Mark has had some incredibly rotten luck at the plate, and it may have less to do with him being six years past his prime than we initially thought. You could have written a 'Mark Kotsay - Cursed by God' article just based on Monday night alone; he was robbed of extra bases by an incredible diving stab from Casey Kotchman on a screamer down the first base line in the 2nd inning, and was then robbed of a 2-run HR by Ichiro in the 6th. A 1-4 night could have easily been 3-4 with a 2B, a HR, and 3 RBI....okay, 2 RBI. For the would-be double, Quentin was on first base and the ball was going straight to Ichiro....there might have been a play at 3rd.
Clearly Kotsay has recognized that something profoundly unfair is going
on as well, as he took the measure of ceremonially setting two of his
baseball bats on fire Tuesday afternoon before the game; a game he
didn't play in, no doubt because his .220 batting average and .657 OPS
hasn't earned him a guaranteed start every night.
Luckily we live in a day and age where Kotsay's situation can be
analyzed in ways beyond a forum of fans discussing whether Mark "sucks"
or "roxxxx", and beyond analyzing what effect karmic influence has on
his line drives behaving like they're tied to a string connected to
Ichiro's glove. These problems can be examined statistically (no, I
didn't count how many times Hawk said that Kotsay had a 'hangwiffem')
with BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which measures what
percentages of balls Kotsay hit in play excluding homers, landed for
hits. With the league average for BABIP consistently hovering between
.290 and .300, a hitter with a BABIP significantly above that can be
thought to be getting lucky, significantly below means they're unlucky,
and way below means they most likely are receiving divine comeuppance
for cheating on a social studies test in the 4th grade.
The deviation works just like regular batting average. Just like how a
career .300 hitter is a bit off if they're hitting .280, slumping if
they're at .250, and if they're hitting .220, they've retired and they
just don't know it yet, it's the same level of magnitude for BABIP.
Mark Kotsay had a BABIP of .291 in 2009, suggesting that even though it
seemed like he had rotten luck, he was probably only hitting the ball
700mph into the center fielder's mitt during memorable situations, i.e.
ones that could have improved the team's record from 79-83. Unfortunate yes, but not a fair measure of his skill. This year,
Kotsay has an utterly miserable .225 BABIP, suggesting extreme,
season-changing levels of bad luck. Even if Kotsay, someone with a very
normal .297 BABIP for his career, had suddenly lost the ability to hit
line drives, this is far below the norm to the point where horrific,
unsustainable amounts of misfortune surely must be in play. That or
he's a horrible tipper who doesn't signal when he switches lanes on the
freeway, and he's getting what he deserves.
Kotsay's equally miserable .351 slugging percentage means he probably
wasn't going to to be a very good DH in the best of times, but it
certainly indicates that he's in the position to improve down the line. Somewhat. To become a sort of a Mark Teahen-clone. Never can have too many Mark Teahens, right?
On the other hand, someone like Andruw Jones, who currently has a BABIP
of .206, has had below average BABIP for the last six seasons because he
just golfs fly balls for the fences every single time. So does Carlos
Quentin (career BABIP .249), and Jayson Nix (career BABIP .238). Alex
Rios (.320) and Mark Teahen (.326) do the opposite, and Brent
Lillibridge, .625 BABIP this season, is clearly enjoying the karmic
benefits of spending the winter rescuing homeless AIDS patients from
burning buildings. Sure he's been lucky, but it still seems like it should have taken more than Beckham getting on a hot streak for all of his PT to disappear.