“It’s possible that many of those ground balls that skirted through the turf infield in Tropicana Field will be slowed down enough by natural grass that fielders will be able to make a play on them, which would do a number on his BABIP and production.”
His BABIP was 3 points higher on the road vs what it was at home.
“Assuming the money isn’t outrageous — and there’s no reason to think it will be — the Indians have upgraded their defense and potentially their offense if the 28-year-old made real improvement last season.”
Kotchman is likely going to face mostly right-handed pitching while Santana takes the majority of the 1B playing time when there’s a lefty on the mound. Even if Kotchman’s 2011 was a fluke and he hits closer to his career average against righties (.329 wOBA), that’s still a pretty big improvement over what could reasonably be expected out of LaPorta at this point.
The other part for the Tribe is that LaPorta has an option remaining so they can send him to AAA and hopefully he can use his 2012 as a year to really develop the plate discipline he needs to be a successful major leaguer.
I have to believe that this move is mostly about infield defense, with Kotchman’s ability to dig out errant throws an important factor. With a number of promising young hitters in the lineup, run prevention is going to be a key to Cleevalnd’s success this year.
His IFH% was 7% this past season, he had 7 more IFH (17) than he ever had in any other season and 9 above his average of 8 per season. That is not an insignificant bump to your averages. Also had a career-high .825 average on Liners, .100 points better than career average. Maybe flukey, but as a Tribe fan I hope he can at least be a 2.0 as he obviously will be a massive improvement defensively at first base.