2016 Reds

Zack Cozart. Your Quarter Season MVP!

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.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

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.

D-FENSE.

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.

CONCLUSIONS

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.”

18 thoughts on “Zack Cozart. Your Quarter Season MVP!

  1. I think Cozart’s range and quickness on defense has far exceeded anyone’s expectations and provides cause to think good things will be forthcoming in his future. Without going back and reviewing every throwing error Cozart has made, I believe most of those errors are directly attributable to trying to make throws and make plays when he should simply have eaten the ball and settled for keeping the play as a single rather than risking a wild, unbalanced, desperate throw. Those are plays from just trying to do too much on a team struggling and by a shortstop coming back from a horrific, devastating knee injury and trying to over-prove himself capable once again.

    Cozart is hitting to all fields with power rather than pulling every pitch and over-swinging. He’s certainly due for a regression in BAbip, but I do not believe that regression will be back to his career average. Cozart is barrelling up virtually every ball in play and hitting into his share of bad luck on those balls in play. Is BAbip is not from hitting it where they ain’t, it’s from hitting solid line drives and hard ground balls.

    • I agree, Cossack. Cozart really looks like a different hitter this year.

      • While I think Cozart should be congratulated, he has a whole lot of mirage going on. So congrats for now but he will not end the year over .300. He has 1 walk (last I checked)! So, batting leadoff he still has a mediocre OBP. He has minimal power and many of his hits have been glorified bloopers. He swings at everything and pitchers probably will notice this by July.

        • I’d have to disagree about the “glorified bloopers”. He’s consistently hitting the ball hard.

        • He probably won’t hit over .300 for the season and, yes, it would be good if he walked more, but as cfd3000 says, he’s making a lot of contact and often hitting hard liners.

  2. Hopefully he makes the All-Star game and is able to up his profile a little bit before the deadline.

  3. He’s like the Ford Taurus of power hitters. Great line, Joe.

    I will point out that while his BABIP is currently much higher than his career BABIP, his 2016 xBABIP is .336. So he’s not getting lucky at all given his batted ball profile. That profile includes career best Hard% and career best Line Drive%.

    Hard% stabilizes quickly, so there is already a real,verifiable change that Cozart has made that is allowing him to hit the ball hard more consistently.

    Line Drive % does not stabilize quickly at all, so he may just be getting fortunate with tons of line drives.

    He’s also running career low K%, which helps the batting average. Really, any player who doesn’t strike out a lot has a legitimate shot to hit .300 in the majors, as long as he doesn’t have Billy Hamilton’s batted ball authority.

    With all that said, I don’t see a huge BABIP regression from Cozart this year unless he un-changes whatever he changed to be able to hit the ball hard more consistently. .310 to .315 seems to be his “true-talent BABIP” at the moment, based on what I can see.

    • I messed up one of my variables… Cozart’s 2016 xBABIP is right now sitting at .327, not .336.

  4. FWIW, I recall one error being attributed to Zach when Joey simply missed the catch. It was one of those “huh?” scoring decisions IMO. But why quibble, Zach’s having a great year at the quarter pole. Given the severity of his knee injury, I’d even go so far as saying he’s had a heroic first quarter.

    Well done Mr. Cozart. Your manager dropped you into lead off, and you grabbed the baton and ran.

  5. I like to garden, I like hockey, and I used to play some serious baseball. Watch it, buddy, or I’ll hit you with my hoe. My pansies are doing really well this year, too. So there.

    Happy for Zach. He’s always been the quiet one, the plugger, the guy you can count on to bring the good attitude and go about his business. I’m wondering/thinking/feeling confident he made some adjustment in his swing path due to his knee. For one, it looks way more compact. He also is laying off the low sweeping sinker, the one he would K on that finished a foot outside. He used to love to fish for that. Whether the knee, age, coaching, or whatever, it’s working, He’s got a much tighter swing right now.

    Worrying about an MVP on this team is like wondering whether the deck chairs on the Titanic end up landing on the deck at the bottom of the ocean or stuck in the sand. Either way, this year’s Reds and the Titanic are rwo of the biggest disasters of modern times..

    KInda gives ya a second thought when Marty sez ” ….showed up for tonight’s Titanic struggle”. It’s not hyperbole anymore.

  6. What about Duvall? He may not be the Reds best player but he has been the only real offense in May. Plus he is 0.6 defensive WAR!

    • I’m excited about Duvall. I bet he’s a big part of the offense in years to come. He’s my second pick for Quarter-season MVP. Which, again, only pours gasoline on the dumpster fire that is everyone else.

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