September 04, 2009
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:
New York: 30%
Kansas City: 23%
Tampa Bay: 23%
Los Angeles: 22%
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.