Casey Kotchman. Casey Freaking Kotchman.
He is the meme that will not die. The Godwin's Law of DRaysBay. The one player on the 2011 Rays that has had the most words spilled over him and started the most online fights. The player that has thumbed his nose at us stat nerds and said, "Deal with it, egg heads."
And this does it. The well is dry. No more can possibly be said. Last night, Kotchman reigned supreme in St. Petersburg. His three hits matched what the rest of the eight men in the lineup produced, and he came through twice in the clutch to win the Rays the game. When he hit his walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth -- to dead centerfield, nonetheless! -- I felt the last shred of my resistance cave in. God dammit, I believe in the #Magic.
Screw the stats, screw the projections, screw all things logical -- some seasons need to be enjoyed and appreciated, not explained. For whatever the reason, the #Magic lives on with Kotch, and it's making for a heck of a ride. This is the best baseball that Kotchman has ever played in his life. Think about that: in his entire life. Baseball is his trade -- his job, which he's spent hours and hours working at over the years -- and right now we're witnessing him playing at the very peak of his abilities. As a fan and a fellow human, to not appreciate such a moment would be criminal.
There's a psychological concept called Flow, which suggests that people perform best when they are fully immersed in the task at hand. When they are challenged and pushed to the very edge of their abilities, but not beyond them. When they have a clear goal in mind and they receive prompt feedback on their actions. It's a rare state that people don't experience often, but when they do, they are the most productive they can possibly be and experience a huge overwhelming satisfaction in the work they are doing.
Casey Kotchman has been locked into his Flow all season long. He is focused in, making solid contact on every hittable ball thrown near him and driving balls recently with new-found authority.
Make it last, Kotch. Stay focused in. That batting title is oh, so close. And even if you fall just short, at least maybe you'll finally make your lone, largest detractor finally shut up.
Oh, and so you know, Jeremy Hellickson was ridiculous last night. I didn't get to watch him for the whole game, but for the part I did see, he looked good. Like, one of the best starts I've seen him throw this season.
His final line: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K.
But even that's misleading. Hellickson was locating pitches low in the zone, and he generated an insane 11 swinging strikes on his changeup alone (28% of his total changeups). Hellboy's location was on last night, and it's a shame the Rays' offense couldn't get him a "W".
And is it just me, or are people not fully appreciating Hellickson's season? His peripherals may suggest he hasn't pitched as well as his ERA, but still -- a 3.05 ERA over 125 IP is nothing to sneeze at. He's been quieter about his success than James Shields, but Hellickson is still putting quite the rookie year together.