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Why "be quiet" might be the best advice for backstops.

Catchers’ contributions, more so than those of players at any other position, defy—or at least strongly resist—quantification. We’ve long had a handle on backstops’ ability to prevent stolen bases, block pitches in the dirt, and field batted balls. But that’s the low-hanging fruit and, unfortunately, a little less juicy than the revelations hiding on the higher branches.

We have made major strides in assessing receiving, which was almost impossible (statistically) before PITCHf/x, though some aspects of that skill remain tough to untangle. But there are still some significant unknowns. Game-calling, of course. Defensive positioning. And the nebulous, but probably important, art of “working with pitchers,” which can encompass everything from recognizing when a guy is gassed to knowing how and when to boost a batterymate’s confidence. (Confidence, of course, is another intangible quality, although if Gabe Kapler is correct, “there isn’t a factor more responsible for success.”)

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Erik Kratz is having a weird and wonderful season. Here is everything you need to know about Kratz, and several more things besides.

Last year was one heckuva year for individual storylines. Tom Wilhelmsen and Steve Delabar returned from retirements to make impressive big-league debuts in the Mariners' bullpen. Jerome Williams did a poor-man’s Ryan Vogelsong act. Ryan Vogelsong just did the regular-man's Ryan Vogelsong act. A dog played first base. Crazy year.

This year’s best stories have been mostly about teams: Orioles, Pirates, A’s. Lew Ford is a story, but more weird than inspiring. Tom Wilhelmsen is I guess still a story, because of how good he is now, but the backpacking-through-Europe part of it is no longer fresh. Miguel Gonzalez, whose comeback from injuries took him through the Mexican League, and who wears a glove given to him by former teammate Nick Adenhart, is certainly a good story. But the best story, I submit, is in Philadelphia. 

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