Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Catcher Project: Ivan Rodriguez

Born: 11-27-71
Career: 1991-present
Hall of Fame: Not eligible
Career highlights: AL MVP 1999. Regular catcher for two World Series teams, one of which won the title. Fourteen All-Star teams, 13 Gold Gloves. Holds career record for games caught.
Career slash line: .299/.336/.471

Games caught after age 30 season: 862 and counting. Age in last season as regular catcher: 37 and counting. Win shares after age 30 season: 109 and counting. Win shares after age 33 season: 28 and counting.

This may be a guideline of how much teams value defensive tools behind the plate: Pudge Rodriguez is pretty close to useless as a hitter now (his adjusted OPS hasn't been close to league average since 2006), but the Washington Nationals gave him a two-year contract at $3 million a year.

Rodriguez was worked fairly hard as a young player — 134 games caught at age 21, 127 at 23, 146 at 24, 143 at 25, 139 at 26, 141 at 27. Then the workload eased for a few years — 87, 106, 100 — and when he left Texas as a free agent after his age 30 season, there was little demand for his services. There was a sense that he was pretty much shot.

Not quite. His game revived in Florida and Detroit for three years. Now the bat has quieted, and he's now in the nomad phase of his career — two teams in 2008, two more in 2009, a fifth team this season. He is apparently driven by the desire to be the first catcher to get 3,000 hits — he has 2,711 — and he's still got the glove and the arm to get significant playing time.

But his bat hasn't deserved the PT since he was 34.

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