A month has passed, and all at once we've come to understand that Pete Kozma has graduated from horrifying draft bust to bewildering slugger to inoffensive stand-in. Yesterday Bernie Miklasz averred that the St. Louis Cardinals are "fine" and bgh commended him for not being "a gaping black hole that sucks all offense into its void and kills rallies." Both WAR formulations have him a little above replacement level.
If Kozma sticks around there—if he stays just ahead of replacement level—we'll keep saying that. Actually, we won't; we'll just say it once, and then we'll stop thinking about it.
We'll stop thinking about it until it comes time for us to think about something related: When can the Cardinals do better than basically acceptable?
The Cardinals are 20-11, which is at least a couple of weeks from panic mode, so it's still hard to envision what a midseason trade for a shortstop would look like. (At this point in the 2011 season Rafael Furcal was in the middle of missing most of the first half and hitting like you thought Pete Kozma might.) In the meantime everybody's been reminded that Matt Adams is a good hitter and not just a good hitter who can be traded for something else.
But the in-house option that could depose an above-replacement-level Pete Kozma has not had a great month-or-so; Greg Garcia is hitting .211/.310/.250. That's with a terrible BAbip, and those 10 walks in 76 plate appearances are promising, but he's not going to depose "fine" Pete Kozma hitting .211.
Meanwhile: Ryan Jackson went 3-6 with a double last night as the DH, which says all that need be said about Ryan Jackson. His .341 average is all BAbip right now, and if he keeps hitting it'll still probably take Kozma slipping below replacement level for a while to get Jackson back up.
Pete Kozma could theoretically have lost his job this year to Ronny Cedeno; he was all set to back up Rafael Furcal, whose arm didn't work. The nice thing about Kozma—the thing, maybe, that leaves us blandly okay with him—is that the Cardinals seem realistic about his future, even if their shortstop plan seemed pinned on an unrealistic expectation about his value right now.
A pretty-good year from Greg Garcia seems like exactly enough to push Kozma back into a utility job, maybe with some starting-against-lefties privileges. Behind him there's still not a lot to go around; Jake Lemmerman should be so lucky as to turn into Ryan Jackson, while Alex Mejia is hitting pretty well at the back of the full-season minors a year after tearing his ACL.
The Cardinals don't have a long term plan at shortstop right now, which is how Pete Kozma got here in the first place. What we've learned in a month-or-so of baseball is that Kozma probably isn't a long term plan—his career regular-season line is all the way down to .284/.343/.416—and that he maybe could be good enough to make us forget Pete Kozma is the starting shortstop.