Kotchmania Runs Wild One More Time At Progressive Field

Casey Kotchman

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Casey Kotchman is an All-Star caliber player. I’m also not going to tell you that First Base is a position where offense doesn’t matter. But I will tell you that I have an appreciation for the guy that most others don’t.

Yesterday afternoon’s series finally with the Minnesota Twins was won by a Kotchman bases loaded RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning. He had three hits and drove in two runs to help the Indians avoid a series sweep at the hands of the team they are fighting with to stay out of the AL Central basement.

Kotchman’s numbers this season have been a disappointment, no doubt. He is hitting just .231/.285/.627 (all below his career averages) with 12 homers and 53 RBIs. These are coming off a .306/.378/.800 campaign in Tampa Bay. While the Indians tried desperately this offseason to find themselves a first baseman, their search dragged into February as they continued to swing and miss on choice after choice. In the end, they ended up with Kotchman, a high on-base percentage, gold glove type of player. It wasn’t exactly a signing that would register with fans or even move the needle in the MLB circles, but this is who they ended up with.

Looking back, while his offense has been worse than what we had hoped it would be, his glove has been better than advertised. In the clubhouse he is a well respected and liked veteran who does his best to lead by example. I still maintain that the Kotchman signing would have worked out better if the rest of the lineup that GM Chris Antonetti constructed did their jobs up to their ability. If Kotchman is batting eighth or ninth and playing this kind of defense, nobody would care about his offensive numbers.

However, the struggles of Carlos Santana, the inability of Shin-Soo Choo to hit lefties, the second half slowdowns from Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis, the absolute zero they have gotten from the third base position, and the injuries to Lonnie Chisenhall, Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore (yeah, I said it) have you wondering how the Indians could have a first baseman with such little pop.

As for next year, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Kotchman back in Wahoo Red, White, and Blue.

“I’d like to come back,” said Kotchman. “Unfortunately, I didn’t keep up my end of the bargain.”

Guys who did keep up their ends of the bargain yesterday were the back end of the bullpen crew. Corey Kluber went six innings giving up three runs on five hits. Manager Manny Acta then turned to the future of the Tribe pen, Cody Allen and Vinnie Pestano to hold the Twins at bay in a tie game. Both set up men did their jobs to get the ball to closer Chris Perez, who hasn’t been seen much lately considering the Indians aren’t playing many close games late. It looked as if Pure Rage would be on the hook for a loss in the ninth as Chris Herrmann took a pitch deep to right field with a man on. Vinny Rottino fought the sun the entire way and then made a leaping grab at the fence that saved at least a double. Perez would get out of the inning unscathed.

Esmil Rogers, one of the few bright spots in this season of cloudy skies, pitched a 1-2-3 10th, setting the stage for Kotchman’s heroics in the bottom of the frame.

“It was nice to see those four power arms,” Acta said, “back-to-back-to-back-to-back to shut them down at the end and give us an opportunity to win the game.”

Choo, pinch hitting for Rottino, doubled to start the inning. Kipnis moved him over to third base. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire then intentionally walked both Santana and Michael Brantley to get to Kotchman, who delivered the game winner.

“We felt good with Casey up there,” said Acta. “He was smoking the ball all day.”

So now the Indians hit the road for their last trip of the season. It is a six-gamer that starts tonight in Kansas City.

(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

  • boomhauertjs

    Choo actually got a clutch hit. People in Boston or New York are going to hate him next year when he continually fails in key situations.

  • mgbode

    or Texas. Boston will sign Hamilton for ridiculous money and Texas will panic and overpay us from their rich farm system for Choo.

    (at least that’s what I am hoping :) )

  • mgbode

    as for Kotchman. I didn’t mind the signing then and wouldn’t mind bringing him back. there is just a dearth of decent hitting 1B on the FA market so we might as well lockup the 1B spot defensively.

    though, I am still intrigued by the idea of moving Asdrubal to 1B and finding a slick fielding SS where it will help the team more (but not sure Asdrubal would be willing)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    LOL

  • Larry

    It was a bad signing and his performance demonstrated why Tampa was willing to let a .300 hitter who is a good fielder go. It is evident watching him swing the bat that 2011 was an aberration. Minimal power, can’t hit lefties, more likely to hit into a double play than drive in a run and very slow on the bases. With the players returning next year, you cannot bring back a left hand hitting first baseman with little power or ability to drive in runs. He is unable to even hit the ball hard on a consistent basis, the majority of his hits being grounders and flares into the outfield.

  • TNB

    I dont see why they dont keep Kotchman. The guy is good defensively on the corner and as much as people say his 2011 season was an ‘aberration’, Id argue his 2012 season is just as well.

    There isnt anyone else really able to play 1b, so you alternate Santana to 1b on days the Tribe faces lefties, to get him a break from behind the plate, or even rotate Kotchman in on DH/PH/D.Replacement in multiple scenarios. If a guy like him can sign onto the team for cheap, we’d have a good dollar spent on our hands, which is what the Tribe needs right now.

  • http://twitter.com/llamaluvr Keith Kurak

    I don’t get why everyone says his defense is good enough to make up for his horrible offense numbers. He has a negative dWAR. Even if you discount that , there’s no way a first baseman can be so good defensively that it makes up for him batting worse than Omar Vizquel in an off-year. He has had one of the worst seasons of any Indians player during my almost 30 years on this earth. I’m not saying don’t resign him, but for heavens sakes please stop playing him immediately.

  • Dan

    casey is one of the best defensive first basemen in the past 15-20 years in all of major league baseball. He obviously had a down year with his bat, but if you put anyone else out there in the first base position, the quality of the team defense will no doubt go down.

  • Dan

    Your defense would SUCK without him out there on the field. You may be in last place at the moment, but Casey has been a huge contributor in minimizing the defensive damage!