Those portending disaster for the Brewers while Ryan Braun was forced to sit out with an inflamed tendon in his leg weren’t exactly going out on a limb. Braun has been arguably the Brewers’ best player this season, and his loss meant the insertion of Mark Kotsay into the lineup in his stead — that same Mark Kotsay who suffered an 0-for-16 stretch and had both OBP and SLG numbers below .320 before the Minnesota series.
The Brewers managed to go 4-4 over the eight games Braun missed, including one against the Twins, three against the Diamondbacks, and four against the Reds — decent competition, all-in-all. And they really couldn’t have done it without Mark Kotsay. The 35-year-old hit a robust .385/.407/.692 (AVG/OBP/SLG), socked two homers, and was of course responsible for one walk-off hit and another game-tying hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. His Win Probability Added for that stretch? A whopping 1.294 WPA over the eight games, a mark that even withstands the two game-changing errors he made in the series finale against Minnesota and series opener against Cincinnati respectively. Basically, Kotsay was a full game and change better than the average player in just eight games, a stunning mark.
Overall, Kotsay’s WAR on the season still sits at a depressing -0.2, a reminder of just how horrible, terrible, and very bad he was to open the year. His overall batting line of .263/.326/.350 is not very good and probably won’t be much better by the end of the season. However, his WPA on the season sits at +0.49, which means, at least at the plate, his contributions have been a net positive not only against the abstract replacement player but against a much more tangible idea of average.
It’s not Mark Kotsay’s fault that he isn’t a very good hitter anymore. He just isn’t. And it was on Doug Melvin to understand that before he signed Kotsay to a Major League deal. Ron Roenicke has done his best to put Kotsay in the best situations to succeed — 163 PA vs. right handed pitching against just 12 vs. left handers — and Kotsay has managed to put his best foot forward when it matters most, delivering in the clutch and as an injury relpacement. And really, when it comes to players like Mark Kotsay, that’s all we can ask for.