Kotchman at LL

Graham at LL with a typically fine job of breaking down Kotchman's results per sector of strike zone.


I/O:  Kotchman is okay on pitches out-and-over the plate -- the higher the better, and the more outside the better.  Down-and-in is the big problemo.

SSI Crunch:  This is what you expect of a stiff, mechanical hitter. 

This would also be the case for any random AA or AAA hitter that you brought up to the American League -- he would get his best results on waist-high pitches where he could extend his arms.

As to adapting, moving the barrel of the bathead around the zone and actually thinking with the pitcher, nada.


Down is a problem for Kotchman because it exacerbates his lack of torque and tendency to top the ball.

Not trying to be harsh here -- this is neither here nor there -- but Little Leaguers also get their best results on letter-high pitches.  They just arm-swing the bat around, and with the pitch being high, the ball-in-play goes up into the air.

I mis-coached my son John at ages 9 and 10, him being a lefty, telling him to lift pitches at the knees.  He didn't have the torque.  He got all his home runs letter-high, just toss the bat at the pitch and get a fly ball.


I/O:  Kotchman was okay in 2007 -- and saw many fewer strikes then.

SSI Crunch:  Pitchers have booked Kotchman -- he's a groundball machine, no power threat, so why would you nibble and risk walking him?

To boot, a strike zone as predictable and consistent as Kotchman's leaves him wide open to ML pitch sequences.   (1) You're going to get him out with anything down, and anything inside.  (2) You show him a variety of pitches off the plate.  (3) The money pitch is down and in for a two-hopper to the right side.

We oversimplify, but y'know.


I/O:  The hope is that Kotchman will get some dings to RF at Safeco -- this resulting in renewed respect and more BB's for Kotchman.

SSI Crunch:  we just don't think that Kotchman has the reaction time and torque of an ML corner fielder.  His swing looks great physically.  What he does with the ball is another subject.  The bat's a tick slow, he starts it a tick early, his goal is to not strike out...

This is a guy who has hit for a 92 OPS+ in 2008 and 2009.  M's fans are going to get very, very tired of weak groundouts in the middle of rallies.

In SSI's dream world, Kotch is a placeholder for a first baseman who can help the offense, preferably Adrian Gonzalez, but if not him, at least a guy who might have a future, that being Mike Carp.


I/O:  Kotchman's 92 OPS+ the last two years.

Crunch:  How do I put this and remain a nice guy?  ::shower of crumpled dixie cups::

We are again at this place, as with Chavez in LF, Hannahan at 3B, Cedeno at SS, etc., where our enthusiasm for UZR is causing us to lose all sanity as it applies to baseball.

Last spring, we tossed our baseball cards out the window, buried ourselves in stacks of math formulas, and concluded that a #4 CF is a better player in LF than is Bobby Abreu.

Now, our visceral reaction to Casey Kotchman is, hey, he can't hit a lick, but he's got a pretty nice glove.  He should be fine at 1B.

He ain't.  You can't have a 90 OPS+ groundball machine at first base.  End of story.


I unnerstan' the GM's stoploss idea; Capt Jack never said hey, here's your first baseman of the next five years.

In the M's dream world, Kotch hits a few into the RF seats, posts an OBP of .370, Dr. D falls out of his chair with a heart attack and everything is right with the world.

I could be wrong, but I doubt it,

Dr D


Taro's picture

We saw a similar template with Jeremy Reed. Another good minor league player with below-average batspeed and not much of a plan at the plate. High GB rate, good contact, terrible quality contact, minimal power. Kotchman is better than Reed naturally, still..
Offensively, Kotchman is terrible. Beyond the spit-poor wOBA, hes a high contact type, so his slugging is singles driven as opposed to XBH driven which means it doesn't lead to RBI. His baserunning is AWFUL. Full-time hes a -6 or 7 run baserunner and this reflects in his extremely low R scoring rate.
Even more annoying is his EXTREMELY high GIDP rate (17 per year and will probably be higher full time). This annoys me with Lopez, but since Kotchman can't even provide Lopez type power, it'll only annoy me more. GIDPs kill innings and eat extra outs.
Defensively he may very well be elite as opposed to just good. After some research, I think there is some possibility for a +15 run type season. Thats were the positives end though. He NEEDS to bring his hitting up to par to be a starter IMO.
What confuses me is why Z decided to take Kotchman to arbitration when the guy would lucky be to make that much as a FA.  Overall I'd MUCH rather bring back Branyan for the same price and keep Carp in AAA for insurance.


Z took him to arby to save 800 grand.
Why make the trade at all...would be the better question.  I guess he got the word from Branyan's people that Branyan was too annoyed at Seattle for not offering a second year to consider signing now even if no one else offers that second year.  And he decided to move on to the best 1B left that he could find.  I don't like it, but that's the only explanation I can think of.

Taro's picture

It sounds like Z just really wants Kotchman for some reason. Branyan last words sure sounded like he still wanted to return to Seattle...
Another reason I don't like Kotchman is that while a lot of people point to his '07 as an upside scenario, he actually had an inflated BABIP that season (and his career BABIP is below-average due to low LD% - topping over the ball weakly). His 2007 batting line was a total fluke.
The Ms, Angels, and Rangers are so close right now that something like Kotchman over Branyan could really possibly be the difference. This might be the first move by Z that I truly dislike (at least Snell still has upside), but I guess we'll see if Z is right again.
 I just have a hard time visualizing how they are going to get Kotchman to turn into a hitter. Theres only so much you can tweak..


G-Money brought up Greg Dobbs, in terms of a guy who looks picturesque at the plate but doesn't do much with the ball.
Reed's even better.  Everything is great right up until the moment the ball comes off his bat.
GIDP's... as we wrote that line about two-hoppers in the middle of rallies, we shudder a bit...
Kotchman is either a +5 defender or a +15 one, so to speak, and I'm not sure which.  The defense is a bit of a consolation, up and until people start weighting it as a fair counterbalance for Kotchman's 1B bat.


Is that they took a look at his injury situation and just said, no thanks.
First half of 2009, that guy was one of the league's best cleanup men. He produced what, $10 $12 million in the first half alone.
I don't get it.  The med reports must be scarier than the guy in the hockey mask with the dull machete.


What is your guess, as to why Zduriencik overrates Kotchman?
I mean, his saber team knows everything that we know, plus a good deal.  They have far better data than we do.


If THAT occurs I will definitely jump on the 'miracle worker' bandwagon.
Guy with a smooth swing, slow bat, no juice out in front of the plate.  What are you going to do with that?
I dunno.  Kotchman's 27.  Maybe they feel it's a career-arc thing.

Taro's picture

Kotchman was a top prospect at once... Even at the time Kotchman and Reed seemed very overrated to me.
Scouts were high on both, but the question is why? They never had quick bats, showed limited power with high GB rates in the minors, and both played corner positions. They are the type of hitters who feed off of marginal pitching and neither of them have the power to make that production worthwhile.


Remember Ruben Flores?  Betcha don't.  25-yr-old pitcher stuck in A ball?
Flores was traded to Milwaukee for Bill Hall and his contract.  Bill Hall and his contract were traded straight up for Casey Kotchman and his arb case.
OK, Jeremy Reed was a bust, we all agree on that.
Jeremy Reed was arguably a bigger piece of the Gutz-Putz trade than Mike Carp.
You got one guy traded for the 24th man on the roster, who, himself, was acquired for random minor league nobody.
Another guy who was the 9th-ish most important player in a 12-player deal (depending on how much you like Cleto and Carrera).
I garr-ron-TEE this is tinkering around the edges.  This is not The Plan to Win the World Series.  You build around guys who are virtually free?
To me, it is the Z standard: they won't guarantee money to Bays or Branyans that pose too much risk.  It's not like they're not willing to guarantee money -- it's that they're not willing to guarantee money to guys that they don't think will deliver on the whole contract.  It's not like they're not willing to ship prospects for the Cliff Lees -- it's that they won't ship prospects for middling guys just because they are marginally better than Kotchman or Carp. 
When there is a MOTO bat that they want, I think the checkbook will be open and the top-10-prospect list will be tapped.
In the meantime, it's "let's get by with defense and OBP and see what happens"

jrdo410's picture

I don't think you can properly evaluate Kotchman with blinders on, i.e., ignoring completely a .296/.372/.467 from 2007, at age 24.  I'm not saying that's who he is, but that has to be his upside.  You can't pretend that never happened.  
I don't really buy into the idea that all of his deficient performance was due to off the field stuff. But I do think that Jack thinks he can be fixed, and that .300/.375/.470 is possible once more. His ability didn't vanish overnight, player don't usually get worse going from 24 to 27. Kotchman is not Endy Chavez.  


The age-2007 wasn't ignored.  It was dealt with explicitly in the article:  pitchers realized that Kotchman is no power threat, and stopped nibbling.  That's a fact.  They also realized that he pounds low balls into the dirt, that he's a sucker for a low-in slider.  Now his BB's and PX are going to stay at the delta level.  The changes from 2007 were delineated.
Taro pointed out the BABIP factor as well.
In other words, yeah, he had a good 2007, before pitchers understood how to pitch him.  You could chide me for having blinders on against Bill Hall's 30-homer seasons, too.  I can't pretend they never happened, right?
When you assume ignorance on the part of those whose ideas differ from yours, if you assume that others disagree with you only when they have blinders on, you're going to wind up leading with your chin like that.  If you cut some respect to those who don't agree with you, then the conversation will be adult.
On the side of your position, obviously Zduriencik does think there is something there, and that matters. 
If there is, I believe it will be an age-arc factor.  If he recognizes pitches better, maybe he'll choose to get under the ball more, as Lopez has, for example.  This has nothing whatsoever to do with the idea of Kotchman rediscovering what he used to do when he was 24.
I've issued my disclaimer - I'm biased against Casey Kotchman.  Hopefully the light will turn on and Capt Jack will pull another Branyan out of a hat.


Everybody knows I have the scouts' backs, but if there's a bias there, it is towards the players who do things technically right.
Reed and Kotch both have model swings, throw to the right bases, "Give You A Good 90" and all that jazz.  They're gamers.
When a scout goes down the list and the footwork, swing plane, everything checks 100%, what are the supposed to do?  They recommend them for advancement.
On the other hand, you get a guy like Tuiasosopo whose swing is incredibly dynamic, but whose game has lots of rough edges, then what?
To us guys who are holding hammers, everything's a nail ;- )


and will be for another couple of years, until he hits 30.
There's no room for accusing those who differ from us of being blind, of choosing to ignore contrary data, etc.  The guys at SSI will exchange ideas with anyone, so long as the tone is substantive rather than personal.
If Casey Kotchman *does* realize his blue-chip offensive pedigree, the 2010 M's are going to be a handful.


I think what is raising my eyebrow is that much of what I'm hearing today about Kotchman is precisely what I heard (from various people), with Franklin Gutierrez.  The line on F-Gutz was:
Great glove
weak bat
showed a flash of something early, but got figured out
his good year was pushed by an unreasonable BABIP
he'll never be a plus bat - especially in Safeco
Kotchman posted an .840 OPS in 2007
He posted a .774 OPS in 2008 (with the Angels), and stunk to high heaven in his NL stay - (and he *DOUBLED* his walk rate while he was in the NL).
In first half of '09, (with Atlanta), and still in the NL - he posted a .764 OPS, before being sent to play part-time in Boston.
In short - his aggregate stats are HEAVILY influenced by massive dips in performance, which both occured after MID-SEASON team changes. 
*WORST CASE* with Kotchman is that he posts a .770-ish OPS for Seattle, and is traded at the deadline, (where he'll got and hit .600 for some other team - perhaps San Diego).
Did he have a "sophomore slump" after his .840 season?  Well, yeah - a bit -- but BEFORE he could adjust, he's traded to a new league.  And that as he's getting comfy in Atlanta, he lands in Boston.  He is NOT a strat-o-matic card.  He's a human - with emotions - maybe family and friends. 
I'm not buying the argument AT ALL that pitchers "figured him out".  Which pitchers got to see him more than 3 times? 
He's a .280/.350/.420 hitter *EXCEPT* when moving into a new franchise in the middle of a season.  Perhaps, given a full season in ONE CITY, he could finally make the adjustments to get back to .290/.360/.440.


They seem very determined not to repeat Bavasi's approach of using a lot of resources to get guys who are a bad fit for the park.  There was a quote along the lines of "we came in and we couldn't believe how many guys were on the roster who were terrible for the park."
They fear the out-years of a five-year Bay deal more than they fear one year of "wheel of fortune" -- so long as the guys on the wheel can play defense and get on base.
My view of things, anyway.


As we all know, Cliff Lee doesn't solve Jeff Clement by facing him 20-25 times. 
The book on Clement goes around the league:  he swings over the top of slow stuff inside.  There's this cool little fad they got goin' called "video".  ;- )  
Jeff Clement had 40 AB's in the big leagues before we sat here in Seattle and watched every pitcher in the league pitch him exactly the same way.
If LL can run a hot-cold strike zone chart that proves that Casey Kotchman is helpless down and in, and far worse than that, can't hold up on it ... what do you think the Rangers' advance scouts know?
Kotchman pounds everything thighs-and-down straight into the turf.  You talk like that's something Kevin Millwood needs 25 matchups to exploit.  :- )
This isn't a complicated strategy here, kids. 
You keep the ball down on Kotchman and it's either a 4-3 groundout or, if he's lucky, a single. 
In 2007 they threw Kotchman far more pitches outside the zone, and they have stopped doing that, as Graham demonstrated.
You sell him on an offspeed pitch and he tops it weakly, because he has to cheat to catch up to a fastball.
If we know that, you don't think the pro's do?
.280/.350/.420 is a 90-100 OPS+.  You say that like it's a good thing.  .280/.350/.420, with 15-20 GIDP's, is not okay from your first baseman.  Because Kendry Morales is going to hit .300/.350/.550.

M's Watcher's picture

I'm hoping Kotch can pull a 1970 Wes Parker year, though maybe with slightly more HR power.  Parker always had the glove at 1B, but his production in 1970 came from absolutely nowhere, and unfortunately for him never appeared again.  Remember, before coming here Branyan "couldn't hit lefties", or "couldn't play full time".  OK, so maybe the latter was true.  He could only play (well) for the first half. 
The bottom line is we don't know what Kotch will do, other than predictably excellent defense.  What I do expect is spring training competition along with Everidge and Carp.  Jack would love a compelling offensive and defensive argument to keep any of them on the roster.  If not, the default answer is to keep Kotchman's D.  None of them cost much, so none are entitled.

jrdo410's picture

Not here to chide anyone, just pointing out a fundamental flaw in your argument.  You analysis presumes 2008=2009=2010, and I don't buy it, sorry.  First thing the team will probably do is show him what he's doing wrong, i.e. you ain't hittin the low ball kid, what's up with that? What happens then?  


Okay.  Pitchers don't "figure out" hitters by multiple exposure. 
But hitters *DO* figure out pitchers by multiple exposure -- even during the same game.  Kotch has one good season - a pretty nominal, (IMO), sophomore slump, (until he's traded), and since that day, he's been in a completely unstable environment, changing leagues, coaches, cities.  How is *ANY* hitter supposed to build on what they know (to that point) and improve if they're starting over every 3 months?
I've repeated the mantra -- players do not improve because they age.  They improve because they learn SOMETHING.  It took Lopez 4 years of playing every day to finally learn to approach the away pitch differently -- and he's got 4 sterling months to show off that new trait.  Kotch isn't every going to be Dunn or Fielder.  Kotchman aspires to become Mark Grace.  Given his age, experience, and production thus far - I don't see ANYTHING to suggest he cannot do that.  (Grace, btw, didn't post his first .400 OBP until age 33. 
My point is not that Kotchman will hit .770 -- but that .770 is the BOTTOM end of what he should hit, when you look at what he's done and take into account the multiple movements and differing roles. 
As for Kendry Morales -- prior to 2009, HIS best season was 30 points worse than Kotchman's - and he posted a sub-.700 OPS in 2008 while Kotchman was starting, (and hitting .770).  And, of course, Anaheim won 100 that season, while taking the division by 21 games. 

Taro's picture

Why would 770 be the bottom end? His career OPS is 742 and hes been worse than that the last two seasons.
I certainly wouldn't complain with 770 though. That would be fine until Jack found a better solution.

Taro's picture

Kotchman had 16% LD rate in '07 and he has career sub-18 LD%. His career BABIP is .279 and his BABIP in '07 was .308.
The biggest advantage in '07 was a higher IsoP due to pitchers not pitching to his weaknesses. Even so, he was more of a high 700s OPS hitter even in that season.


I don't mind being chided, as Sandy and Matt and all do to me on a daily basis.  :- )
But for you, a man who disagrees with you is PRESUMING or has BLINDERS or is IGNORING simple facets of the argument.  You are obviously in the habit of regarding those who disagree with you as being lazy, sloppy, or biased in their thought processes.
I'm not PRESUMING that 2010 equals 2009.   There is one of us who is limited to Fangraphs and presumptions, but it isn't me.
My ASSESSMENT is that Casey Kotchman has a painfully slow bat, a painfully static swing, and that these root causes satisfactorily explain his entire career arc.
Go watch some video of Kotchman, brother.  You won't believe what you see when this guy swings the bat.


If Kotchman were 31, then the entire concept of Casey Kotchman would be doomed from the start.
He's not 31, which is why there is that scrap of hope -- as with Bryan Lahair, e.g, -- that Kotchman will start seeing the pitch sequences better and load up on the ball more.

OBF's picture

I think that this is the only way to view the Kotchman deal.  He was practically free.  It is like if your buddy goes down and gets the 5 Roast beefs sandwiches for 5.99 deal at Arby's and can't finish the last one, but he is dying of thirst, so he trades you a hot Roast Beef Sandwich for a swig of your 2 day old Nalgene bottle of water you carry around in your backpack.  You would be dumb to NOT take that deal :)
Sure a roast beef sandwich is nothing to write home about, it certainly isn't a Carl's Jr. six dollar burger or anything ;)  But, hey, it was a free lunch!  And if you find that the Arby's worker wrapped up the wrong type of sandwich and it is actually an extremely tasty Bacon Chedder Roast Burger?  Well then BONUS baby.
Kotchman as a place holder -- Free lunch, Roast beef.
2007 Kotchman -- Bacon Cheddar, babeh!
Every time I get antsy about Kotchman I just remember what we gave up for him and then I feel all better, heck if all he turns out to be is a pinch hitter, that is better then Ruben Flores or Bill Hall!  And I have absolutely NO FEAR that id Kotchman is killing rallies and OPS'ing 700 that Z will be willing to kick him to the curb faster than you can say, Ronney Cedeno!

jrdo410's picture

Jeez, little testy around here.  I always know an argument won't go anywhere when the other side resorts to personal attacks.  I attacked your concept, you do your best to belittle me, yet say I'm the childish one.  Way to go, Big Fan.  

Taro's picture

League average GIDP per 691 PAs is 14.
Kotchman's MLB average GIDP career per 691 is 20.
Kothman basically creates about 5 MORE outs compared to league-average in hidden bases via GIDP that aren't captured by WAR. He ALSO costs the team 6 to 7 runs in baserunning on a consistent basis. This is HUGE part of his value that is not currently calculated by WAR.
This guy is barely above RL considering these factors (projects at around 0-0.5 WAR). You pretty much HAVE to evaluate him as an otherworldly defender and/or have him break out to some extent offensively for him to even be worth his arbitration salary.
DFA the guy and get Branyan in here for a cheaper salary. I'd even rather develop Mike Carp and accept the RL performance than pay $3.5 for a stiff who won't hold onto the job into July. Lets welcome Brayan risk for the reward. If he gets injured we're covered with Carp.

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