Casey Kotchman is having a career-year with the Rays, hitting .326, third in the American League. Kotchman will also be a free agent at the end of the year, and as we look forward to 2012, the Rays need to decide if he is worth bringing back.
There are some that believe Kotchman’s season has been an aberration and that he has just been lucky. The key number is his BABIP. When Kotchman hits a ball fair, his batting average is a huge .363. Based on some of his other peripheral numbers, that number should be closer to .305.
This suggests that he has been extremely lucky this year. And if that is true, then it is unlikely that he will be able to repeat his performance next season.
But is it just luck?
If we look closer at Kotchman’s numbers, we see a hitter that is perfectly suited to hit in the middle of the Rays order, and a player that might just be taking advantage of those circumstances.
Kotchman is a pull hitter, especially when he hits the ball on the ground. And this year, he is hitting groundballs 57.3 percent of the time, the highest rate in his career.
Now let’s look at where Kotchman has had his most success.
With a runner on first base, Kotchman is hitting a whopping .442 in 52 at bats this season. It may not seem like much, but if we remove those at bats, Kotchman’s batting average falls to .302. Still good. But not quite good enough to carry his lack of power at first base.
The Rays may not have a
deep lineup. But at the top of the order, they do have some guys that can get on base, and who like to run. And with the first baseman holding those runners on, it opens up the right side of the infield for a guy whose strength is groundballs to the right side.
Has Kotchman been lucky? Maybe. But he is also taking advantage of an advantageous position.
And when it comes to 2012, it may be in the best interest of both sides for Kotchman to come back for an encore.