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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Your catcher should not be one of your better hitters.

Yogi Berra transitioned to OF
Wikimedia Commons
Conventional wisdom in recent years has been that a team has an advantage if it has good offensive production from a defensive position, generally one up the middle: catcher, shortstop, second base, center field.  The Yankees since 1996 are used as an example: Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Bernie Williams.

However, that only helps if the team has big boppers at the corners, otherwise it's just shifting it's offense.

I now think that it's a mistake to pay too much money to a catcher.  The Jorge Posada model is outdated.

Data derived from baseball-reference.com

Tuesday, November 26, 2013  Brian McCann: is he worth $17 million for each of the next five years?

My general view is that you don't want one of your better hitters to be your catcher because you will over pay for a player who will get hurt or will be rested to prevent him from being hurt even more than he is rested.  I think that the optimal thing is to have two catchers of about equal value and have them split the catching duties.

Here are the catchers to simply play enough to qualify for leadership in averages, which is only 502 plate appearances (PA) in order by OPS+:


201120122013
AvilaPoseyMauer
SantanaMauerPosey
MolinaMolinaSantana
McCannMonteroMolina
MonteroSantanaLucroy
WietersPierzynskiPerez
SuzukiEllisMartin
BuckWietersPierzynski
OlivoWieters

No more than nine in any season and only three qualified each of the three seasons:
Yadier Molina  StL
Carlos Santana Cle
Matt Wieters Bal
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I decided to look at the other fielding positions.


Pos201120122013
G
C98950%
1B20192250%
2B18201750%
SS18161750%
3B11172050%
LF1411875%
CF19181375%
RF20151675%

I used the baseball-reference.com default of 50% of games at the position but I noticed some overlap among the outfielders so I ran those numbers again using 75%.

With the lone exception of left filed in 2013 for the last three seasons catchers have by far the fewest plate appearances (PA) and games.

Using common sense we can figure that a player will have four (PA) per game.  If we divide the required 502 PA by four we get 112 games needed to qualify for leading in batting average, etc.  That's a very low threshold.  It's only 69% of the 162 scheduled games.

That actually fits well with my suggestion that teams use two catchers.  The ideal would be one catcher who hits lefty getting 70% of the games and another catcher who hits righty getting the remaining 30%.

The problem is that teams are paying full time salaries for part time players.  For $17 million the Yankees can get a really good full time player or a really good starting pitcher.  The Giants will be paying Buster Posey $21 million per season as he ages.  The Twins have been paying Joe Mauer $23 million and Mauer will transition to first base in 2014 and get that same pay for several more years.  It's nuts.

Supposedly teams pay about 40% of their payroll to pitchers, 60% to non-pitchers.  If the Yankees get their 2014 payroll down from $246 million to $180 million in 2014 then 60% of that would be $108 million for non-pitchers.  Let's divide that by nine to allow for substitutes.  We get $12 million per player.

So if the Yankees pay Brian McCann $17 million, then they will need to pay significantly less to at least one other position.  The Yankees already have these commitments:
Cano?

And more.  Obviously paying a lot for a 30 year old catcher who has not had those 502 PA since 2011 is silly but it's silly for all teams, even for a young catcher who will age quickly.  In addition, teams are becoming much more concerned about concussions, especially for catchers who absorb most of that type of physical abuse in baseball.


On August 19 Joe Mauer got a single and double in four at bats against the Mets in Minneapolis.  Mauer caught the entire game.  He had 508 plate appearances (PA), more than the 502 required to lead a "league" in an average statistic like batting average (BA).  Mauer's BA was .324.  Mauer's BA is still .324.  That's because Joe Mauer has not played since August 19 and will not play again this season...

In that final game against the Mets Joe Mauer was hit in the head twice by foul balls.  Mauer sustained a concussion.

Austin Romine of the Yankees had his season end the same way but since he is not among the leaders in any batting stat most fans are not aware of his fate.
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