When the Brewers signed Mark Kotsay to a Major League contract this offseason, I was reassured by some that he wouldn’t make the team. I convinced myself that the Brewers were too smart an organization to actually give this corpse of a player plate appearances at the highest level of baseball.
Of course, I was wrong. Here we are, two and a half months into the season, and Mark Kotsay has 141 plate appearances. As if the last 1500 or so since 2006 weren’t enough, over which time Kotsay compiled minus-2.0 wins above replacement, Kotsay has gone on to post a -0.5 WAR this season. He’s hitting .236/.312/.283. He’s too old and slow to play good defense. There are no positives.
One has to imagine the Kotsay issue will be coming to a head soon. His 0-for-15 slump became and 0-for-16 slump Wednesday afternoon when he grounded out against Kyle Farnsworth to end the game, representing the tying run. To make matters worse, Kotsay wasn’t simply pinch-hitting for the pitcher’s spot, he was pinch-hitting for Jonathan Lucroy, a real-live MLB hitter, with a .275/.319/.428 line on the season.
To make matters worse, at least in the eyes of some, was the fact that Kotsay went down swinging at the first pitch, a veritable taboo in late-game trailing situations. Personally, though, I find it hard to blame a hitter for swinging at this pitch (image from Brooks Baseball):
No, the problem isn’t Mark Kotsay’s discipline, and it never has been. His 10% walk rate is excellent, and his 14% strikeout makes him one of the better contact hitters on the team. The problem is that Mark Kotsay cannot hit the baseball hard. He hasn’t produced any power to speak of. He tends to beat the ball into the ground. He doesn’t have speed. And, as already mentioned, he can’t field. The problem is that Mark Kotsay cannot hit that pitch. Mark Kotsay can’t hit the hanging slider, right down the middle. The pitch every hitter waits for.
Mark Kotsay isn’t lost at the plate. He just no longer has the skills necessary to do anything with the copious amount of contact he makes, and as a result, there’s little reason to believe that 0-for-16 won’t become 0-for-17 next time this situation is faced.