Have you seen the National League batting leaders race lately?
Now wait, you’re saying. The season hasn’t started yet, how can there be a race for the batting crown?
There really isn’t one, but if there were you might be surprised at the name atop the leaderboard. It’s utilityman Pete Kozma, who is the St. Louis Cardinals‘ jack-of-all-trades.
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Kozma has a .464 batting average, but a check of his overall stats shows a hitter who may not produce much beyond the occasional base hit.
Kozma has 13 hits in 28 at-bats but just four runs batted in. As for extra-base hits, there are none to be seen.
Is this a disaster? Not exactly. It just means the Cardinals might have a little more luck with the bottom of the lineup.
There is no question Kozma will see action at the eighth spot in the lineup, unless manager Mike Matheny pulls the old Tony La Russa strategy and bats the pitcher in the eighth hole. However, if Kozma can get on base and have the pitcher bunt him over to second, that could result in more production at the top of the lineup.
We all know spring training stats are a giant aberration compared to the rest of the season. Last year Kozma’s regular-season mark was a robust .304, but he only saw action in 14 games. The year before, when Kozma was a regular, he hit a puny .217.
Unless Matt Carpenter or Jhonny Peralta get hurt, Kozma is not apt to see much playing time. Matheny has already told reporters Kolten Wong will play 162 games. That may not turn out true, but it’s likely Wong won’t yield much to others at second base.
This makes production from the bench more important. Kozma could be a strong spot starter or a good pinch-hit bat off the bench.
Right now, the Cardinals need that more than anything.