September 04, 2009

Rod Barajas & Raul Chavez: The Belly Brothers

Looking ahead to 2010, because I really, really can't take much more of 2009, one of the more glaring holes to be filled is behind home plate. Rod Barajas and Raul Chavez, the Belly Brothers, are both free agents. The same goes for Michael Barrett, the forgotten man. And J.P. Arencibia isn't ready.

Rod the Bod will turn 34 on Saturday. He's just about done collecting his $2.5 million salary. Snap Throw Chavez will be 37 come next season, and a couple more paychecks remain on his $500K contract. As for Barrett ... let's be honest, nobody really gives a shit about him.

I'm torn on Barajas. His .272 on-base percentage induces vomiting. Yet he's driven in 60 runs, good for fourth on the team behind Adam Lind, Lighthouse Hill, and the departed Alex Rios. While I struggle to get up over a .695 OPS, Barajas does bring a 1.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to the table. Like I said: torn. So I did some homework.

The following are the average OPS+, from highest to lowest, at the catcher position for each American League team (only those players who played 30 or more games as catcher were included):

125 OPS+ Minnesota Twins; Joe Mauer & Mike Redmond
104 OPS+ Chicago White Sox; A.J. Pierzynski
101 OPS+ Cleveland Indians; Kelly Shoppach & Victor Martinez
99 OPS+ Oakland A's; Kurt Suzuki & Landon Powell
94 OPS+ New York Yankees; Jorge Posada & Jose Molina
92 OPS+ LA Angels; Mike Napoli & Jeff Mathis
90 OPS+ Kansas City; Miguel Olivo & John Buck
82 OPS+ Baltimore Orioles; Matt Wieters & Gregg Zaun
80 OPS+ Boston Red Sox; Jason Varitek & George OMG CANADIAN Kattaras
71 OPS+ Toronto Blue Jays; Barajas & Chavez
70 OPS+ Seattle Mariners; Kenji Johjima & Rob Johnson
69 OPS+ Texas Rangers; Jarrod Saltalamacchia & Taylor Teagarden
65 OPS+ Detroit Tigers; Gerald Laird
58 OPS+ Tampa Bay Rays; Dioner Navarro & Michel Hernandez

Some thoughts: Mauer isn't human. His OPS+ alone is 180 ... Pierzynski's carried the load in Chicago. Ramon Castro, his relief, has played only 23 games, so A.J.'s personal OPS+ of 104 stands alone as Chicago's average ... That number is bound to drop for the Tribe, as Martinez now plies his trade in Boston ... Kurt Suzuki's turned out to be a strong starting catcher ... Jorge Posada is going to Cooperstown ... Toronto has always been the rumoured destination for John Buck ... I wonder how patient Orioles fans will be with Wieters ... Varitek is finished ... Salty and Teagarden come through with the best names ... Laird needs a backup ... It's no wonder the Rays went out and acquired Zaun; Navarro and Hernandez are brutal.

The bottom line: only two of the top eight teams on that list are going to the playoffs - New York and LA. Employing catchers who can rake is merely a bonus.

The following is a list of American League teams who have been the most successful at throwing out potential base stealers:

Seattle: 40%
Toronto: 37%
Detroit: 35%
Oakland: 31%
New York: 30%
Texas: 29%
Minnesota: 25%
Chicago: 23%
Kansas City: 23%
Tampa Bay: 23%
Los Angeles: 22%
Baltimore: 22%
Cleveland: 19%
Boston: 14%

Some thoughts: Seattle, Toronto, Detroit, and Texas employ weaker hitting catchers, but with better throwing arms. And, presumably, pitchers who are quicker to the plate ... Oakland and New York have got the most balanced tandems ... Varitek's more than finished, I almost feel sorry for him. Almost.

The bottom line: only two of the top 10 teams on that list will be playing meaningful October baseball. One can only conclude that the catcher position is rather meaningless.

In all seriousness, the upcoming free agent class behind the plate is not impressive. At all. While it would be nice to have a #1 catcher who could get on base a few more times, the dynamic duo of Barajas and Chavez is not what ails the Toronto Blue Jays. Re-sign Barajas. By all accounts, he calls a good game. One year, $3 million, plus an option; much like the contract he signed back in 2008. Backup catchers are a dime a dozen. (Sorry, Raul.) Hell, bring back Zaun. There's something about that OBP of his.

The Blue Jays have much, much bigger problems. I'm going to stop fretting over this one.

UPDATE: Mission Doc is dead. I'm unable to make it down to the Dome for tonight's Joba Chamberlain vs. Roy Halladay tilt, but I'll be live blogging the game for your enjoyment at The Score. Check the ticker - my Twitter account - for the links later today. It's a 7:07 PM start.


"Dave Schultz" said...

you can't have Zaun back. What is the OPS for Zaun/Navarro? Gotta be much higher than with Hernandez.

Ian H. said...

Nice research, my friend! Having a power-hitting catcher or a catcher that hits for average is a luxury. There are so few elite five-tool catchers that the market is very small, and most of them are locked up in contracts.

No one ever really expects power from their catcher, but Barajas and Chavez have done a pretty good job. Bring back Chavez for sure, and maybe one other.

William said...

Great analysis. And you have an excellent conclusion. Great piece.

Hey, you need to write a piece on Lind. Despite a tough 2009 for the Jays, Lind is in the top five in the AL in OPS and OPS+. Need to give him some love.

The Ack said...

If you can get Barajas on that kind of deal, then by all means.....but I think Rod the Bod will be looking for a multi-year deal - one last big payout.

If that's the case, does your opinion change? 2-$6M? 3-$8M? I wouldn't do it. That's the kind of deal they offered Johnny Mac, and now it seems ridiculous.

Hope Arencibia turns the corner and bring in a one-year stopgap, bring back Chavez to fill the same role. That's what I'd do.

eyebleaf said...

@ Schultzy: But I want Zaun back!1 With T-Bay, in 18 games, Zaun's OPS+ is a solid 129, so it's definitely higher, when teamed with the useless Navarro (how the fuck did he make the all-star team last year?). On the season he's got a .355 OBP. Love that shit. I've got a thing for OBP. It's official.

@ Ian: Respect bro. I'm quite enamored by Mauer. He's insane. The best. Catcher is a tough, tough position. I'd be down for another season of the Belly Brothers. At the right price.

@ William: The conclusion is key. And you're right about Lind; he has arrived. And we have been focusing on the negative a lot. It's all about Adam and Lighthouse. They deserve some love.

@ The Ack: It's going to be interesting to see what Rod asks for. You're right; this could be his last pay day. I think I'd be OK with 2 years, $6 million. Then there's no option involved. I'd much rather do a 1-year, even $3.5 million, plus an option based on games. Say 130. Then the option kicks in. If he stays healthy, we know what we're getting with him. Thinking of the Johnny Mac deal makes me think they shouldn't go 2 years; definitely not three. (Speaking of PMoD, do you bring him back? Fuck.) If Arencibia doesn't work out, we're fucked.

Jeremy said...

I'd bring him back on a two-year deal, which I think is the best he'd get on the open market anyway. The .275-or-so OBP is a nightmare, but he packs a bit of punch with it. Plus, he throws out runners, though that may have something to do with McGowan and A.J. not being around this year. Overall, he's serviceable until Arencibia is ready...

Drew - LtB said...

Varitek hasn't been that bad this year. 22 2B, 14 HRs, .327 OBP, .745 OPS, 88 OPS+

Rod the Bod:

16 2B, 16 HR, .272 OBP, .695 OPS, 80 OPS+

Not worth the extra 6 or 7 million, but not so terrible.

eyebleaf said...

@ Jeremy: Overall, he's serviceable until Arencibia's ready.

I can't argue with that. I can only hope to God that Arencibia's the real deal. The catcher position scares me. All I think about is Guillermo Quiroz, Kevin Cash, and Curtis Thigpen.

@ Drew: You're right about 'Tek. He's certainly bounced back from a poor 2007. He walks, that's what he's got going for him. I just enjoy hating on him. Love the fact that since the arrival of V-Mart, he's no longer an everyday player. It's irrational hatred, b/c Tek sitting on the bench more often means the Red Sox are a better team.

Ian H. said...

Oddly enough, MLBTR did a post earlier today about free-agent catchers. One of Chavez' big weaknesses is that he CANNOT draw walks (just three to be exact). His .271 is pretty good, but that .287 OBP could use a boost.

Johnny G said...

Good lord... of all the games to miss in Mission Doc....

bkblades said...

I don't know, I think I would rather have back Raul Chavez than Rod Barajas on a multi-year deal. But I guess that depends on how much offence the Jays will rely on from the catcher spot. If the 5-9 spots are going to be black holes again, then offensive contributions from the backstop is pretty important. However, if the Jays can bring a solid middle of the order bat, get good production from SS, 3rd, and CF, I think I prefer a strong defensive presence than a marginally better masher from catcher.

eyebleaf said...

@ Ian: I think that's what I like so much about Zaun; his ability to get on base via the walk.

@ JohnnyG: Imagine Pena didn't get that hit...

@ BK: I'm taking Barajas over Chavez. I have to. Rod's younger, and he's done it as a number one. I believe this is one of Snap Throw's busiest seasons, if not busiest. He's decent, but nothing more than a back up. And they're a dime a dozen.