Monday, October 8, 2012

The Great Catcher Debate


One of the biggest debates amongst the fan base this winter will be what the White Sox should do about their catching situation. There will be the AJ Pierzynski loyalists, who after seeing their favorite catcher have a career year at the plate, will want to see him return on another multi-year deal. Then there is the other side, which doesn't necessarily dislike Pierzynski, but is willing to see the faults of keeping an aging catcher who just had a career year and isn't likely to be any better in the future.

Oh, and then there are the other aspects of catching besides hitting. Yes, the way he handles a pitching staff and his ability behind the plate. As South Side Sox points out, Pierzynski's defensive ability behind the plate puts him on the same level as some of the worst defensive catchers in the game.

All those passed balls and wild pitches with Pierzynski behind the plate this season? Yeah, you can't just blame the pitchers. Then there's Tyler Flowers, who I think even the most ardent Pierzynski supporters have to admit the vastly superior defensive option.

But how do they handle the pitchers? Well, here's a look at the splits of the most important members of the White Sox pitching staff this season with each catcher behind the plate. For John Danks I used career numbers since his season ended so quickly.

Peavy
CATCHER IP ERA K/BBOBPSLUG
Pierzynski 134.1  3.823.29 .300.399
Flowers84.22.665.64.257.369
Sale
CATCHER IP ERA K/BBOBPSLUG
Pierzynski 154.2  2.624.05 .278.359
Flowers37.14.823.00.340.414
Floyd
CATCHER IP ERA K/BBOBPSLUG
Pierzynski 121.0  4.982.21 .341.450
Flowers40.02.922.43.345.361
Quintana
CATCHER IP ERA K/BBOBPSLUG
Pierzynski 109.1 3.701.58 .343.445
Flowers27.04.005.25.282.320
Thornton
CATCHER IP ERA K/BBOBPSLUG
Pierzynski 52.2  3.084.90 .284.337
Flowers11.04.910.67.418.511
Reed
CATCHER IP ERA K/BBOBPSLUG
Pierzynski 43.1  4.152.80 .310.400
Flowers11.26.174.00.370.531
Danks
CATCHER IP ERA K/BBOBPSLUG
Pierzynski 745.1  4.192.28 .320.416
Flowers35.23.284.00.246.338
White Sox
CATCHER  IP ERA K/BBOBPSLUG
Pierzynski 1071.1  4.062.41 .320.406
Flowers360.24.042.62.319.408
As you can see, while Pierzynski had the lion's share of the time behind the plate, on the whole, the pitching staff performed pretty much the same with either. Though there are definitely some pitchers who pitched better to Pierzynski (Chris Sale, Addison Reed, Matt Thornton) and those who preferred Flowers (Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, and notice the increase in strikeouts for Jose Quintana).

So what's the correct answer? Well, I'm not sure these numbers actually give one. Personally, though, I'm in the let Pierzynski go and give Flowers a chance camp. I'm just not willing to invest multiple years into a catcher that will turn 36 in December and has done nothing but regress defensively.

A hitting catcher is a convenience, not a necessity. So while Flowers may not be the same hitter that Pierzynski was -- and even that's debatable, because although Flowers strikes out a lot more often, he has a much higher walk rate (10.4%) than AJ (4.1%) and he's capable of just as much, if not more power -- we're never really going to know if Flowers can hit unless he's getting regular plate appearances.

In August when Flowers started 6 games in a two week span he did hit .429 with a double, 4 homers and 7 RBI in 26 plate appearances while striking out only 5 times. It's an incredibly small sample size, and one that would be entirely foolish to make any kind of projection using it, but it is an indicator that he was feeling more comfortable at the plate when he was getting regular chances.


3 comments:

  1. Yes, but no one points out that Gimenez is on the team and kicks ass in calling games and hitting (albeit against twins and Indians)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could live with Gimenez as a backup last season. He looked good in the spring and in September.

      Delete
    2. Next season, not last. That would just be weird.

      Delete

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