2011 A's Retrospective #21: Kevin Kouzmanoff

By Jason Wojciechowski on February 6, 2012 at 11:57 PM

I've written about a lot of crummy players and players who had crummy seasons so far in this series. I've written about Jai Miller and Andy LaRoche and Jordan Norberto and Bobby Cramer. But Kevin Kouzmanoff! I wrote about all those other players more or less happily, but Kouzmanoff gives me real trouble.

You know what the problem is? The problem is UZR. FanGraphs's fielding metric, laden with issues though it may be, has come, via the dominance of FanGraphs in the "looking up players' sabermetric stats" world, to be how I think a lot of people (myself included in the recent past) know a player's defensive skill and/or performance. Eye-catching totals are not granted as much skepticism as perhaps they should be, particularly when incorporated into an overall WAR figure.

As applied, then: Kevin Kouzmanoff was rated a +16 defender by UZR in 2010. That took a crap offensive season (83 wRC+, .247 TAv, pick your poison) and made him a three-WAR player. Following on the heels of years in which Petco killed Kouzmanoff's superficial batting line but still left him with park-adjusted figures right around the league average, here's how Kouzmanoff went by fWAR from 2007 through 2010:

2.4 2.8 2.8 3.0

Nice progression from 25 to 28! Real nice! But wait. What if Kouzmanoff wasn't all that? Here he is by Baseball Prospectus's WARP in the same period:

1.4 0.6 -0.2 0.6

So FanGraphs has Kouzmanoff a solidly above-average player, a guy who can absolutely contribute to a winning team, while Baseball Prospectus says that, after a nice rookie season (he debuted briefly in 2006 with Cleveland, but 2007 was his real rookie year) that showed some promise, especially with the bat (.457 SLG), he fell off a cliff and was hardly worth rostering from there on out.

Which is true? I don't know. Neither. Both. rWAR.

He's Dayton Moore's problem now, though, as a horrendous, even for Kouzmanoff, start to the season (.221/.262/.353 line in Oakland in 149 PAs) got him shipped to Sacramento and then later to Colorado, from whence he departed this off-season for Kansas City (on a minor-league deal). Adam LaRoche ate into his playing time, for better or worse, and then Scott Sizemore arrived in a flat-out theft from Detroit and took over the third-base job, putting up a batting line that Kouzmanoff (per TAv) has never come close to matching. Sizemore's defense may well make the A's long for the days of The Kouz at third, but the error bars around his -7 FRAA are enormous.

Either way, though, and like I said, the A's don't have to worry about Kouzmanoff. He'll battle for a roster spot in Kansas City. Mike Moustakas, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Chris Getz form a terrific triple for the Royals in front of Kouzmanoff. Or at least they do from Kouzmanoff's perspective, because Moustakas could fall on his face, and the other two are terrible -- a roster spot, if not on Opening Day then at least down the line somewhere, is not out of reach. I'll wish him luck, but I think he's going to need a lot more in his corner than my mental powers can provide to have a real career into his 30s.