Kotchman and Fly Balls

Dave · April 23, 2010 at 9:03 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Before the season, we talked about how Casey Kotchman was going to have to stop beating the ball into the ground with regularity if he wanted to tap into his power. He had shown that he could drive the ball when he got under it, but with a career GB% over 52 percent, he just didn’t hit the ball in the air often enough to give his power a chance to show itself. The coaching staff talked about tweaking his approach a bit, getting him to tap into the power he has and taking advantage of Safeco’s friendly right field porch.

So far, so good. It’s still early, but Kotchman’s GB% is just 39.1% for the year, making him a slight fly ball hitter in his first 57 trips to the plate. Not coincidentally, he’s slugging .540 and giving the M’s a much needed power boost.

It’s too soon to call this experiment a success, as he could easily revert back to his career tendencies as the season wears on, but it’s a nice early sign that perhaps the coaching staff was able to make some necessary changes to how Kotchman swings the bat. Don’t bet on him slugging .540 over the next five and a half months, but with his defense and contact ability, anything over .450 will make him a good player, and anything over .500 makes him a star.

Comments

26 Responses to “Kotchman and Fly Balls”

  1. Rusty on April 23rd, 2010 9:49 am

    I hope we’re seeing the 2007 version of Casey Kotchman where he slugged .467 in 443 at bats.

  2. Jack Howland on April 23rd, 2010 10:53 am

    Dave – I was worried about your friend’s analysis of Kotchman’s swing when you were down at spring training ever since you posted it. He seems to be hitting the ball hard to the right side so far this season which would lead me to think that the barrel of his bat is coming around just fine so far. Do you have any new thoughts about that past conversation?

  3. thurston24 on April 23rd, 2010 11:02 am

    Dave, you say that if Casey slugs over 500 he is a star. Does that mean the slugging% correlates enough with wOBA that you do not need to see it?

  4. fiftyone on April 23rd, 2010 11:12 am

    Russell Branyan, 2009: 2.9 WAR
    Casey Kotchman, 2010, with a .370 obp and .480 slg: more than 2.9 WAR (3.3? 3.4?)

    Assuming Kotch does NOT keep up this early to-good-for-the-back-of-his-fangraphs-card pace, he’ll more than make up for Branyan. I like upgrades.

  5. The Ancient Mariner on April 23rd, 2010 11:17 am

    thurston, it’s not a matter of the correlation between SLG and wOBA; as Dave said, it’s a matter of Kotchman’s defense and ability to hit for average and get on base — given those, adding even moderate power to them makes him a good player; adding significant power to them, enough to slug over .500, would make him more than merely good. You’re trying to treat Kotchman’s slugging percentage in isolation from the rest of his contributions to the team; Dave’s looking at the whole player.

  6. allenwu on April 23rd, 2010 11:22 am

    So basically, high contact% + good contact trajectory + power = win.

    Kotchman’s always had good contact%, and has been scouted to have good power, but his contact trajectory has always been way too low.

    If this works out, I’m really impressed with our FO for seeing this. Gold Glove first baseman with pop for a 5th outfielder? Dam that’s nice.

  7. robbbbbb on April 23rd, 2010 11:27 am

    I seem to recall that someone did a study recently about stabilization in different rates. That is, the number of plate appearances in which a rate statistic starts to tell us something. Things like O-Swing% tend to stabilize pretty quickly. For FB%/GB%, what’s the stabilization point? 200 AB? 100 AB?

  8. Jon S. on April 23rd, 2010 11:48 am

    I think we should lock Kotchman up long term if he’s still hitting the ball with authority in a couple months. I’d feel really good about our young nucleus if we can add a productive Kotchman to Ackley, Saunders, Guti, Moore, and King Felix. If Triunfel is as good as we hope he can be, we’ll be in fantastic shape. I’d like to see us gamble on some high-ceiling HS pitchers this draft. Then we should go for a talented outfielder next year (for the horrible day when Ichiro is no longer productive).

  9. thamiam on April 23rd, 2010 12:20 pm

    robbbbbb – I think you may be referring to this Fangraphs post nicely summarized here. According to those, your answer is 200 PA.

  10. JMHawkins on April 23rd, 2010 12:28 pm

    Good question robbbbbb. Kotchman is showing a lot more patience at the plate so far this year. His O-swing% is 18.6% this year, compared to a career average of 25.9%. His Z-Swing% is down too, overall he’s taking more pitches, making slightly less contact, but driving them a lot more. A lot more. His LD%, FB% and HR/FB% would all be career highs if he keeps them up.

    Now, the M’s haven’t faced a whole bunch of Cy Young’s and Bob Gibson’s, so part of it may be lesser pitching and part of it may be SSSTheater, but it looks like part of it is also better patience at the plate, waiting for a pitch he can drive rather than one he can, ah, to quote a former manager, “put in play and make things happen.”*

    Unless of course it’s just that the pitchers are letting him get away with being more selective and it’ll turn around when he faces better pitching.

    Q: how does the pitching we’ve faced compare to league average? The O’s are horrible, but the A’s and Rangers seem like they have competent rotations.

    * “things” usually meaning “outs”

  11. joser on April 23rd, 2010 12:38 pm

    I seem to recall that someone did a study recently about stabilization in different rates

    You may be thinking of When Samples Become Reliable at Fangraphs. Per that, things like groundball rate, flyball rate, and HR/FB all stabilize between 200 and 300 plate appearances, so we’re still about one quarter to one fifth of the way there. Lots of time for him to regress yet.

    It would be interesting to compare high-speed video of his ABs this year vs last; my anecdotal impression is that a few of his swings (like that monster HR he put into the upper deck in Texas) are very different from his usual approach this year, but I don’t know if that’s actually true or what would be behind that happening only occasionally (different pitchers, different game situations, a little talk from Alan Cockrell?)

  12. robbbbbb on April 23rd, 2010 12:55 pm

    I looked it up. Lookout Landing has a compilation piece, “On the Shoulders of Giants”. (Nice Newton reference, by the way.) From there, I found this one. Groundball and flyball rates stabilize at 200 and 250 PA, respectively. We’ve got a ways to go to figure out if Kotchman’s newfound lift is “real.”

  13. jared_kopp on April 23rd, 2010 1:16 pm

    I think we should lock Kotchman up long term if he’s still hitting the ball with authority in a couple months. I’d feel really good about our young nucleus if we can add a productive Kotchman to Ackley, Saunders, Guti, Moore, and King Felix. If Triunfel is as good as we hope he can be, we’ll be in fantastic shape.

    I think we’ve seen that this front office has no issue rewarding performance when health is not a major concern. Gutierrez and Felix were both locked up after big years last year. As for our young nucleus? Go ahead and start feeling good about it already. We have enough talent in the bigs already to be a winner and the kids in AA and AAA are a lot better than what we were running out there in the Bavasi era. Its amazing the difference a year and a half of quality front office management can make.

  14. marinersunbird on April 23rd, 2010 1:28 pm

    Re: Ackley and Triunfel. I’m looking forward to Jay’s minor league updates.

  15. joser on April 23rd, 2010 1:59 pm

    And when talking about minor leaguers, don’t forget Franklin.

    robbbbbb, I posted a comment with a link to the Fangraphs article on when numbers stabilize, but I think because of that link it got hung up in the mod queue. So here it is without attribution: GB, FB, and HR/FB rates all stabilize between 200 and 300 PAs (line drive rate takes just 150, but it doesn’t vary all that much in general). So at just under 60 for Kotchman so far there’s still plenty of opportunity for him to regress. The good news is that we (and more importantly, the M’s) should know by mid-season or so whether it’s real or a mirage.

  16. TomTuttle on April 23rd, 2010 2:06 pm

    In Z We Trust.

  17. djw on April 23rd, 2010 2:49 pm

    I’m looking forward to Jay’s minor league updates.

    Me, too. By which I mean I want him to come along and assure me that Triunfel and Ackley’s gruesome stats so far are mostly bad luck and nothing to worry about.

  18. Rboyle0628 on April 23rd, 2010 3:38 pm

    I think we should lock Kotchman up long term if he’s still hitting the ball with authority in a couple months. I’d feel really good about our young nucleus if we can add a productive Kotchman to Ackley, Saunders, Guti, Moore, and King Felix.

    Jon S., I agree completely. I like the fact that our front office doesn’t hesitate to lock up our young, healthy and productive stars. I feel comfortable so much more than now. I like the fact that we make good deals and that there is much thought process put behind our front office moves. As TomTuttle said, In Z We Trust, couldn’t say it better myself.

  19. robbbbbb on April 23rd, 2010 3:39 pm

    I found that article on Fangraphs, too, joser, and I think my comment with a link got hung up in mod. I saw the same thing.

  20. Auggeydog on April 23rd, 2010 3:41 pm

    Is the Gonzo trade talk dead? I would love to see Kotchman signed to a long term deal if we can’t get him, but if there is a chance would a long term contract make him harder to trade? I have friends from other cities telling me we should trade for him. Would the trade deplete the minors so much it would not make long term sense?

  21. nathaniel dawson on April 23rd, 2010 3:42 pm

    I seem to recall that someone did a study recently about stabilization in different rates. That is, the number of plate appearances in which a rate statistic starts to tell us something.

    Pizza Cutter (Russell something-or-other, I forget his whole name off the top of my head) did some in-depth study of this. In truth, there’s no point at which a statistic really “stabilizes”, as in doesn’t change after a certain point. It’s somewhat arbitrary which threshold a person is seeking when they look at how many PA’s it takes for a statistic to get to a point where you have confidence that it has meaningfulness.

    When someone says that BB’s will stabilize after, say, 50 PA’s, well, that would depend on a person’s own definition of what “stabilizes” means. An individual player’s walk rate could vary a lot after that point, but you would expect most players to have demonstrated their basic talent level in that area by that time.

  22. Mike Snow on April 23rd, 2010 4:02 pm

    I pulled some comments out that somehow landed in the spam queue, which I think is set a little too jumpy on outside URLs. So now we have links to the Fangraphs summary as a handy reference (although unfortunately, the links in there to the background work are dead).

  23. K.Easley45 on April 23rd, 2010 4:04 pm

    Its amazing the difference a year and a half of quality front office management can make.

    I’m beginng to think this is more than just a “quality” FO.

  24. jared_kopp on April 23rd, 2010 4:52 pm

    Is the Gonzo trade talk dead? I would love to see Kotchman signed to a long term deal if we can’t get him, but if there is a chance would a long term contract make him harder to trade? I have friends from other cities telling me we should trade for him. Would the trade deplete the minors so much it would not make long term sense?

    As of right now the Padres are on the top of that division. I know that probably isn’t their true talent level, but the funny thing about winning is that when a front office (or fans for that matter) see that in the standings they tend to lose perspective. Also – it isn’t as though the Padres are under any current financial strain with Gonzalez. The worst case scenario for them is that they can’t sign him, he leaves after the 2011 season and they get compensatory draft picks (and good ones given the likelihood of his being a Type A free agent.) During which time they get elite production from the 1B spot at an absolute steal of a rate compared to his market value.
    So the long and short of it is that the Padres would have to decide they were 1)out of contention 2)interested in acquiring a package of prospects they don’t feel they can get in the draft and 3)so overwhelmed by a deal they can’t help but take it. So for the M’s to make that deal happen all three of those things would have to take place plus the M’s would have to be willing to offer probably a couple of grade A prospects and B. (Just guessing of course.) Or at the very least an A and a couple of B’s.
    I guess what I’m getting at is that I wouldn’t really spend too much time wondering about the possibility of picking up Adrian Gonzalez. Its a pipe dream at best at this point in the season. Probably we should just focus on getting the best we can from the guy we have now and if that doesn’t work have confidence that the front office for the M’s can go out and get someone who can make a difference. But hey, I’m just a guy writing stuff – what the heck do I know?

  25. jared_kopp on April 23rd, 2010 4:53 pm

    I’m beginng to think this is more than just a “quality” FO.

    I try to promote modesty. But I tend to agree with you. :)

  26. Matt the Dragon on April 23rd, 2010 5:38 pm

    So now we have links to the Fangraphs summary as a handy reference (although unfortunately, the links in there to the background work are dead).

    The full Pizza Cutter article is here.

    There is also a similar article for the “stabilisation” of pitching stats here.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.