Zack Cozart is your quarter-season MVP! Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.
If, as this season started, you had to guess who might be the Reds MVP at the quarter turn, the first choice would have been obvious: Joey Votto. After that, you might have said Devin Mesoraco, Jay Bruce, or maybe even Homer Bailey. If Homer had come back from off-season surgery early, who knows how many no-hitters he’d have tossed or lions he’d have strangled to death with his bare hands by now?
If I’d have told you that, as the Reds rounded first base on the 2016 season, Zack Cozart would be the MVP, you might not have believed me. But stranger things have happened. This season, stranger things have happened on a regular basis, in fact, especially when the bullpen takes the mound.
Sure, claiming the title of MVP on one of the worst teams in the majors is a bit like winning the title of Miss Congeniality at an inbred retirement community, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t warranted taking the throne thus far. Let’s take a look at the short season thus far and see what’s gone well for Mr. Cozart, and what we might expect from him moving forward.
Zack Cozart is hitting .312 and, before you light me on fire for mentioning his batting average and not his slash line or his wOBA or literally any other statistic, put it in perspective. Zack is not just the lone starter hitting over .300. Nobody else is even close.
Jay Bruce is in second at .264, and he’s only doing that well because of a recent offensive outburst. He spent most of this season swinging and missing like Ray Charles fighting Muhammad Ali. And it gets worse from there. Adam Duvall, who started the season in the minors, is in third, hitting .259. Brandon Phillips is next at .241. Eugenio Suarez is after him at .231, and Joey Votto (JOEY FRICKIN’ VOTTO!) rounds out the rest of the starters currently hitting over .200 at a paltry .204.
The worst part of this conventional look is that if you add in the pitchers, Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb, both hitting .250, would be 4th and 5th in batting average, just above DatDude.
The point here is we don’t have to use statistical manipulations to glean insight. Conventional Wisdom is clear. It’s Zack Cozart and the Bad News Bears. There is literally no contest.
The scary thing here is Zack’s BABIP is .320, a full 42 points above his career average. That means he’s likely due to some regression over the next few weeks/months. Imagine how #Aweseomtastic things will be when that happens.
SLASH LINES AND OTHER FUN THINGS
A closer look at Zack’s offensive numbers is also illuminating. If we look at the rest of Zack’s slash line, we see that he’s second in OBP behind Votto (which is good, because Votto not leading the team in OBP is one of the signs of the Apolcalypse, followed shortly by the four horsemen, and a nuclear explosion that destroys all life on earth except cockroaches and Keith Richards. That’s in the Bible. You can argue with the Bible), and second in Slugging behind freshmeat Adam Duvall.
Side Note: If I had told you Adam Duvall would lead the team in Slugging at this point, you’d have given up entirely and either become hockey fans or taken up gardening.
The Slugging is what stands out for Zach. He’s never been a Billy Hamilton when it comes to power numbers, but when people think of big boppers in the Reds lineups over the last few years, Cozart has never really been in the picture. He’s kind of like the Ford Taurus of power hitters: there if you need it, but lacking in sex appeal.
He’s on track to hit 18 homers and 49 doubles if he keeps this up. Even if he regresses a bit, there’s still a good chance he’ll have career years in both categories. Which is good, because outside of Cozart, Duvall, and maybe Suarez, I think most of the Reds have forgotten what second and third base look like.
Billy Hatcher’s getting lonely out there. I hear he’s started drafting emo poetry to share on his blog.
Cozart’s bread and butter has always been his ability to flash the leather. And, by that, I mean his defensive skills, not something you see at a club downtown after midnight.
He’s still doing a good job, but there are some troubling numbers. He’s got 7 errors this season, 6 of which are throwing errors. That’s almost as many throwing errors he had over the last two seasons combined. The most throwing errors he’s had in a season was in 2013 when he had 10. If he keeps this up, the defensive aspect of his WAR will drop significantly, leaving the bulk of his value to be determined from his offensive skills.
Like I said earlier. Imagine how much fun life will be when that happens.
Zack has had a good season thus far, and for that he is to be commended. He’s outplayed his predictive metrics, which is always a fun thing to see. The fact winning the Reds MVP at this point is like the old saying, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” should not be held against him.
So have a trophy, Zack. You’ve earned it!
Now keep it up for a few more months, or else things are really going to get bad. Like Princess Leia said to Obi-Wan, “You’re our only hope.”