There’s been no official announcement in the wake of Rafael Furcal’s season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery, but manager Mike Matheny made it clear that Pete Kozma will be the Cardinals’ starting shortstop.
That’s no surprise, as Kozma played shockingly well down the stretch last season after stepping into the lineup for the injured Furcal and his only real competition for the job this spring is Ronny Cedeno.
However, based on his minor-league track record Kozma is going to be overmatched as a regular. Kozma has hit just .236 with a .308 on-base percentage and .344 slugging percentage in 671 games as a minor leaguer through age 24, including just .232 with a .292 OBP and .355 SLG in 131 games at Triple-A last season.
Aside from his 26-game stint with the Cardinals last season there’s nothing in Kozma’s track record to suggest he can handle major-league pitching and in fact based on his production at Triple-A he projects as one of the majors’ worst hitters. Assuming he turns back into a pumpkin it’ll be interesting to see how long of a leash Kozma’s late-season magic buys him.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: