CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
Premium Article The BP Broadside: New ... (04/12)
<< Previous Column
Divide and Conquer, NL... (04/05)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL... (04/19)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Painting the Black: Wh... (04/12)

April 12, 2011

Divide and Conquer, NL West

Catch as Catch Can

by Geoff Young

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Have you noticed the starting catchers in the NL West? Can you even name one of the starters other than Buster Posey?

Well, maybe you can, but I’d bet that most people can’t. And yet, collectively, this bunch has started the season strong (stats are through games of Sun., Apr. 10):

Player

Team

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

Rod Barajas

Dodgers

27

6

0

0

1

1

7

.222

.250

.333

Nick Hundley

Padres

25

11

2

1

2

3

7

.440

.517

.840

Chris Iannetta

Rockies

23

5

2

0

1

5

8

.217

.379

.435

Miguel Montero

Diamondbacks

26

13

3

0

2

3

4

.500

.552

.846

Buster Posey

Giants

32

9

0

0

1

4

8

.281

.361

.375

Total

133

44

7

1

7

16

34

.331

.411

.556

Ah, the joy of small sample sizes, where anything can happen. (And often does—how else are we to explain the unstoppable Willie Bloomquist?)

Barajas, as if to prove the point, has the weakest numbers among our heroes thanks to an 0-for-8 weekend in San Diego. He also is one of four active players (with a minimum of 100 career homers) to have at least 70 percent as many home runs as walks. Two of the four play for the Dodgers:

Player

HR

BB

HR/BB

Alfonso Soriano

317

385

.823

Marcus Thames

113

155

.729

Rod Barajas

110

157

.701

Miguel Olivo

110

127

.866

Just 25 players in MLB history have met these criteria. One is in the Hall of Fame. This is left as an exercise for the reader.

Other information of dubious value about Barajas:

  • Born 337 years to the day after Louis XIV of France; less a patron of the arts than Louis, but better at blocking balls in the dirt

  • Born 101 years to the day after Nap Lajoie; 63 years after composer John Cage; 46 years after Bob Newhart; 39 years after Bill Mazeroski; and 36 years after George Lazenby, “star” of Kentucky Fried Movie and the only Bond ever to bag Dame Diana Rigg

  • Would need to reach base in 72 consecutive plate appearances to raise his career OBP to .300

* * *

Hundley is similar to Barajas, but young enough that he has a chance to improve. John Dewan claims that players who slug far above their career norm in spring training stand a good chance of carrying that success into the regular season. I haven’t seen Dewan’s actual study or attempted to replicate it myself, but if true, this could bode well for Hundley, whose .756 SLG this spring dwarfed his career .398 SLG entering the 2011 season.

Hundley has always been able to turn on a fastball. His first home run this year–a blast into the left field upper deck at Petco Park–came off a Tim Lincecum 95 mph inside heater. Where Hundley has gotten into trouble is against breaking balls down and away.

An encouraging sign thus far, again bearing in mind the minuscule sample size, is that Hundley has hit some of those pitches hard the other way. Can he sustain his current approach and become a more complete offensive player? Will he be another data point in favor of Dewan’s theory? Check back in August.

* * *

Meanwhile, in Denver, Iannetta never has been able to build on the fine 2008 campaign that saw him hit .264/.390/.505 and hinted at the Mickey Tettleton of things to come. Iannetta’s 2010 was a disaster, but he’s still fairly young. In fact, here’s a fun exercise: consider the lines of two catchers through their age-27 seasons:

Player

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

HR%

BB%

SO%

A

1307

.234

.353

.435

.038

.131

.222

B

1085

.252

.345

.426

.032

.121

.205

Player A is Iannetta, player B is Jorge Posada. Acknowledging that Iannetta benefits from playing half his games at Coors Field and that most catchers don’t develop the way Posada did, this is nice company to keep.

As with Hundley, Iannetta is young enough to improve–probably not Posada good, but maybe a lesser Jason Varitek. Or, if you want to go back a few years, Mike Lieberthal or Todd Hundley. Or, to kick it way old school, Gus Triandos or Frankie Hayes.

* * *

Montero, Iannetta, and Nick Hundley all were born within five months of one another, in 1983. This doesn’t mean anything, but it’s a mildly interesting coincidence.

One area in which the left-handed hitting Montero struggled last year was against southpaws. That hasn’t been a problem in the early going this season (5-for-9, 2 2B, 1 HR). Montero hit .329/.356/.488 against lefties in 2009, so this may not be a fluke, although we’ll need more than seven games to make a proper determination.

Perhaps more importantly, the right knee that bothered Montero in 2010 is no longer an issue. Montero had surgery to repair a torn meniscus incurred while running to first base last April, and although he hit well in his initial return from the injury, he wore down as the season progressed and finished with pedestrian numbers.

On a personal note, I had surgery to repair a torn meniscus a couple of years ago. I still ice my knee most days even after just sitting, standing, and walking around. It boggles the imagination to think that Montero squats for the better part of three hours every night and then is expected to produce something on offense.

Our surgeries weren’t the same (he had a meniscectomy, I had a repair), our rehabs weren’t the same, he’s a good deal younger than I am, and obviously we’re in different lines of work... the point is, the next time you see Montero behind the dish, appreciate the man for the job he’s doing. He can’t keep up his current pace, but maybe he can become the player he looked like in the second half of 2009, when he hit .316/.366/.534.

* * *

Posey is the youngest catcher in the division and the one with true star potential. His main contribution this past week consisted in ruining Padres right-handerTim Stauffer’s Wednesday night. While Hundley was busy hitting a meaningless homer against Lincecum, Posey launched a two-run shot in the first off Stauffer that gave the Giants a 3-0 lead. Posey would drive home two more runs in the sixth inning of an eventual 8-4 victory that kept San Francisco from being swept at Petco Park.

Since I seem to be in list-making mode today, here’s a fun one. Six more-or-less full-time catchers (70 percent of games played at catcher, minimum 400 PA) have posted an OPS+ of 125 or higher at age 23:

Player

Team

Year

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS+

Joe Mauer

Twins

2006

608

.347

.429

.507

144

Gabby Hartnett

Cubs

1924

407

.299

.377

.523

138

Gary Carter

Expos

1977

595

.284

.356

.525

137

Matt Nokes

Tigers

1987

508

.289

.345

.536

133

Buster Posey

Giants

2010

443

.305

.357

.505

129

Thurman Munson

Yankees

1970

526

.302

.386

.415

126

Hartnett and Carter are in the Hall of Fame, and Mauer appears to be headed that way as well (assuming his own knees let him). Munson could have been in the discussion if not for his tragic death (Cooperstown’s treatment of catchers keeps me from giving a stronger endorsement–Ted Simmons sends his regards).

That leaves Nokes, who, like Posey was drafted by the Giants. Unfortunately, Nokes wasn’t much of a catcher and was traded for future Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, who could catch but not hit.

Posey is in heady company. If expectations are high, blame those who came before him. Nokes never duplicated his rookie success, but he represents the low end of the spectrum and ended up having a solid big-league career. Posey is a more complete player now than Nokes ever was, cause enough for excitement among Giants fans.

Posey’s main objective now–and a challenging one given his position–is to stay healthy. Come to think of it, that is a worthy objective for us all, regardless of occupation.

Related Content:  Nick Hundley,  Rod Barajas

2 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article The BP Broadside: New ... (04/12)
<< Previous Column
Divide and Conquer, NL... (04/05)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL... (04/19)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Painting the Black: Wh... (04/12)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article What You Need to Know: July 25, 2014
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Kendrys Redux
Premium Article Skewed Left: The Mismatched Incentives of Dr...
Premium Article Notes from the Field: What's Wrong With Appe...
Premium Article The Call-Up: Chris Taylor
Premium Article Raising Aces: Shelby Miller's Fall From Grac...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Bochy and Peavy, Back ...

MORE FROM APRIL 12, 2011
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Never Enough Pitching
Premium Article Painting the Black: Why Billy Beane's Sh*t M...
Premium Article The BP Broadside: New Age Mets Mass-a-cree
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: YOU Make the Call! Part I
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Picks at Catcher, Second...
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Get Your Phils
Fantasy Beat: Tout Wars FAAB Update

MORE BY GEOFF YOUNG
2011-05-03 - Divide and Conquer, NL West: A Tale of Two A...
2011-04-26 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: At Least We Don...
2011-04-19 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: And Then Kemp a...
2011-04-12 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: Catch as Catch ...
2011-04-05 - Divide and Conquer, NL West: I Am Almost Rea...
2011-03-29 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: New Beginnings ...
2011-03-22 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: Value Over Repl...
More...

MORE DIVIDE AND CONQUER, NL WEST
2011-05-03 - Divide and Conquer, NL West: A Tale of Two A...
2011-04-26 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: At Least We Don...
2011-04-19 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: And Then Kemp a...
2011-04-12 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: Catch as Catch ...
2011-04-05 - Divide and Conquer, NL West: I Am Almost Rea...
2011-03-29 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: New Beginnings ...
2011-03-22 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: Value Over Repl...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2011-04-19 - Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: And Then Kemp a...
2011-04-15 - What You Missed: 4/11-4/15