I’m not so sure we would ever see the day when we would long for the return of his defense. We all heard and briefly witnessed what Zack Cozart had the potential to deliver with his bat. In that brief glimpse from last season, many a Reds fan was excited to see what was in store for the 2012.
After having his 2011 cut short due to an accidental collision with then-Atlanta Brave Nate McLouth, Cozart was initially diagnosed with a hyper-extension of his left elbow. After a few days, it was determined that Cozart would need Tommy John surgery on the injured elbow constituting the loss of the remainder of his 2011 season. While it is yet to be seen, read or heard if the TJ procedure has hindered Cozart at the plate this season, it has certainly not impeded his defense in any manner whatsoever. Just for the record, Cozart’s slash is .243/.285/.402.
A continual philosophy of this Reds front office is the importance of defense, more importantly up the middle of the field (catcher, second base, shortstop, center field). Cozart is developed into an extremely valuable piece of that puzzle. It doesn’t take long to realize how special the Reds are in this area. All you have to do is check Fangraphs and marvel at the UZR (ultimate zone rating) for the guys that normally call those positions home.
Earlier today, Matt told you about Ryan Hanigan and how Hanigan is due his place within the relams of exceptional defensive catchers. Well, Cozart doesn’t have the time in baseball that Hanigan does, but he is already one of the NL’s better defensive shortstops.
Here’s some numbers to absorb whether you completely buy into defensive metrics or not. Cozart owns the NL’s third-best fielding percentage (.975) among shortstops, ranks fourth in putouts (193), and ranks third in dWAR (1.9) among his NL counterparts. That 1.9 dWAR also ranks him 7th in all of the NL. And there is a correlation between these presented numbers (taken from Baseball Reference) and the Fangraphs stat of UZR.
Cozart is currently ranked 4th among NL shortstops with his UZR of 7.5. The three ahead of Cozart are Clint Barmes of the Pittsburgh Pirates (15.4), Brandon Crawford (8.1) of the San Francisco Giants, and Andrelton Simmons of the Atlanta Braves (7.7 in 39 games).
If you are a buyer in UZR (here’s a link to Fangraphs explanation of the metric, but make sure you have more than a minute or two to read it) or not, only aspect of all shortstop defensive play is range. A stat on Fangraphs that is complied is “out of zone” (OOZ) for balls fielded out of the normal shortstop “area”. Cozart has the 3rd highest number (60) in the NL behind two guys that are known to have a little range: Starlin Castro (75) and Rafael Furcal (67).
I honestly don’t think many Reds fans had expected Cozart to play defense that we have been blessed to see during this 2012 season. As Matt points out in reference to Hanigan, Cozart will not win the Gold Glove, but considering him is not a bad way to go.