Kozma is not terrible, in fact, he’s great, and it’s about time Cardinals fans understood the myriad of ways in which he has contributed to their success. It’s just a matter of perspective. That, and being very very selective in what attributes you emphasize.

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Chris Moran
About the Author

Chris Moran is a second-year law student and assistant baseball coach at Washington University in St. Louis. He played baseball at Wheaton College where he donned the tools of ignorance. You can follow Chris on Twitter @hangingslurves.

  • Paul

    love the article. Im a fan.

    • kevin

      And he cost the Cards game 1 of the World Series! Worst two errors in a big game I’ve seen. I’d have him on a plane back to St. Louis tonight and play the rest of the series a man short…

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