Has Kotsay Filled Andruw's Shoes?
was. Did I look at Kotsay last night and think "Gee, I wish you were more like Andruw"? Not really. Do I think Kotsay has filled his shoes as well as anyone could? Absolutely.
Let's start with offense. Andruw's line in 2007 read like this: .222/.311/.413. So far in 2008, Andruw's line isn't any better at .167/.274/.259. Kotsay on the other hand is coming in at a more respectable .241/.313/.414. When you break it down, Kotsay is doing far better against left-handed pitchers and at home. He's batting .300/.364/.600 against lefties, but a mere .179/.258/.214 against righties. At home, he's .333/.407/.500, while he was .176/.243/.353 on the road. Here's one of my favorite stats: late innings in close games, he's .667 at home. Basically, I think he got out to a solid start during the first two homestands and then was silent at the plate on the road (which was unfortunately true for more than just him). The bottom line is that he's doing better than Andruw did at the plate last year, and better than he's doing at this point in 2008.
Now for the tougher comparison: centerfield. (Cue the song "Centerfield", which popped in my head while I was writing this post). I firmly believe that Andruw may be one of the greatest centerfielders of all time. That being said, I think Kotsay has done as good a job as anyone could replacing the great Andruw. He's far exceeded my expectations for him. Out of 41 total chances, he's racked up 39 putouts. He's also had a couple of assists and, most importantly, no errors. I recall two instances this season when he gunned down a runner at the plate, displaying a far more accurate and powerful arm than I'd expected from him.
During Braves FanFest, Teixeira said of Kotsay, "When Mark Kotsay is healthy, he's just as good as Andruw Jones. So we're really not missing a beat." I think most people thought Teixeira was crazy at that point. We'd all heard about all of Kotsay's physical woes, if we'd heard of Kotsay at all. He wasn't the flashy, big-name centerfielder that creates buzz in a new town. But flash and buzz mean nothing in the end. At the end of the day, it's what a player can do on the field, and Mark Kotsay has proven that he's an asset to the Braves and that he can fill the hole left by Andruw's absence.
With Andruw back in town for the first time, it seems like the right time to take a look at Kotsay's performance so far and compare it to our former star. As last season began, I was panic-stricken at the idea of Andruw being gone. By the end of the season, I was ready to book his airfare out of town, although any time you lose a long-time player it's bittersweet.
So, here we are 16 games into 2008 and Andruw has returned home - only this time he's out on the field in a Dodgers uniform. Is it good to see his smiling face again? Yes. Do I miss him? Well, I miss what he