Monday, July 6, 2015

Contemplating the catcher situation

Kurt Suzuki's hitting
has fallen off sharply
from 2014, when
he was named to
the All-Star team.
The Twins played the first half of the season with just two catchers, regular Kurt Suzuki and backup Chris Herrmann. They haven't hit at all -- Suzuki's OPS+ is 65, which means he's 35 percent below league average, and Herrmann's OPS+ is 43, or 57 percent below average.

Still, there seems little indication that anything is going to change in this arrangement. Josmil Pinto, the only other catcher currently on the 40 man roster, was sidelined weeks ago by a concussion and is just starting to resume baseball activities, specifically catching in the bullpen.

And Eric Fryer, who had callups in both 2013 and 2014, is going to play for Team USA in the Pan Am Games, which begin next weekend in Canada and runs through July 19. Presumably the organization would not have given Fryer permission to leave the Rochester club for that purpose if they were thinking about bringing him back to replace Herrmann on the roster.

My guess is that if something were to happen during Fryer's absence that required a catcher callup and Pinto isn't ready that they'd turn to Stuart Turner, the No. 1 catcher for the Double A Chattanooga Lookouts. He can't hit either (.189 in Double A), but he wouldn't be an embarrassment behind the dish.

Ron Gardenhire
was more apt to
play Chris Herrmann
in the outfield than
at catcher, but
Paul Molitor has
used Herrmann
strictly behind the plate.
Suzuki, obviously, gets the bulk of the playing time. He's fourth in the American League in innings caught. less than two innings behind Russell Martin of Toronto but trailing Salvador Perez of Kansas City and Mike Zunino of Seattle by wider margins.

Herrmann plays only when Suzuki gets a day off. Herrmann caught the Saturday night game against a right-handed starter and Suzuki caught the Sunday day game against a lefty. That took advantage of one of Herrmann's defining traits: He hits left handed. Given his decent minor league numbers, I think he could be a reasonably productive hitter if he got more frequent playing time against right-handers, but about a third of his plate appearances have come against lefties. Such is the lot of the backup catcher.

Herrman has had more success throwing out basestealers than Suzuki has. Herrmann's caught stealing rate, 33 percent, is pretty much a match for the league average, while Suzuki's is just 21 percent.

There have been 21 wild pitches with Suzuki behind the plate and two passed balls charged to him. Herrmann has not been charged with a passed ball and been unable to block nine wild pitches. Suzuki has 0.36 WP+BP per nine innings, Herrmann 0.49. That's a wider difference than I would have guessed.


  1. I'm wondering if Carlos Paulino should be in the conversation. While he seems like a journeyman- when I saw him in Chattanooga he looked like a solid receiver with an absolute gun for an arm.

  2. The most overrated aspect of playing catcher is throwing arm.