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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”.