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November 12, 2013

Overthinking It

Picking an Appropriate Cardinals Shortstop

by Ben Lindbergh


It’s not so bad being Pete Kozma. Between his signing bonus, his major- and minor-league salaries, and his World Series ring, Kozma has already made more than the average American high school graduate earns in a lifetime (and the average American high school graduate is pretty well off, globally speaking). He has his health, his looks and athleticism, and a pretty cool career. We’ve all tweeted or written or said something snarky about Pete Kozma at some point in the last couple years, but the sobering reality is that if everyone in the world were forced to trade lives with either Kozma, you, or me, Kozma would win in a landslide.

Kozma is snarkworthy only in relation to a select group of people: other big league shortstops, just about all of whom are better at baseball than he. The 25-year-old can’t hit, so his overall value depends on his defense. Going by WARP, he wasn’t that bad, because only Andrelton Simmons and Jean Segura had better FRAA figures at shortstop. The location-based defensive metrics weren’t quite as high on him; of the 24 players who appeared in a minimum of 100 games last season, with at least 80 percent of them coming at shortstop, Kozma ranked 22nd by Baseball-Reference WAR, ahead of only Starlin Castro and Adeiny Hechavarria.

Given the option to trade their presumptive 2014 starting shortstop for Kozma—salary aside—very few major league teams would want to pull the trigger. Kozma’s own team feels much the same way: from the moment he made the Cardinals, they’ve been searching for someone better. The Cards were so unimpressed by Kozma’s 2011 debut that they signed Rafael Furcal to a two-year deal that winter. And after being forced by Furcal’s injury to play him in 2013, they haven’t been shy about wanting to avoid that experience again:

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