It took awhile for Cesar Izturis to get the rust out in spring training. By the last week of the exhibition games, Izturis executed what Rooney and Shannon called the best defensive play by any player they had seen on any team all March. Finally, St. Louis fans and sportswriters are coming around to recognizing that Cesar Izturis is an exceptional fielding shortstop (always has been, except when he was having hamstring problems or suffering from an ailing elbow that required ligament replacement in 2005).
But the misperception continues that Izturis is "the worst hitter in baseball", as some have claimed This despite the fact that Cesar continues to show good plate discipline, with few strikeouts, a good number of walks, and a tendency to hit solid line drives. Cesar has never had much power at all, but, for the Cardinals so far in this budding season, he has been getting on base and not giving up AB's, which is primarily what the Cards want their #9 hitter to do batting behind the pitcher and ahead of Pujols:
After 10 games of the regular season, Izturis has an OBP of .394, better than every player on the team with more than 12 AB's, other than Pujols.
But Izturis has a SLG of only .308 (his line drives have been caught most of the time so far). That should go up if he keeps hitting line drives. At this early stage, Cesar's SLG is better than that of Duncan, Kennedy, and Miles. And his OPS of .702 is better than that of Duncan, Schumaker, Kennedy, and Miles.
An earlier indication that Izturis had regained his timing as a hitter was that Izturis had a BA of .300 and OBP of .417 in the Cardinals' last nine games of spring training, when the Redbirds and other teams were playing their regulars for the final tune-up for the season (after the Cardinal brass met on a day off, March 19, to make key decisions on the final roster).
People continue to ignore the fact that the last time Izturis was healthy, in 2004 and the first third of 2005, he was a very respectable hitter. His poor hitting in the last half of 2005 was at a time he was seriously ailing, and his poor hitting during the last half of 2006 was when he was back from major surgery and playing only part time (which may have kept him from regaining his timing). His poor hitting during the first half of 2007 came at a time when he was again playing only occasionally because he had a prolonged hamstring problem.
If you examine the pattern of development for Izturis over his career, it becomes evident that after his first two years, when he was pressed into duty for the Dodgers at the age of 22, before he had had time to become a big league hitter, Izturis did, at the age of 24, become a respectable hitter. The last stretch of his career when Izturis was fully healthy and playing full time, at the age of only 24 and 25, his batting average was .301 and his OBP was a very respectable .344.
Given the persistence of the perception that Cesar can't hit at all, it's worth repeating that his .344 OBP came in 889 consecutive AB's over the season and a third in 2004 and 2005, before his physical problems began (elbow, hamstring, etc.). Izturis' AB's in this period amount to 33% of his career total of 2751 AB's before the Cardinals acquired him. That's too large a sample size of consecutive AB's to ignore, but people continue to do so....
Izturis is healthy and playing full time. Let's give this former Gold Glover and All Star a chance to show what he can do under those conditions rather than reciting over and over the notion that he can not make an important contribution to the Cardinals this year.