April 19, 2014

Can Billy Hamilton break the Pete Kozma Line?

Billy Hamilton, in a rare appearance
on a major-league base path.
For years and years, baseball aficionados have talked about the "Mendoza Line," named after baseballer Mario Mendoza and his struggles to bat more than .200 for several different years in his career.

Well, there are variations on that.

We could talk about the Adam Dunn Line. That's an even tougher one to achieve, but Dunn's done it twice. It's not a line, really, but for the sake of parallels, we'll call it that. It's when your strikeouts are higher than your batting average. And Dunn's done it in both 2011 and 2012.

Now, though, I think we have a new example, especially since the Cardinals have officially sent hitless wonder backup shortstop Pete Kozma down to Memphis. Kozma's future was iffy ever since the Cards signed Jhonny Peralta in the offseason. It was more iffy yet after the Birds also signed Mark Ellis. The expectation that Kolten Wong would make the squad on opening day meant Kozma was on borrowed time, and only Ellis' knee tendonitis kept that send-down from immediately happening. Since he's SS only, unlike Daniel Descalso, who plays multiple positions, this was a no-brainer. Add in that Descalso's a touch better hitter, and you go from there. But, let's not totally cast Kozma into oblivion. Let's immortalize him.

Kozma's plate struggles, especially when his glove was brought into question by a World Series error, got plenty of finger-pointing last year at the Birds coming up two games short of topping the Red Sox for title No. 12.

Now, though, we have somebody about whom we can have discussion of a Pete Kozma line with some sabermetrics. Rather than a .200 batting average, we can call a .600 OPS the Kozma line. (Mendoza also fell short of a .600 OPS more than once, but, he's got one line named after him already.)

And, Cincinnati speedster Billy Hamilton, despite a surge that's raised [sic] his batting average to .170, is still more some 150 points short of the Kozma Line. 

With Kozma, there's further complications. Like Mendoza, his K/BB rate is horrible, although Kozma at least isn't 4-1. Descalso is bad enough on that, but not quite as bad as Kozma; another reason he gets to stay in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, back to the object of Cincinnati's unnatural affections. Hamilton has a K/BB rate even worse than Kozma's. And, he's actually below league average on range factor in the outfield. 

Anyway, now that Kozma's been sent down, what are the chances of Striking Out Billy (he's not going to be a new Sliding Billy Hamiliton if he ain't on base) joining him if he doesn't improve? As usual with such things, there's a poll at right, below the two political-based ones.

I don't know who the Reds have at AAA, but if  he can't bat any better, and he's no better than league average on patrolling center field, and with a below-average arm, he's a detriment. Hell, the 1980s Cards were able to stash Vince Coleman in left, at least.

Yeah, part of it is small sample size. OTOH, he had these same issues in the minors.

That said, so did Kozma. Some Cards fans prematurely fell in love with him due to small sample size in 2012.

Dunn also failed to break the Kozma Line in 2011. I'm unaware of any other non-middle infielder who has this ignominious honor, at least in recent years.  

Update, May 5: Hamilton may have Kozma-ed himself and could be headed to the DL.

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