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Cardinals activate Mark Ellis, demote Pete Kozma to minors

Apr 15, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

Pete Kozma AP

Mark Ellis is back from a spring training knee injury, so the Cardinals have activated the veteran second baseman from the disabled list. And to make room on the 25-man roster they demoted last season’s starting shortstop, Pete Kozma, to Triple-A.

Kozma’s impressive 26-game rookie stint with the Cardinals in 2012 had some people convinced he could be a long-term solution, but nothing in his minor-league track record suggested that was the case and sure enough he hit just .217 with one homer and a .548 OPS in 143 games last year. St. Louis made upgrading shortstop a priority this offseason and replaced him with Jhonny Peralta.

Ellis signed a one-year, $5.25 million deal with St. Louis as a free agent and it’ll be interesting to see how much playing time he takes from rookie Kolten Wong at second base. Wong hasn’t hit much through 13 games, but he’s done a nice job controlling the strike zone and brings a lot more speed to the table at age 23. And he hit .303 with an .835 OPS at Triple-A last season.

  1. spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Hey Aaron, you must not, you know, actually watch St. Louis’ games. Wong has hit very well for them to date. He hasn’t been particularly lucky. A bunch of hard hit balls with little to show for it. Analysis by stats only leads to misinformation.

    • beepbeepbeeplgb - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:42 AM

      i wanted to say the same thing, but didn’t. Kind of like Craig’s amazing reporting that “A friend told him about the cards announcers bashing peralta and saying gomez swings too hard”, when they actually didn’t do either of those but hey, who needs real fact reporting anyway.

      • jimmyt - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:29 PM

        Yep, why would the announcers say anything about Braun? It’s all been said. The guy cheated in a big way, got caught, got off on a fake technicality, got the collector fired, got caught again, is probably still cheating but is sorry.

  2. dillongeeescapeplan - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    You’d think Cardinals fans would have been a little weary of small sample sizes, especially after Bo Hart…

    • jerze2387 - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:47 AM

      was that brett and owens mulleted brother?

    • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Bo Hart was fun while he lasted, but he didn’t come with the earned credentials of Wong. He was a first round pick, has hit everywhere he has played, and enjoyed a very good Spring. His lack of success in 2013 is most likely the outlier. Plus his approach, swing, and good contact rate all suggest he succeed. Time will tell, but Cards’ fans should like what they have seen to date.

      • dillongeeescapeplan - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:04 PM

        I was talking about Kozma, not Wong. Wong’s a better prospect than they ever were.

      • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:09 PM

        Well, OK, but Kozma played an entire season, so I don’t see how the sample size comparison floats.

      • dillongeeescapeplan - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        My comment was in reference to Gleeman bringing up Kozma’s 26 game sample from 2012.

      • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM

        I get that, but Kozma is different than Hart. He has skills, but cannot seem to put it together. He doesn’t get “beat” by any particular pitch, but cannot square up pitches. Hard to say if he will ever develop offensively, but he once was just as ineffective defensively, and he did a 180 on that. In his first two years of “A” ball he committed 34 errors in each season. Last season he entered late August with one boot. He has become remarkably sure-handed. His only drawback is range to his left. He makes all the other plays as well as any short stop in Baseball. So if he can correct his defense, who knows maybe someday he will figure out hitting.

    • cohnjusack - Apr 15, 2014 at 3:30 PM

      I think the number of Cardinals fan who thought Kozma’s 2012 was anything more than an aberration were very, very few.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:38 PM

        Boooooo!

  3. okwhitefalcon - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    I watched the entire Cards broadcast, in no way did their announcers take shots at Gomez or Braun for that matter. It was Danny Mac and Horton for cryin’ out loud, not exactly a couple of guys who spice up a broadcast shooting from the lip. Gomez’s swinging from his heals was mentioned but nothing derogatory whatsoever, more of a “he doesn’t get cheated” kind of vibe. They were nearly gushing on his near takeaway of Peralta’s – very complimentary.

    As for Wong, there’s room for improvement but doing fine thus far.

    Ellis is going to get playing time but Wong will get the majority of it barring a total meltdown.

    • beepbeepbeeplgb - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      Yeah exactly what i was thinking. From how i remember it, it was the first pitch of the game and Gomez swung for the fences and one of em said “how would you like to have a guy who swings that hard as a lead off man, what a swing! which lead to a discussion about the lead off position, a power guy (gomez) vs contact on base guys (matt carpenter).

      And with Braun it wasthe same thing everyone has said. “oh some people don’t like it, others say he did his time and we need to move on.”

  4. salvomania - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    “Wong hasn’t hit much through 13 games”

    I don’t care how many hard-hit balls Wong has hit, Craig’s point is accurate: .255/.327/.319, with two extra-base hits (no homers) in 52 plate appearances is definitely “not hitting much.”

    I’m sure the two or three hard-hit balls that were caught are offset by a bleeder or dink shot that fell in.

    I’ve enjoyed watching Wong, and think he’ll be fine, but let’s take it easy with the frothy exuberance until the kid actually starts hitting.

    • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      You don’t know what you are talking about.

      • salvomania - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        That’s probably true. I don’t even know who made the original point.

      • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:59 PM

        Yeah, it wasn’t Craig, but I have done that before too. I have witnessed every one of Wong’s ABs, and he is swinging the bat well. You are correct that over the long haul well hit balls and bloops even out, but to date that hasn’t been the case with Wong. If he keeps hitting like he has, .300 is in reach, and he isn’t some Ppunch and Judy type either, like Bonafacio for instance, and the extra base hits will come his way. My guess is he will amass 30 doubles, 10 triples and 15 homers, along with a batting average around .300 and an OBP around .370.

      • Reflex - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:18 PM

        I just want to point out that Wong’s BAbip is .286. I don’t know what league average is, but that does not sound too far off. That implies to me that he has not been unlucky at all, or if so it is very slight. Small sample size caveats apply here, but if that’s roughly normal and he does not start hitting better then what you are seeing is what you are getting with him…

      • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:24 PM

        BABIP punishes guys like Wong, who rope two hoppers, that they consider ground balls. The new MIT metrics should alleviate some of the BABIP errors.

        And like I said. I have watched every one of Wong’s ABs. And would be quick to criticize him if he was struggling, which he isn’t. Plus BABIP doesn’t include foul balls and Wong has stroked a number of those, you know the screaming line drives that either just miss going over the bag or catching the chalk.

      • Reflex - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:30 PM

        No offense, but I’ll always that the objective observation over the fan observation, regardless of how trained they may consider themselves to be. Wong was never projected to be a star, yet you think he’s a .300/15HR guy, which at second base would be an All-Star. Wong was projected to be a regular, potentially a quality regular, which implies .280/8-10HR and maybe 15SB’s. He’s not a slightly lesser version of Pedroia.

        And honestly that’s what his BAbip supports so far. You may feel it penalizes guys who hit like he does, but that’s the thing: Why are the same hits you claim are penalizing going to magically turn into hits later? Screaming line drives are caught all the time at the major league level, and if that is the type of hitter he is then defenses will be prepared for it.

        If I were you guys I’d be happy he appears to be living up to the projections. Quality second basemen are a rare commodity. You don’t have to make excuses for him not being a star when the consolation prize is a position that its tough to cover has a quality regular there. He looks a lot like a young Omar Infante to me, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

      • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:10 PM

        Judging Wong by his stats is both a disservice to him, and Baseball in general. It is a poor way to measure a player. No MLB team does that, certainly not the Cards, cause they know better.

        I disagree with your assertion that Wong isn’t a “star” prospect. He was a first round pick, and Baseball Prospectus placed him at #33 in 2013.
        He posted 21 doubles, 8 triples, 10 HRs and 20 SBs, with a .303 BA and a .369 OBP at AAA last year, before his call-up.

        And sorry to be so blunt, but your BABIP take is inane. I have watched every one of Wong’s ABs. He has hit any number of balls hard but they happen to find gloves. You confuse defense alignment with BABIP. A player can only hit the ball as hard as he can, and defenses cannot adjust for that. These balls aren’t “magically” turning into hits, it is the law of averages which does the trick.

        Whether Wong becomes a star is debatable. His performance to date isn’t. If he continues to hit like he has, he will match his AAA numbers and if you extrapolate them to MLB PAs he will reach the numbers I suggested.

      • Reflex - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:16 PM

        Judging Wong by his stats is exactly how every single team, the Cardinals included, does and will judge him, and it is what his arbitration and his next contract will be decided as well. Over the long term, it is the only way to judge him, and you in fact are doing the same when you point to his AAA numbers as a measurement of his potential.

        By the middle of this season teams will have a spray chart on him. Defenses will align to that chart. Because opposing teams are not idiots. If anything, his job only gets harder as the season goes on and other teams start adjusting to where he tends to hit the ball. He may adjust, he may not, but at the end of the game him ‘hitting the ball for hard outs’ does not portend anything great in the future, those outs are just as likely to continue to be outs as they are to suddenly become hits.

        And read the actual reviews of him. #33 prospect in the game does not mean star or superstar potential. Only a very few players, even in the first round, ever become stars. For most first rounders, and even most in the top 50 in the rankings, “Quality Regular” is considered a good thing. The number who become stars or better in any given prospect ranking is typically in the low single digits.

      • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:31 PM

        You are dead wrong about defenses. All defenses spray charts can do is predict direction. All any player can do is hit the ball hard. You cannot alter results. The harder you hit a ball the more likely it is that it will result in positive way. The notion that a player can “place” a ball is a myth. He can attempt a direction, but that is all. Wong has sprayed the ball fairly well, but needs to continue to hit it where it is pitched. Watching him my one concern is that he may try and pull the ball too much.

        Of course being a first-round choice and #33 prospect doesn’t guarantee anything. Judging players is tough, but you are the one who suggested he wasn’t a top prospect, and I am suggesting teams think differently.

        Wong has a high Baseball IQ, and I have never heard anyone suggest otherwise. So as he learns the pitchers he should improve. All players go through spells when they are unlucky. The bright ones recognize that hitting the ball hard is all that they can do and that in time things will break their way. To date, Wong has hit Pedroia-like.

      • Reflex - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:40 PM

        You are welcome to your opinion, of course, but its really tough to take it seriously when the base assertion, that he is unlucky, is flat out untrue. He is damn near the definition of exactly as expected compared to the league, and I will require evidence to prove otherwise.

        He will likely improve some, but that will be due to skills growth and maturation, not due to him magically being able to consistently outhit BAbip. Going forward teams are just as likely to be in position to catch his drives as they have been so far, and yes players tend over time to have predictable hitting patterns which is why defensive shifts exist.

        BTW, last season’s gap between BA and BAbip was almost the same as this year’s, albeit in only a slightly larger sample size.

      • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 5:57 PM

        There is all kinds of evidence that suggest BABIP needs improving. As I mentioned earlier the new MIT study should help, but the objectiveness of those who “grade” batted balls will take a lot of teaching and learning to insure uniformity.

        I said this before, but you seem to disregard it. Wong mostly hits ground balls, but he does so squarely, with a considerable amount of force. BABIP doesn’t recognize or appreciate those type hitters. So their numbers are thusly skewed.

        This has been the issue with BABIP, and many have written that it needs adjusting because it doesn’t accurately describe some hitters, and isn’t a very good indicator of luck.

        What you fail to recognize, and I don’t quite understand why you don’t is the limits a hitter has. As a coach, all you can do is to implore your student to hit the ball squarely, hit it where it is pitched, and with as much force as possible, without degrading your ability to square it up. That is what Wong has done. That is what the best hitters from Trout to Cabrera do. They can only hit the ball as squarely and with as much force as they can, just like Wong. And sometimes they go through streaks where the ball goes right to the defenders, and sometimes it finds holes. That is Baseball. And somehow you think otherwise, which is mystifying to me.

      • Reflex - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:11 PM

        1) No one claimed the stat is perfect. That does not mean it isn’t very useful. In fact it is. Pointing out that it is not perfect in no way diminishes the fact that it is more accurate than any ‘eye test’ that you personally wish to apply.

        2) It is condescending when you always act like failure to agree with you implies that others do not comprehend the game like you do. I know baseball very well. I grew up playing it, I was even quite good in high school, and I have done hitting instruction in the past. I am very aware of how to hit a ball with authority. I do NOT agree with your assessment. You are welcome to your opinion, but it is just that, an opinion. There are a number of things a hitter can do, ranging from stance to how they grip the bat to timing and so on to affect where and how the ball is hit. Much of your ‘advice’ on hitting is the same as a cliché, things like ‘hitting it where its pitched’ are meaningless, of course you do that, its impossible to hit it where it is not pitched.

        I know a lot about baseball too. In fact so do a lot of us on this forum. Please stop condescending to us for simply having a different opinion. Like it or not, I believe BAbip is more accurate a measure of the players luck than your eyes. That is not going to change until you demonstrate, over time, that your eyes are more accurate. Having been familiar with your posts here for a couple years you have not seemed any more accurate than a typical fan, which is why I tend to dismiss your ‘eyes’ argument so easily.

      • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 9:55 PM

        Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Embarrassing.

      • spudchukar - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:21 PM

        There is a difference between condescending and calling bull pucky. Your comment that “hitting a ball where it is pitched” is cliche emphasizes how much you still have to learn. It is probably the most important aspect of hitting. Everyone fails at it, and always needs to be reminded of it. The essence of hitting is squaring up a pitch. Why the term “hitting it where it is pitched” is so important is that it gives one a better chance of squaring up a ball. It is physics or geometry really. If one attempts to square up a pitch at an angle it is thrown your chances of squaring it up increase dramatically, rather than trying to pull, or hit across the ball.

        Your comment about stance and gripping the bat and timing are trite. They are a given. And is like comparing arithmetic to calculus. I often wonder why it is that novice appreciation of the game entitles fans to suggest they are authorities. Being a fan is great. Having some knowledge of the game is too. I like music, and mess around playing the guitar. But when I am in the company of someone who has spent their life devoted to their art, I sit in awe, aware they have put in work and time and effort that I cannot imagine. I know when I am in there presence, it is time to learn and listen, because it would be silly of me to suggest I know more than them.

      • Reflex - Apr 16, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        Spud –

        The problem is that your argument assumes you are the authority and we all need to bow down before your wisdom. Its great that you were a Cards minor leaguer. Guess what? My little league coach was a former AAA player for the Reds in the 80’s. Why should I consider your advice more authoritative than his? Why should it even matter?

        Hitting the ball where it is is a non sequitur. It is meaningless. You cannot hit a ball where it is not. Your advice, at least how you communicate it, really is not helpful to someone trying to learn to hit. Your observations on players often fly in the face of their measured performance, and while you claim that is because the measurements are wrong that is difficult to believe when their output tends more often than not to match the measurements predictions.

        In other words, whenever you assert something about a player and someone else questions it, and points to the facts as to why your argument does not seem well founded you simply make an appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy, declare yourself an expert, and bemoan why people don’t listen to you.

        If I’m teaching a kid to hit a baseball, telling them to ‘hit it where its pitched’ does nothing for them. Showing them how to hold a bat, how to snap the wrists at the contact point, how to adjust your stance to increase your odds of hitting to a given field, those are all actually measurably useful methods of training a hitter. And that is how it was taught to me, and is why in high school I was a pretty damn good hitter. Its really too bad I couldn’t run or defend adequately. ;)

        At the end of the day though, the real issue here is that you are complaining that no one is willing to simply accept your assertions and learn from you, and I and others are trying to get you to understand that nobody asked you to teach us and we generally feel we have better sources whether you agree or not. You are welcome to your opinion on a player, but don’t think that because you played minor league ball others are going to automatically defer to your authority, we have seen far far too many examples of just how badly a lot of players understand the game to see playing experience as an automatic authority on the topic. Just go watch Harold Reynolds for a daily example of this.

  5. bk - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    Link?

  6. historiophiliac - Apr 15, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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