Inside Edge: Loney/Kotchman power analysis

Inside Edge is the premier provider of scouting services and information to MLB clubs, media and others. Here’s their analysis of James Loney and Casey Kotchman:

JAMES LONEY - CASEY KOTCHMAN POWER ANALYSIS

•  Both Loney and Kotchman hit most of their home runs on fastballs, although Loney is more than twice as likely to go deep on a breaking pitch:

Loney / Kotchman scouted home runs (2006-2008)
 
Loney
Kotchman

Fastballs

64% (14 HR)
80% (20 HR)
Curve / Slider
27% (6 HR)
12% (3 HR)
Changeup / Other
9% ( 2 HR)
8% (2 HR)

•  First basemen in the power-hitting top tier (Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Carlos Peña, Mark Teixeira for example) hit at least as many home runs in pitcher’s counts as in hitter’s counts. Loney has shown the ability to hit home runs in any count, while Kotchman is more likely to flash power on mistake pitches when ahead:

Percentage of Home Runs by group count
 
Hitter’s Counts
Pitcher’s Counts
First Pitch / Even
Loney (2006-08)
23%
50%
27%
Kotchman (2005-08)
48%
12%
40%

•  Home runs almost always come on well-hit line drives and fly balls. When Loney puts a well-hit ball in play, 76 percent are hit in the air. Kotchman’s flyball percentage on well-hits is 71 percent, and this tendency to hit more groundballs suppresses his home run numbers:

•  When they hit the ball hard in the air, it’s usually to the pull side::

Location of well-hit flyballs
 
Left Side
Middle of Field
Right Side
Loney (2006-08)
26%
26%
49%
Kotchman (2005-08)
24%
24%
52%

•  In order to better understand the factors that predict power, we analyzed performances of first basemen between 2002 and 2007 (minimum 300 PA’s in season). Two skills are significantly associated with hitting for power: plate coverage and strikeout tendency. The best hitters have few holes in their swings, and strikeouts correlate with hitting for power. First basemen with good-to-elite power (25-plus home runs) combine above average plate coverage with below average strikeout tendency. This table compares Loney’s and Kotchman’s grades to those of a composite power-hitting first baseman (letter grades based on major league averages):

Key Skills Report Card
 
Plate Coverage
Strikeout Tendency
Loney
B
A
Kotchman
B-
A-
Power 1B Profile*
B
C

•  First basemen who are big-time home run hitters typically miss on 25 to 30 percent of swings, which is more than double Kotchman’s (12 percent) and Loney’s (13 percent) miss rates. Based on their profiles, neither seems likely to develop into a prolific power bat in the next couple of years. However, Loney (age 24) and Kotchman (25) are relatively young, and power skills often improve in the late 20’s and early 30’s.

*First basemen with good-to-elite power (25+ home runs)