I like the St. Louis Cardinals' broadcasters, basically—and not just Dan McLaughlin, all of them—but lately they've been connecting Yadier Molina and Pete Kozma in a way that I'm not sure is accurate (and that, if it's accurate, remains unhelpful.) You've probably heard it at least once this month: Yadier Molina hit .216 in 2006, was basically as bad as Pete Kozma is now, and look at the way his career has progressed. Rick Horton elaborated on it Saturday, while the Cardinals were losing to the Pirates: Sometimes you have a season that just collapses in on itself, where things keep going wrong until nothing can go right.
I'm willing to believe that Molina had that kind of season in 2006, but I'm not sure it describes Kozma's—at least not right now. Pete Kozma isn't having a season where everything goes wrong, he's having a season where things go a little more wrong than they usually do. At 25, two years older than Molina was in 2006, he's never once suggested offensive upside over a full season.
In the majors, this year, Pete Kozma is hitting .215/.272/.272 in a league that's hitting .251/.315/.390. In 2012, he hit .232/.292/.355 in a league that hit .278/.345/.430. 2011 was undoubtedly worse than 2013: .214/.279/.289 in Memphis while the Pacific Coast League hit .286/.359/.448.
Pete Kozma is a particularly bad hitter, and he's been a particularly bad hitter for most of his career. He's managed a .700 OPS twice in his minor league career—2008 and 2010—and both of those seasons stick out as unusually impressive.
Yadier Molina, as a 20-year-old in the AA Southern League, hit .275/.327/.332. That's not a .700 OPS, either, but it did come in a league that hit .255/.329/.374, and that struck out 19 percent of the time while he struck out 11 percent of the time. The year before that, as a 19-year-old in full season ball, he hit .280/.331/.384 in a league that hit .251/.325/.363, and that was, in aggregated, 21-and-a-half.
At 21-and-a-half, Molina was called up to the majors and hit .267/.329/.356 in 51 games.
None of this excuses Molina's 2006 season, which was terrible. But while it was happening Molina was drawing down goodwill he'd built up in a brief and successful minor league career. By the time he was 25 he was hitting .304.
Pete Kozma is not Yadier Molina. We should be surprised and glad enough that Yadier Molina is Yadier Molina.