xBABIP Experiment: Mark Kotsay

I am tired of Mark Kotsay. I am tired of his automatic 4-3 ground outs. I am tired of his lazy fly balls to left center. I am tired of his .190 batting average with runners in scoring position. I am tired of his .688 OPS. But most of all, I am tired of people in the White Sox organization defending Mark Kotsay. From Ozzie Guillen to Hawk Harrelson and Chris Rongey, the excuses are coming from every corner of the organization. And as an objective White Sox fan, the constant excuses are getting tiring. Luck or no luck, Mark Kotsay is a bad baseball player, that much is for certain.

Kotsay does nothing well and he contributes nothing on the field to this White Sox team, as shown by Mark Kotsay’s -0.6 WAR, good for the fourth worst in all of Major League Baseball amongst players who have at least 280 plate appearances. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as of this moment, Mark Kotsay is hitting .228. Yet you have Ozzie Guillen saying things like, “Personally, the numbers out there for Kotsay [are not what] he deserves.” Followed by…“You can ask his teammates, you can ask [hitting coach] Greg Walker. He should have better numbers than what he has.”

You can ask any average White Sox fan or anybody in the White Sox organization and they will say that Kotsay has been unlucky or he “deserves” better. However, just how much better? Fortunately for us, the great people in the sabermetric community have come up with something that tries to battle this thing called luck. I think everybody knows of BABIP by now, but there is something better, something more contextual: xBABIP (Expected Batting Average on Balls In Play) . The concept is simple, take the mean batting average of line drives, ground balls, and fly balls that are not home runs, then create a BABIP based on those averages.

So what if Kotsay wasn’t lucky or unlucky? What if this was a perfect world where the average always happens? For the record, Mark Kotsay is a good player for this little experiment since his career offensive numbers are about as average as you can get. Currently, Mark Kotsay’s xBABIP is .269. This is more or less based on his line drive rate of 15.9%. His actual BABIP is .239. So as you see, he has been pretty unfortunate as that’s a 30 point disparity. Now let’s take this a step further, let’s say that .269 xBABIP is his actual BABIP. Mark Kotsay has hit 222 balls into the field of play (this does not include home runs), if he gets hits 26.9% of the time on those 222 balls, he would have 60 hits. Add his 7 home runs to those 60 hits and you have 67 hits in 258 at bats, which comes out to a .259 Batting Average. What about his On Base Percentage? Taking those 67 hits while adding his 30 walks divided by his 286 plate appearances, we would get an OBP of .336. So far so good right? Looks like Mark Kotsay would be a decent ballplayer if it wasn’t for those “hang wiffums” right?

Hold on just a second here, we can also apply this to his Slugging Percentage. We can play the rate game, which is a dangerous game to play, but we’ll do it anyways. Of the 53  hits Mark Kotsay has put in play, 38 have been singles, 13 have been doubles, and 2 have been triples. So from this, we can see that 71% of Kotsay’s non-home run hits have been singles, 25% have been doubles, and 4% have been triples. As I said before, this is a dangerous game to play, almost a fallacy, but since Kotsay does have an appropriate sample size here, it might be safer than usual. So taking these new numbers to his 60 expected hits, his new hit figures are 43 singles, 14 doubles, and 2 triples. This would result in a Slugging Percentage of .414. By adding Kotsay’s expected OBP and SLG together we come up with a .750 Expected On Base Plus Slugging or OPS, which is just about average.

Alright, so how do these new expected rates affect Mark Kotsay’s value? If we calculated an expected wOBA from these newly calculated values, Mark Kotsay would have a .329 Expected wOBA,  just about average. We can then calculate this into a run value to produce a new expected WAR. In this case, Kotsay would have produced -0.99 batting runs (without ballpark adjustment) in comparison to the average replacement player, much better than his previous rate of -6.2. So in this case, Kotsay’s WAR goes from -0.6 to -.08. A half win difference can go a long way at times.

So what does this tell us? Well first off, it says that Kotsay is a very average hitter in a luck-isolated world and average hitters should not be DHing 1/3 of the games for a team that already has issues scoring runs.  It also tells us is that Mark Kotsay has no place on this current White Sox team. He is a replacement level player who is only capable of DHing and playing 1B and that’s even if he hit like the “deserved” to hit. With Mark Teahen coming back and Brent Lillibridge already on the team, this team could be incredibly versatile. Isn’t that what Ozzie Guillen wanted? Isn’t that why Ozzie said no to Jim Thome, who is clubbing the ball for the rival Twins and is also a great clubhouse guy? This love affair with Mark Kotsay has gone too far. He is in fact costing this team on the offensive side of the ball. I would have no problem if Kotsay stays on this team as a pinch hitter and starts maybe once a week; he’s apparently a good guy in the clubhouse (as is his wife, I imagine). But the fact that this replacement level player has played 3/4 of this team’s games is disturbing. With the way that this situation has been tended to, you’d think the White Sox’ new slogan would be something along the lines of “White Sox Baseball: Here to Make Friends, Not to Win”.

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11 Responses to “xBABIP Experiment: Mark Kotsay”

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  1. MikeS says:

    If the White Sox finish behind the Twins, you can look at the 2000 PA’s they will have given to Kotsay, Jones, Pierre, Teahan and Vizquel as a big reason why.

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  2. I think Kotsay and Pierre are definitely black holes, but Vizquel’s been an adequate hitter thus far (OBP wise). Teahen and Jones are both extremely average, but they’re nothing more than role players.

    The fact that Jim Thome is helping the Twins while Mark Kotsay is screwing the Sox really pisses me off.

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  3. Terry says:

    Vizquel is a big reason why there are even in second. I agree role players aren’t a big reason for anything. Kotsay is the problem right now.

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  4. Surprisingly, Kotsay hit 8th last night with the return of Teahen. Maybe this will finally take Kotsay out of the 6th spot for good.

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  5. Jon S. says:

    Kotsay in the 6 spot is awful, but at least it’s better than Jose Lopez batting cleanup.

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  6. Max says:

    Nick Swisher would’ve have looked quite good in that spot, being as we’re talking about adventures in xBABIP (Swisher, by the way, posted a career high line-drive percentage in his one futile year with the Sox). And although this is entirely misleading and irresponsible, I would be remiss to omit Wilson Betemit’s .414 wOBA in 2010 (in about as many at bats as Kotsay SHOULD HAVE received).

    Watching Mark Kotsay hit is like being bled from the abdomen. Living in MN, I can also say that watching Thome mash every day is just as bad. What makes this such a laughable scenario is how utterly predictable it was — guess that’s what you get when your team’s “stats guy” is dealing in batting average and ERA. Go Vikings.

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  7. If you mean stats guy as in Dan Fabian, then I don’t know. They didn’t show much of him digging deep into numbers when he was shown on “The Club”. Although Rick Hahn is a sabermetric-oriented assistant-GM.

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  8. Sox2727 says:

    This article is so spot on. I’m also exhausted with Hawk and everyone making excuses for Kotsay. Everyone wants to talk about “bad luck” yet for most of the season and talk about his low BABIP. However, if you go a step further and look at his line drive % his career average was 21.9%, this year he’s at 15.5%. A 6.4% drop is hardly bad luck. Hawk loves to use that example of Ichiro robbing him of the homerun a few weeks back, however, it’s clear by his batted ball statistics he’s just simply not making as good a contact and not hitting the ball as hard. This is a guy who has posted an OPS of over .800 only 3 times in his entire career, and Ozzie has used him as his DH for most of the season. It’s called DESIGNATED HITTER! Those numbers clearly eliminate him from being considered as such. If only more people would read articles like this and look into stats more. Very well done my friend. I never thought I would say this but I’d rather see Teahen in the lineup than Kotsay, so if we could get that and Ozzie to drop AJ to 8th or 9th permanently maybe the offense will not be as stagnant.

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  9. Good point on the huge LD% disparity. That’s not luck, that’s a decline in skill and approach. And I’ve been telling people that the DH is supposed to be able to hit. Versatility is not the name of the game when it comes to DHs. If they can play the field, great, that’s nice. But they have to be able to hit first. That’s what people don’t seem to grasp.

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  10. brendan says:

    this makes me a little sad to read, as kotsay was a favorite of mine when he was on the A’s, could play centerfield, and had value. But he was never a good enough hitter to 1B/DH, and now his defense is not worth much. I hope he retires before he attracts too much ill will. remember his inside-the-park HR against the twins in the 2006 ALDS? that was awesome.

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  11. mikecourtney13 says:

    not to mention that he can’t touch lefties. 0-fer the season. But thats ‘bad luck’ too. I mean in 25 plate appearances thru yesterday he had 2 walks, 2 strikeouts and 0 for 21 on balls in play. But with that said, how much does that 0 for 21 hurt his numbers against righties. I would be interested to see if you could adjust these numbers mentioned above against righties, because i think he probably will be a little bit closer to being a warm blooded creature against them.

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