Why won't the St. Louis Cardinals audition the Keith Butler of shortstops?

Ryan Jackson! - Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Jackson should get some work in as a middle reliever.

If Ryan Jackson and Pete Kozma were pitchers, the Cardinals would have switched them out for each other months ago. That's not about the Cardinals—it's just bad pitchers can pull off the band-aid incredibly quickly. Mitchell Boggs, who I swear played for the Cardinals this year, was worth -1.3 wins above replacement level in 15 innings; Pete Kozma has been worth -0.2 WAR in 132 games. (Compared to an average player Kozma's finally caught up to Boggs.)

That gap between average and replaceable makes intuitive sense. No matter how bad Pete Kozma can get, a nightmare start for him is five outs, spread out over nine innings, and maybe a booted grounder; Mitchell Boggs' troubles began in a game where he allowed six earned runs and recorded one out. Pitchers, especially relievers, are able to demonstrate their replaceability for us all at once.

That—and the way they're carried on the roster seven at a time—has created flexibility, and that flexibility has been absolutely crucial for the Cardinals this year. Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist, neither of whom was first in line for a job at the start of the year, have combined to throw 91 innings with an ERA of 1.68.

They've buried relievers, too, of course; Carlos Martinez never seemed like a serious candidate in the bullpen, and Fernando Salas has thrown two medium-leverage innings since late April. But in all they've given 13 relievers at least 10 appearances.

At shortstop the Cardinals have, to their credit, shown some of that flexibility; Daniel Descalso was an avowed non-shortstop who's now played 42 games there. But having made their novel moves—to punt on offense with Kozma and defense with Descalso—they've been less swift to respond to what doesn't work out.

In a little less than a half-season of starts at shortstop over the last three years, UZR has Descalso worth -24 runs on defense per 150 games, and I'm willing to buy that. He's the guy we worried Skip Schumaker would be. I'm glad they tried it, but now—well, now they've tried it. They're getting no value and no new information from continuing to try it.

Ryan Jackson is more Keith Butler than Kevin Siegrist. The Cardinals don't love his defense, and they don't like his bat, and he's coming off a brutal slump of his own, and he's the only option—they can't cycle from the Keith Butler of Shortstops to the Michael Blazek of Shortstops to the Seth Maness of shortstops. But the lesson the bullpen's taught us is that there's little to gain from hanging on to the replacement-level guys they have now to the exclusion of guys who haven't yet given us an exhaustive look at that replaceability.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Viva El Birdos

You must be a member of Viva El Birdos to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Viva El Birdos. You should read them.

Join Viva El Birdos

You must be a member of Viva El Birdos to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Viva El Birdos. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker