Kevin Kouzmanoff Is Not the Solution in 2011 for the Oakland Athletics

Matt RichardsContributor IJanuary 8, 2011

ST. LOUIS - JUNE 20: Kevin Kouzmanoff #5 of the Oakland Athletics slides into second base to avoid a pick off against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on June 20, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Athletics beat the Cardinals 3-2.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The A’s acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff last offseason to fill the void that Eric Chavez would inevitably create.  After one season Kouzmanoff has worn out his welcome.

It is not as though “Kouz” has played so far below his career averages in Oakland, he has not, but the Oakland front office should have seen his numbers and known that he was not worth the money, even if he makes very little relative to the rest of the league.

In three full seasons in San Diego Kouzmanoff hit 59 home runs, a respectable number especially in a pitcher’s park like Petco.  When the A’s traded for him it seemed that they wanted the power he brought over, but cheap power can be found in other areas, such as players like Jack Cust.

The problem with Kouzmanoff has been his disturbingly low OPS impacted by his incredibly poor on-base percentage.  In his last two seasons in San Diego Kouzmanoff posted an OBP around .300 and an OPS around .725.  For a “power hitter” those numbers will not cut it.

Then you look at the 2010 season for Kouz and his numbers fell in every major offensive statistic.  His average dropped to .247, he hit 16 home runs, still a respectable number, but his OPS fell to .679.

By comparison, Ryan Sweeney poster a better OPS (.725) while hitting just one home run over the course of the entire season.  Of the nine regular starting players (including DH) Kouzmanoff posted the eighth-best OPS on the team.

In terms of OBP, Kouzmanoff was last on the team with a .283 mark.  Out of 149 MLB hitters, Kevin Kouzmanoff was No. 146 in OBP.

To put it plainly, Kevin Kouzmanoff was terrible in 2010.

Now it can be said that the A’s did not lose anything while playing a relatively cheap option at 3B, but his turn in the lineup was just a large hole.  The fact that he is still in the starting lineup as the A's are making a conscious effort to improve the offense is unacceptable. 

Further, even if Kouzmanoff represents a temporary solution to 3B, then why did he hit in the middle of the order the majority of the year: 97.6 percent of his at-bats came anywhere from third to sixth in the order.

The only positive aspect of Kouzmanoff’s game is his defense, but even then his defensive WAR was 0.5 last season—not enough to compensate for his lack of offense.

Earlier this offseason the A’s claimed Edwin Encarnacion off waivers from the Blue Jays only to let him go soon after.

Encarnacion had an OPS of .790 last season, over 100 points better than Kouzmanoff.  Encarnacion has averaged 25 home runs a season for his career and he simply represents a bigger power threat than what the A’s have now.

On the other hand Encarnacion’s defense is unimpressive, but I believe the A’s could have gotten away with his glove because of the plus defenders that cover the rest of the field.

SS Cliff Pennington, for example, posted a 1.2 defensive WAR last season, enough to compensate for Encarnacion.

With Adrian Beltre showing no interest in Oakland and ultimately signing with the Texas Rangers, the A’s are stuck with Kouzmanoff.

The 2011 offense has already improved to the point that Kouzmanoff will most likely be slid into the bottom part of the order.  It seems as though the A’s can find a way to win with his bat in the lineup as long as others carry the slack.

With that being said, the San Francisco Giants, the defending World Series champions, had a starting lineup with no position players who had an OBP below .300.  Most of the better teams in baseball do not have such a player.

To go even further, the Giants’ 2010 Opening Day 3B, Pablo Sandoval, was benched for his poor production, but he still managed a .323 OBP and a .732 OPS.  Then again, the organization had higher expectations for the young slugger while the A’s already know what they have in Kouzmanoff.

As it stands right now there are no clear alternatives to Kouzmanoff, but it should not be too difficult to find someone who can manage at least a .300 OBP.