SweetSpot: Kevin Kouzmanoff

We'll miss you, Dallas McPherson

January, 16, 2010
Well, the Oakland A's just got a little better (or will, if everyone passes their physicals). So why am I not happier about it?
    After coming up short in a bid to sign free agent Adrian Beltre, the Oakland Athletics filled their third base void Friday by acquiring Kevin Kouzmanoff in a four-player trade with the San Diego Padres, a baseball source confirmed.

    Kouzmanoff, who hit 18 homers and drove in 88 runs for San Diego in 2009, goes to Oakland with a minor leaguer in exchange for outfielders Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham, the source said.


    Acquiring Kouzmanoff will help with Oakland's efforts to upgrade defensively this offseason. Kouzmanoff made only three errors in 311 total chances at third base last year for a .990 fielding percentage, breaking the previous National League third base record of .987 set by Colorado's Vinny Castilla in 2004. Kouzmanoff sent a glove to the Hall of Fame after the season at the museum's request.

Kouzmanoff's an upgrade at third base for the A's.

Defensively? Sure, I guess. But Kouzmanoff isn't a great third baseman. He's a good third baseman with a great fielding percentage.

Offensive? Sure, I guess. Oakland's third basemen were the second-worst in the American League last season. Kouzmanoff was league-average in the National League, and wasn't getting any help from his home ballpark.

So, sure: Nice move for the A's.

I just wish they hadn't made it, because Kouzmanoff's arrival probably torpedoes Dallas McPherson's chances for anything like a regular job.

McPherson's 29. He's got a .280/.360/.635 line in Triple-A. Oh, one more thing: McPherson missed all of 2007 and 2009 with back injuries. So you can understand why the A's weren't exactly counting on him to play 150 games at third base in 2010.

Still, let's assume he can actually play, and that he can still hit ... You know what might be close to awesome? A McPherson/Kouzmanoff platoon (with Kouzmanoff coming in for defense when the A's are ahead after six or seven innings). For that matter, a McPherson/Jake Fox platoon might have been interesting, too (except neither of them would have been suitable for late-innings defense).

That's all gone now. Thanks to the dozen-man pitching staffs that we all love so much, teams resort to platoons only as a last resort. You've got your 12 pitchers, your nine guys in the lineup, and your extra catcher, and now you've got room for only three more players. You also need a utility infielder and a fourth outfielder ... and now you're down to one roster spot.

Which is why you don't see many platoons at all anymore. I continue to believe that 12-man pitching staffs are foolish, because the manager has to sacrifice offense at one position (at least) while benefiting very little from that last man in the bullpen.

But nobody listens to me. And I doubt if I'll see much of Dallas McPherson (or Jake Fox) in 2010.

ChiSox out-splash Tigers and Twins

July, 31, 2009
Let's offer a bit of tribute to the American League Central. It might not be the best division, but all three contenders are trying to get better this season and the Indians are trying to get better in the future (which leaves only the Royals, but nobody should be surprised by them anymore).

Just under the wire, the White Sox made the biggest splash:

Four pitchers for one? They're all prospects, but one does wonder who's going to be scoring and driving in runs for the Padres during the next few seasons. Maybe somebody's figuring that Kevin Kouzmanoff and Chase Headley will finally start hitting like they are supposed to.

The other thing about this ... I'm all for quantity, particularly when there's a fair amount of quality, too; all four young pitchers were ranked among the White Sox's top-30 prospects before this season. The A's are trying this same thing right now, though, and so far I'm not impressed with the results. I'm not saying it can't work, or won't. It can, and it might. But gosh, the growing pains sure can be painful. It's hard to imagine the Padres becoming truly competitive at any point before 2012.

Programming note: This will be your last sight of me until the 10th of August, as I'm taking my first honest-to-Blog vacation in some years. Fret not, though. Every so often next week, this space will be filled by some of my favorite writers, doing their thing on a variety of topics.

M's looking at 3B options?

July, 2, 2009
Adrian Beltre is out. Chris Woodward is in. Chris Woodward's not any sort of long- (or even medium-) term answer. So as long as the Mariners are hanging around the fringes of the pennant race, people are going to speculate about the M's acquiring an established third baseman.

Case in point: The Tacoma News-Tribune's John McGrath suggests -- after a long allusion to Piano Legs Hickman, for which McGrath scores big bonus points -- that the Mariners have nobody in the organization who can take over at third base, and thus should look outside the organization, and McGrath's gaze alights on Greg Dobbs.

Meanwhile, Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Mariners have "have engaged in preliminary discussions with the Padres about third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, according to one source with knowledge of the talks."

Now, don't get me wrong: both of those are fascinating ideas. They just wouldn't lead to many (if any) extra wins for the Mariners.

Like Raul Ibanez, Dobbs saw his hitting stats jump after leaving Seattle for Philadelphia. Two stat lines:

American League (Seattle), 2004-2006: .257/.291/.351
National League (Philadelphia), 2007-2009: .278/.327/.463

Dobbs wasn't even a great hitter in the minor leagues. The only place he's ever hit, really, was in Double-A way back when, and in 2007 and 2008 in a hitter's park in a (relatively) weak league. If the M's could have him for a song? Sure, why not. He's better than Woodward. But so much better that anybody should trade a legitimate prospect for him.

Kouzmanoff's a different case, of course. He's younger than Dobbs, and did some pretty impressive things not so long ago. But there's that same moving-from-the-National-to-the-American thing, plus the little matter of the sub-.300 on-base percentage over these past two seasons. And finally, Kouzmanoff is just adequate with the glove, at best. Just like Dobbs. And like Dobbs, Kouzmanoff would be just a small improvement over Woodward, but with a tad more upside because of his relative youth.

Dobbs can probably be gotten for little of value, considering that he's been reduced to mostly pinch-hitting appearances. Getting Kouzmanoff would probably mean giving up at least a Grade B prospect, and possibly a B+.

Bottom line: The Mariners really shouldn't give up much of anything. Not now, when they're in third place in early July. If they're still close to first place in late July and their starting pitchers are healthy and happy, then maybe they can seriously considering trading away a lot of future for a little bit of present.

Now, though? It's all just idle talk, or should be.

Petco: Problem for Pads?

June, 9, 2009
David Pinto wonders about another disappointing young Padre:
      Donald Miralle/Getty Images
      Is Petco Park responsible for Padres third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff's struggles?
    Kevin Kouzmanoff played an unusual game Monday night. He picked up two hits and drove in four runs. His seasonal age stands at 27, an age in which he should be showing his best. Instead, he's posting the worst numbers of a lackluster career. As of this morning, Kevin's career line stands at .258/.305/.427. Even his career road number, .271/.318/.458 don't inspire hope of him becoming a good player, and this year his road numbers are worse than his home numbers.

    Kouzmanoff regressed for the second year in a row, at a time in his career when he should have been improving. He's fallen to replacement level, and his fielding is the only thing keeping him slightly above that. What is it about the left side of the San Diego infield that turns decent hitters into nothings? Does the constant failure that PETCO park imposes on hitters like Greene and Kouzmanoff just rob them of any desire to hit, or are the Padres just poor judges of hitting talent?

You can number me among those who believed that Kouzmanoff would become, at the very least, a solid major leaguer. But before we number the Padres (and me) among those who were simply wrong about Kouzmanoff, let's at the very least recall that he was a solid major leaguer in 2007, his first season with the Padres. And he was OK last year, too. This year he's been a train wreck, with a .224/.271/.348 line. Essentially, he's hitting more ground balls and fewer line drives, which isn't the ideal combination.

The chances are pretty good, though, that he'll turn things around. Remember, too, that to get Kouzmanoff the Padres gave up Josh Barfield, who's been a huge bust for the Indians. I just don't see a pattern here, because all we've got is one bizarre Khalil Greene season (2008) and two lousy months of Kouzmanoff.

What's more interesting than those two guys is the ballpark ... But again, I'm not seeing the pattern yet. Greene and Kouzmanoff have been disappointing, but Adrian Gonzalez and Brian Giles have thrived (not to mention Scott Hairston). Chase Headley hasn't been good this season, but he showed some promise last year and, again, we're only a couple of months into this season.

I believe that Petco is a mistake, just as I believe that Coors Field was a mistake. I just don't believe that truly extreme ballparks are, in the long run, conducive to building a strong organization. But I'm not ready to blame the ballpark for Khalil Greene and the mildly disappointing Kevin Kouzmanoff. Not yet, anyway.