If you’re super into quantifying the myriad ways that catchers contribute to a baseball team while playing defense, then it’s been a pretty neat month for you. A few weeks back, Mike Fast over at Baseball Prospectus published a study that examines how catchers frame pitches, who’s better at it than others, and how this can add or take away runs from a team. It’s a really great article with pictures and video and everything. You should read it. You should read it and satiate that gnawing hunger you have in your heart that craves defensive catcher statistics. All full on that, you should then rest a while and wait for the hunger to return, because I’m about to link to yet another article that tackles this very same subject, and it would be a huge waste to take it all it at once. You’ve got to pace yourself with a lifestyle such as yours. You weirdo.
Now that you’re mentally prepared and this stupid joke has run its course, Bojan Koprivica dropped an article this morning over at the Hardball Times, taking a look at catchers blocking pitches—who’s really good at it and who’s really bad at it. The methodology and research are pretty incredible, same as the Fast article, and baseball nerds the world over should all rejoice that some really smart people are finally starting to crack into this very noisy and complicated area of player analysis. Believe it, I am rejoicing, but I’m also quite taken by the results of these two studies. More specifically, how these studies both conclude that just about every recent Mariner catcher really sucks.
When it comes to framing pitches for the last 5 years, Miguel Olivo (-2 runs), Rob Johnson (-25 runs), and Kenji Johjima (-33 runs) all rank squarely in the below-average, not-good, cost-the-team-runs tier. As far as blocking pitches goes, Olivo ranks 3rd worst since 2008, out-crapped by only Jorge Posada, and (you guessed it!) Rob Effin Johnson. This kind of makes me sad, because Rob Johnson has had like 43 knee surgeries over the course of his career and seems to be a really good guy who really wants to succeed in the big leagues. It’s never fun when nice people suck at their jobs, but in this case, Rob Johnson sucks at his job. And even though he’s only been in Seattle for a small sample of this study, Miguel Olivo kind of does too. Of course, these are just two early studies that are only beginning to scratch the surface of this whole catcher defense thing, and many other skills that catchers are said to have (calling pitches, handling a staff mentally and so on) haven’t even been looked at—but still, the early numbers are in, and they’re not good. So this is all very great news for Mariners fans! All this, and I haven’t even mentioned what these guys have done with the bat—something I’m not going to do, because (spoiler alert) they aren’t very good at hitting either.
When I think about Mariners catchers being bad at these things, I can’t help but think of Mariners pitchers, and mostly about Felix Hernandez, because he’s the best one who I like the most. Felix throws pitches that move and break and sometimes end up in the dirt, and he’s very good at it. I wonder how many runs have scored that didn’t need to because of this all this ridiculousness, and I don’t care for it. I don’t care for it at all. I’ve decided that in the future, Mariners catchers should be better at framing pitches and blocking pitches in the dirt. They should get more called strikes and allow less runners to advance on the basepaths and score unnecessary runs. It would make them a lot happier, I bet. It would also make myself and Felix Hernandez a lot happier. It would be like a win-win-win.