Left-handed batters generally don’t like hitting left-handed pitchers. The angles are different, the movements are different, and baseball is full of lefty specialist relievers who have honed their craft to maximize their effectiveness against same handed hitters. So, if I asked you who was hitting left-handed pitching better than any other first baseman in baseball this year, Casey Kotchman probably wouldn’t be your first choice.
But there he is, six weeks into the season, torching southpaws to the tune of a .389/.421/.583 line. In fact, Kotchman’s posting a pretty severe reverse platoon split, as he’s been much more effective against LHPs than RHPs, who he’s hitting just .286/.343/.452 against. This is a pretty significant change for Kotchman, who had never hit a home run off a left-handed pitcher in the majors before this season. From 2004 to 2007, Kotchman had 142 plate appearances against southpaws (he had been pretty strictly platooned) and notched just six extra base hits, all doubles. In 38 plate appearances against lefties this year, he’s already recorded five extra base hits including the home run.
Now, this almost certainly doesn’t represent an actual shift in Kotchman’s true talent levels, as platoon splits are notorious for small sample size flukes and don’t have as much predictive value as commonly believed. Kotchman’s unlikely to finish the year among the league leaders in offense against southpaws. However, we can note that the drastic uptick in performance does give us the knowledge that Kotchman possesses the necessary skills to hit both right handed and left handed pitching, and the Angels should abandon any idea of platooning him going forward. This is clearly an area where Kotchman has improved, and there’s simply no need to take his bat out of the line-up when a lefty is on the mound.
Los Angeles’ offense is no longer just the Vladimir Guerrero show, and as Kotchman and his fellow young hitters continue to improve, the Angels vice grip on the American League west just continues to tighten.
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