New Mariners Catchers Adequate Behind the Plate

Wild pitches - Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Woo?

The Mariners have added catchers Ronny Paulino and Kelly Shoppach to the organization and ditched catchers Miguel Olivo (yay) and John Jaso (boo) this winter. Paulino appears destined to hold down a job in Tacoma while Shoppach will be the primary player spelling Jesus Montero for spot starts and as a late inning defensive replacement.

That left me wondering if Shoppach's defense was actually anything great so I decided to redo the breakdown that I have done previously with catcher's defense. I included John Jaso in this rundown solely to see how he compared. The big knocks on Jaso had been about his defense and platoon splits. I don't think the platoon splits dig stands up to scrutiny, but his defense was likely below average.

Important reminder one: the pitch framing numbers are a bit primeval. They come from this research in which I note that you should not assume the entirety of the value is the responsibility of the catcher. The nature of Paulino and Shoppach being about average and Jaso and Montero being well below are not surprising. That agrees with both Fast's numbers pre-2012 and with general perceptions about the quality of each catcher. Still, do not treat the framing values as though they are rigorously confirmed.

Important reminder two: this is not a complete picture of catcher's defense. I believe it to be the most complete picture that we can currently formulate. Unfortunately, I do not think we can even know how much we do/don't know when it comes to quantifying defense. That doesn't mean we should just shrug and ignore attempts to pin numbers where we can. Just remember not to sound too snotty or arrogant about it. Or anything, really. It won't accomplish anything good.

Montero Shoppach Paulino Jaso
WP+PB (per 1,000IP) 53 43 43 53
Run Value (-.27 per) -14.3 -11.6 -11.5 -14.3
Vs Lg Avg (-11.9) -2.4 +0.3 +0.4 -2.4
--- --- --- --- ---
Attempts (per 1,000IP) 137 79 105 87
Kill Rate (per attempt) 17% 29% 29% 20%
Steals Value (-.2 per SB) -22.7 -11.2 -14.9 -13.9
Kill Value (+.44 per CS) +10.2 +10.1 +13.4 +7.7
Value Sum -12.5 -1.1 -1.5 -6.2
Vs Lg Avg (-2.5) -10.0 +1.4 +1.0 -3.7
--- --- --- --- ---
Pitch Framing Vs Lg Avg -21.6 -4.2 -5.8 -17.9
Total Vs Lg Avg -34.0 -2.5 -4.4 -24.0

Table observations

  • Nobody is nearly as bad as Miguel Olivo is at blocking pitches, around five runs worse than league average per season.
  • Kelly Shoppach appears to do a good job of shutting down the running game both in terms of attempts (league average ~100 per 1,000 IP) and successes (league average kill rate ~27%).
  • John Jaso appears to do a good job of shutting down the running game in terms of attempts, but runners have been successful when they've tried. There are many possible reasons for this, including ones not related to John Jaso.
  • Jesus Montero has so far been very bad at doing anything to stop teams from running on him.
  • Go read important reminder one again. Then read important reminder two again.

If the above chart comes within the blast radius of reality, it tells us that Shoppach could indeed be the best defensive catcher the Mariners have seen in a while. That's a pretty sad group to lead, but it's better than another Olivo, Johjima, or Rob Johnson. If only Shoppach had anywhere near Jaso's control of the strike zone at the plate. Maybe someday we fans will get to watch someone who can handle the catcher's box and the batter's box without being embarrassing in one or both.

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