Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Three Catchers

What a game today! Finally beating Halladay after how many years of trying? I feel bad for the fans that missed that one (me)... So if you want to read about last night's game, may I suggest other fine sources.

Also, Josh Johnson is back with another fine article with some insights into next year.

No, instead of looking at the great game that I happened to miss, or focusing my thoughts on next year, I'm going to check out a concept that's been bugging me for awhile: Is there a tangible difference in how our pitchers fare depending on who's behind the plate?

Way back in Spring Training we heard that the Twins weren't sure if they were going to go with Morales or Butera to complement Redmond while Mauer was on the DL -- the argument being that Butera was a much better defensive catcher and that pitchers seemingly loved throwing to him. The assumption here, to me, was that they did not feel the same about Morales. Where his value obviously lay was with his bat, which went 4-4 in his major league debut and still seems to have plenty of zing in it today.

We all know that Mauer is a defensive whiz, and there were articles earlier in the year about how mature he is in going through pre-game meetings with his pitchers where he lays down the game-plan and so on.

But what about Redmond? Obviously his bat isn't what it once was, and it's certainly not at the level of Jose Morales these days, so why does Gardy continue to give him the nod over Morales on days when Mauer DH's or gets the day off? (Obviously, today's win against Halladay is not taken into account as Morales was the starting catcher. Finally.) My guess would be that his veteran presence and poise behind the plate is the plus over Morales ... but is this just in Gardy's head or do the numbers back it up?

In this analysis, obviously Mauer is the gold standard, but I'm including his numbers with each pitcher as a frame of reference. First -- the original 5:

Scott Baker
Mauer - 17 games and 435 batters: .229 BAA, 4.63 SO/BB ratio
Redmond - 7 games and 172 batters: .294 BAA, 3.20 SO/BB ratio
Morales - 3 games and 74 batters: .206 BAA, 2.50 SO/BB ratio
(Small sample size notwithstanding, Baker posts the highest batting average against him when Redmond is behind the plate, although his K-BB comes at a higher clip than Morales.)

Francisco Liriano
Mauer - 14 games and 344 batters: .275 BAA, 1.66 SO/BB ratio
Redmond - 5 games and 122 batters: .303 BAA, 3.13 SO/BB ratio
Morales - 4 games and 100 batters: .261 BAA, 2.44 SO/BB ratio
(Again, ditto. In both starter's cases, Cisco and Baker seem to post a better batting average against than even Mauer does.)

Kevin Slowey
Mauer - 10 games and 250 batters: .288 BAA, 4.17 SO/BB ratio
Redmond - 4 games and 91 batters: .295 BAA, 9.00 SO/BB ratio
Morales - 2 games and 53 batters: .423 BAA, 7.00 SO/BB ratio
(Morales and Slowey seems to not be on the same page. But this is a very limited sample size.)

Glen Perkins
Mauer - 11 games and 226 batters: .346 BAA, 1.92 SO/BB ratio
Redmond - 5 games and 135 batters: .248 BAA, 1.63 SO/BB ratio
Morales - 3 games and 62 batters: .271 BAA, 3.00 SO/BB ratio
(This skews things. Redmond's starts with Perk seem to fare better, although Perk just generally isn't a strikeout pitcher.)

Nick Blackburn
Mauer - 14 games and 385 batters: .312 BAA, 2.53 SO/BB ratio
Redmond - 10 games and 260 batters: .278 BAA, 1.54 SO/BB ratio
Morales - 5 games and 113 batters: .269 BAA, 1.43 SO/BB ratio
(Mauer seems to be the weak backstop here, although how he gets Contact Pitcher Blackburn's SO/BB ratio to climb is clever.)

And the replacement pitchers?

Brian Duensing
Mauer - 13 games and 175 batters: .240 BAA, 2.00 SO/BB ratio
Redmond - 5 games and 66 batters: .293 BAA, 1.38 SO/BB ratio
Morales - 1 game and 11 batters: .200 BAA, 1 K no walks
(Morales only caught Duensing in one game in the majors, but it was a beauty.)

Anthony Swarzak
Mauer - 9 games and 199 batters: .298 BAA, 1.86 SO/BB ratio
Redmond - 3 games and 69 batters: .349 BAA, 1.33 SO/BB ratio
(Morales hasn't caught Swarzak yet in the majors. But even though Swarzak hasn't exactly shined brightly in the majors, he did pitch his best with Mauer behind the plate and got lit up with Redmond back there.)

Jeff Manship
Mauer - 6 games and 65 batters: .263 BAA, 1.14 SO/BB ratio
Manship - 1 game and 10 batters: .556 BAA, 1 K, no walks.
(Small sample size, yes, but what a skew.)

Carl Pavano
Mauer - 5 games and 131 batters: .279 BAA, 4.00 SO/BB ratio
Redmond - 1 game and 29 batters: .192 BAA, 2.00 SO/BB ratio
(Redmond called a beautiful game the one time these two squared up.)

OK, so the numbers don't definitively prove everything here, but they are interesting. Slowey and Morales don't seem to have the greatest numbers together, neither do Swarzak, Liriano, Baker or Duensing when paired with Redmond.

And in the bullpen of many arms:

Joe Nathan
Mauer - 42 games and 162 batters: .169 BAA, 4.67 SO-BB ratio
Redmond - 6 games and 24 batters: .238 BAA, 2.33 SO-BB ratio
Morales - 9 games and 32 batters: .167 BAA, 5.50 SO-BB ratio
(Morales and Nathan rock when they team up. Red's numbers lag here, although it's hard to lag too much with the all-star on the mound.)

Matt Guerrier
Mauer - 46 games and 173 batters: .193 BAA, 6.20 SO-BB ratio
Redmond - 12 games and 44 batters: .275 BAA, 2.67 SO-BB ratio
Morales - 10 games and 41 batters: .158 BAA, 1.67 SO-BB ratio
(Again, Morales and Mauer both shine with Matty G, but Redmond, not as much.)

Jose Mijares
Mauer - 43 games and 155 batters: .206 BAA, 2.33 SO-BB ratio
Redmond - 11 games and 42 batters: .278 BAA, 1.50 SO-BB ratio
Morales - 5 games and 20 batters: .167 BAA, 3.00 SO-BB ratio

Jesse Crain
Mauer - 29 games and 127 batters: .257 BAA, 1.77 SO-BB ratio
Redmond - 12 games and 43 batters: .333 BAA, 1.50 SO-BB ratio
Morales - 3 games and 10 batters: .000 BAA, 3.00 SO-BB ratio
(Extremely limited sample size, but trend.)

Jon Rauch
Mauer - 1 game and 4 batters: .250 BAA, no K's or walks
Redmond - 3 games and 13 batters: .400 BAA, 1.00 SO-BB ratio
Morales - 1 game and 4 batters: .250 BAA, 2 K's no walks
(Extreme microcosm, but you see where this goes.)

Bobby Keppel
Mauer - 18 games and 118 batters: .245 BAA, 2.11 SO-BB ratio
Redmond - 8 games and 67 batters: .356 BAA, 1.14 SO-BB ratio
(Morales isn't a factor here, but if you take Keppel's line with Mauer only he really hasn't been that bad it seems.)

I'll spare you the rest of the many pitchers.

Ok, so it's tough to read too much into these numbers. Much of this falls on the pitcher's shoulders as well, but I used to do a bit of pitching myself when I was younger and I do believe there's something to be said for a certain connection between battery mates. Also, when a pitcher's numbers with one catcher in particular particularly skew, that could be kind of telling. 

My die-hard Yankee fan boss and I were talking just the other day about how pitchers hate pitching to Posada and that there's a noticeable difference in especially Burnett and Chamberlain's games when Jorge catches. I think there's at least a little something to this.

My main point is that at least on the surface level, there doesn't seem to be a downgrade on the whole when Morales is behind the plate versus Redmond. Even Mauer to some extent. Morales has been teaming up well with most of the pitchers on this staff, and in some cases, he's paired up better than Redmond has so far.
I love Red, and I think he is an invaluable clubhouse presence and veteran leader on this team. But it's not his bat that's keeping him in the lineup these days, and I don't think his game-calling is substantially better than Morales, so favoring him over youth at this point isn't really helping the team right now. I'd like to see Morales starting games where Mauer doesn't, as is backed up by today's showing against Halladay and the Jays.

That's my case.


  1. I really want Jose to be here next year. I love getting to see him play more often.

  2. Agreed! He seems like he could be in contention to be a starter even on some other teams!