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A Star is Born!

Migrant Redbird

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OK, for O's fans, this is probably of interest only if the Yankees (Heaven forbid!) and Cards both win today. It would give you something to watch for the rest of the post season.

Bernie Miklacz of the St. Louis Post Dispatch made Pete Kozma the centerpiece of today's column. Going Kozma Crazy!

First, a little background: Kozma was the Cards first round pick in 2007, 18th overall. There was a lot of criticism at the time that the Cards picked a high school player for signability, ignoring the fact that SI and Baseball American both had Kozma going early (SI predicted 16th).

Since then, Kozma's rise through the Cardinals system has been methodical, driven more by seniority than performance. He has a .236/.308/.344/.652 line over 6 minor league seasons. He got a brief cup of coffee in 2011 (because the organization is so thin on middle infield talent) and hit .176/.333/.235/.569 in 22 PAs. His defense has been promising, but he makes lots of errors.

Then, Rafael Furcal's season was ended by a rotator cuff injury and Kozma got his chance. Initially, he was used as a utility infielder, but then Mike Matheny plugged him in as the everyday starter at shortstop and he has shone. Here's how Bernie gushes over him.

Remember all of the time the Cardinals wasted this season in trying to cultivate Tyler Greene as a reliable, starting-caliber middle infielder? I wonder what would have happened had the team invested that time in Pete Kozma instead.

.... Kozma wasn?t getting much done at Class AAA Memphis, and only he knows what he was really feeling inside. But there had to be anguish. Frustration. Isolation. The kid had been a No. 1 draft choice, but now the organization was slowly leaving Kozma behind. Other young middle infielders were moving ahead of him, including Ryan Jackson. (Think about that: Ryan Jackson?)

Kozma didn?t have much of a future, but look at him now.

.... When the Cardinals summoned Kozma from Memphis at the end of August, and gave him the starting shortstop job on Sept. 10, it turned out to be the perfect time, the perfect situation. He had nothing to lose. After veteran leader Rafael Furcal went out with a torn elbow ligament, the Cardinals were out of solutions at shortstop.

Kozma, 24, was down to his last chance; the Cardinals were down to their last resort. The Cardinals and the rookie shortstop were partners in desperation.

Nothing was expected from him except solid defense. And what happens? He delivers a performance that no one saw coming, except for maybe Kozma himself. All he wanted was a shot. Just give him one shot, one more chance to make it real. That?s how it works in life sometimes; when hope is fading and it seems like opportunity has passed you by ? well, you get that one chance, and you turn your career, your life, around.

.... You think that maybe Jeff Luhnow is smiling these days? The Houston Astros GM chose Kozma, back when he was running the Cardinals? scouting department, draft and player-development side. Though Luhnow did an exceptional job of drafting players for the Cardinals, the Kozma pick was questioned at the time. In ensuing years, the Kozma pick was used an example to cite Luhnow?s misses in the first round.

Take a bow, Mr. Luhnow. If Kozma does nothing else for the Cardinals in his career, his performance over the last six weeks is more than enough to justify the investment of a first-round draft choice.


Kozma was installed as the starting shortstop on Sept. 10, when the Cardinals opened a two-game series in San Diego. They were playing their worst ball of the season. The Kozma promotion to starter was viewed with a shrug. Kozma, huh? OK, whatever.

Including the first four postseason games, this is where Kozma ranks on the team in important offensive categories since that fateful day of Sept. 10:

Batting average: At .304, he?s third behind Carlos Beltran (.329) and Allen Craig (.321.)

Onbase percentage: Kozma (.374) is fourth behind Beltran (.442), Matt Holliday (.404) and David Freese (.397.)

Slugging percentage: Kozma (.557) is second to Beltran (.570.)

Onbase+slugging percentage: Kozma (.931) is second to Beltran (1.012.)

Extra-base hits: Craig leads with 12; Kozma ranks second with 11. Kozma has three homers, three triples and five doubles.

Isolated power: Kozma is first, at .253.

Total bases: Craig 52, Beltran 45, Kozma 44.

Runs batted in: Craig 20, Kozma 17.

Power/speed number: Kozma is first, at 2.4.

Secondary average: Beltran .443, Kozma .392.

.... The best silly nickname I?ve heard for Kozma comes from our friend Ben Hochman, the St. Louis native that covers the NBA Denver Nuggets with distinction for the Denver Post.

Hochman calls Kozma ?Kozzie Smith.?

.... Kozma is banging fastballs. In at-bats that end with a fastball being put in play, Kozma is hitting .419 against the heater. That includes a .387 average on fastballs from RHP, and a .500 average on fastballs from LHP.

Kozma has seen more than 200 fastballs, more than any pitch by a significant margin. But he?s also made adjustments to some of the offspeed stuff. Pitchers started to throw more curve balls, and Kozma is batting .333 against the curve. (A small sample, though.)

The pitches that give Kozma trouble are the changeup (.143) and slider (.167.)

One of my friends on another forum calls Kozma "Petey Pujols". "Kozmic Kid" is also a favorite.

I'm under no illusions that Kozma is going to be a long term star, or even a passable solution as the everyday shortstop (I still recall Bo Hart, .412/.452/.588/1.040 in his first 15 games, .272/.313/.385/.698 for his very brief major league career). I think that Ryan Jackson probably still projects to become the regular shortstop in a year or two, but he's not ready yet. However, "Petey Pujols" has been a godsend for the Cardinals over the last month. I hope he never wakes up and the dream continues.

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You have never had a bandwagon Cardinals fan like you have in me this series.

That's fine, but I'd much rather they hadn't wasted such an outstanding outing by Kyle Lohse today.

At least they didn't waste Lynn in relief today. After Wainwright shuts down the Nats tomorrow, Lynn can still start against the Giants on Sunday. The 13 pitches he threw to Werth shouldn't equal much more than a good side session.

There are some Cards fans who seem to think they can't get by without Lynn in the bullpen, but the "Honey Badger" let them down today.

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