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Thursday, May 10, 2007

THE TROUBLE WITH KOTCH 

After the shocking events of last night, in which two Angels not named Vlad hit home runs, it may seem churlish to start examining someone's troubles -- especially given that it's someone who lashed a nice double last night. But Kotch was relied on to provide some offense this year, and has only occasionally provided same.

First, let's note that Kotch's line isn't that terrible. His AVG/OBP/SLG 233/304/388 adds up to an OPS+ of 92, which tied for ninth out of the fourteen AL regular first basemen. His defense probably nudges him up a bit, but he has outperformed a few stars (or semi-stars) thus far.

What's more, if he can get that average up to .300 while maintaining everything else, he'd have a line of 300/371/455, which would be an OPS+ of 129, which would be great. Even getting up to .280 would put him at 280/351/435, and an OPS+ of 118, which in the recent history of the Angels would be almost Gehrigesque.

So, right now, it's the singles that aren't getting through. Is there reason to believe that they will?

Here is some batted ball data for Casey's 2007, available from Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index:
Type        Tot   %   Out   1B   2B   3B   HR   SF   AVG   SLG
GB Right 36 31 31 4 0 1 0 0 .139 .194
GB Middle 4 3 2 2 0 0 0 0 .500 .500
GB Left 13 11 11 2 0 0 0 0 .154 .154
LD Right 7 6 2 2 3 0 0 0 .714 1.143
LD Middle 3 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 .333 .333
LD Left 3 3 0 2 1 0 0 0 1.000 1.333
FB Right 7 6 3 0 2 0 1 1 .500 1.143
FB Middle 7 6 5 0 0 1 1 0 .400 1.000
FB Left 13 11 12 1 0 0 0 0 .077 .077
FB Catcher 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
SO 10 9 10 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
BB+HBP 11 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 ---- ----
TOTAL 115 80 14 6 2 2 1 .233 .388
Some breakdowns:
       %    AVG   SLG
GB: 45 .170 .208
LD: 13 .692 1.000
FB: 24 .222 .593
Rt: 43 .265 .469
Mi: 9 .357 .714
Lt: 25 .207 .241
What conclusions can we draw?

1. Casey hits a lot of balls on the ground: 45%, far more than he hits anywhere else. And that's 45% of plate appearances, that comes out to 56% of balls in play.

2. Casey does not get hits when he hits the ball on the ground, hitting only .170.

3. Casey has essentially no power to the left side of the field, only scrapping out a "line drive to 3B" for a double there thus far.

4. Casey pulls the ball 50% of the time. He only goes up the middle 14% of the time; as you see, he (as pretty much every batter would) has a lot of success going up the middle. (There is a bit of a scoring bias here, though, as a shortstop ranging up the middle to make the play will be recorded as a ground ball to the left side here.) Again, that's per plate appearance; it's 53% of all balls in play.

Now, let's compare this to Casey's one extended period of success, the 2005 season:
Type        Tot   %   Out   1B   2B   3B   HR   SF   AVG   SLG
GB Right 34 24 32 2 0 0 0 0 .059 .059
GB Middle 13 9 8 5 0 0 0 0 .385 .385
GB Left 12 9 11 1 0 0 0 0 .083 .083
LD Right 8 6 3 4 1 0 0 0 .625 .750
LD Middle 7 5 0 7 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000
LD Left 4 3 1 3 0 0 0 0 .750 .750
FB Right 9 6 2 0 0 0 6 1 .750 3.000
FB Middle 11 8 8 0 2 0 1 0 .273 .727
FB Left 10 7 8 0 2 0 0 0 .200 .400
FB Catcher 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ---- ----
SO 18 13 18 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
BB+HBP 15 11 0 0 0 0 0 0 ---- ----
TOTAL 141 91 22 5 0 7 1 .272 .492

% AVG SLG
GB: 42 .136 .136
LD: 14 .789 .842
FB: 21 .379 1.241
Rt: 36 .260 .520
Mi: 22 .484 .645
Lt: 19 .231 .462
(Just in case you look this up, I didn't include Casey's two sacrifice attempts, one of which was a successful sacrifice and one of which was a hit.)

Some observations here:

1. Casey was just as ineffectual, generally speaking, on groundballs in 2005 as he has been this season.

2. Casey was just as effective, generally speaking, on line drives in 2005 as he has been this season.

3. Casey was much better at going up the middle in 2005.

4. Casey got much more value out of his flyballs in 2005.

It's those last two things that are making the difference, I think.

Kotch did phenomenally on balls in the air in 2005. Six of the nine balls he hit to right field in 2005 went over the fence! That's just not sustainable.

But ... he is doing very well this year in his limited flies to right. Three hits out of seven flies (one of which was a sac fly), three of which have gone for extra bases ... I've long bemoaned Casey's top-hand tendencies, rolling over the ball in the manner of Darin Erstad and doling out 4-3 putouts. And here we see that when he puts the ball in the air to right, he gets good results!

I'd like to see Casey drive the ball more and become less pull-conscious. (Of course, I can't say he's intentionally trying to pull the ball, it often seems that he's fooled and out on his front foot, his weight coming forward too quickly on some of his grounders.) He's also done very well on his flyballs to center in these two seasons. His double last night, where he stayed back and drove a vicious liner to right-center, was a great start. I think he's capable of doing these things, and knows how, and he should eventually start doing it consistently.

And if he doesn't, well, maybe I'll join the chorus calling for Mickey Hatcher's head.

***

Now, I should probably add a sample size caveat here. We don't have a lot of plate appearances to go off here, and I don't know that anyone has ever looked at this sort of thing in a rigorous manner. I'm just looking for patterns. The fact that the numbers seem to back up what I see with my eyes ... it's a nice coincidence. It will be interesting to check back in on this stuff at the end of the year.

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Comments:
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