Casey Kotchman is in many ways a man without a home — a player equal parts under-appreciated and over-valued, who irks both old and new schools at the same time. Old school analysts say his defense is amazing, but they cannot quantify it, and in 2011, they claimed his cleared vision meant he finally learned how to aim the ball “where they ain’t,” but he’s still a .268 hitter with little power. The new school says he’s worth about 7.6 runs per season defensively, but worth ~1.1 WAR per 600 PAs — not good — and his BABIP was high 2011, so he should not be able to repeat his success.
Despite his inability to build a consistent following of fans in the baseball outsiders communities, Kotchman seems to have some insider communities very much interested in him, as Tom Tango points out:
Kotchman’s last four teams: Redsox, Mariners, Rays, Indians. Can we say that a team that signs Kotchman is saber-leaning?
Indeed, after spending five and a half seasons on the Angels’ and Braves’ rosters, Kotchman has begun to shuffle around with the Nerdz, most recently signing with the Cleveland Indians. It makes sense too — Kotchman’s lack of power keeps him cheap, and his strong defense keeps him amorphous for the old school teams, while the new schools might have different valuations on Kotchman, they can at least quantify his contributions and better know how he fits.
Then, on Monday, the Houston Astros signed Justin Ruggiano, long-time Tampa Bay Rays outfielder who was never good enough to stick on the Rays’ roster, but who possesses strong defensive chops and above average patience. His lack of power and ~.290 batting average, however, must make him a mystery — or at least an undesirable asset — to the old school teams.
Upon Ruggiano signing with the Astros, a once highly old school team, my reaction was all: “Welp, that’s one more team to compete with” — and then it occurred to me! No only have the Astros entered the realm of, so to speak, saber-minded organizations, but so have the long-backward Chicago Cubs.
Suddenly the league looks very different.