Thursday, October 27, 2016

The World Series catchers

Having commented Wednesday on Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez, I can't help but note the oddities of the two teams' rosters regarding the position.

The Indians have now played 10 games in the postseason. Perez has caught every inning. His backup: Yan Gomes, who had been the starter until he wrecked his knee July 17. Gomes returned at the end of the season, finishing a couple games and starting a third -- and even hitting a home run. Chris Gimenez, who had shared the catching chores with Perez after the Gomes injury, isn't on the World Series roster.

The Indians also have two other experienced catchers on the roster. Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli split first base and designated hitter chores. I believe both are ex-catchers in the same way Joe Mauer is, meaning that they're not going back behind the plate, period. Unlike Mauer, neither man was ever a good defensive catcher anyway.

So the Indians this year have gone from:

  • catching Gomes as often as possible (54 starts in their first 71 games) to
  • alternating between Perez and Gimenez to
  • catching Perez every game with Gomes available.

The Cubs, at least in theory, have four catchers on their World Series roster: David Ross, who serves as Jon Lester's personal catcher; Kyle Schwarber, added to the roster to be the designated hitter in the Cleveland games; Miguel Montero, who Baseball Reference lists as the Cubs No.1 catcher during the regular season; and rookie Willson Conteras, who came up in mid-June and started 37 games behind the plate and 13 in the outfield.

Conteras hasn't completely shoved Montero aside. The Cubs have played 12 games so far in the post season. Ross has started five -- the five games Lester started. Conteras has started five, and Montero two. Schwarber's return to action is probably limited to hitting; it's remarkable enough that he's back to do that.

Part of why the Cubs can afford to carry four catchers is the remarkable positional flexibility of Joe Maddon's roster. Conteras can play outfield for him, so he's a catcher plus. And, of course, calling Schwarber a catcher is a bit like calling David Ortiz a first baseman. He's a catcher in theory. He's more likely to play outfield, and he's not likely to do that either, at least not in this series.

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