Friday, March 22, 2013

What Makes the Best Catcher?

I recently read an article with the following (URL: http:/ Blogs network) and basically the writer is miffed that Buster Posey is seen in a better light than Yadier Molina.

Here is what he had to say about Buster Posey: Buster Posey still has a lot of work to do on his defense. No catcher has gotten his pocket picked more than the Giants young backstop this season, which may have something to do with his ankle injury from a year ago. He's a little bit slow getting out of his crouch in ordr to make a snap throw to 2nd, and base runners have taken that as a license to run wild. He may just be the best offensive catcher in baseball, but until Posey improves on defense any thoughts of him winning the MVP award are a little far-fetched.

Who won the 2012 MVP? Furthermore, one thing you must understand when you look to the traditional statistics or advanced metrics that something has to be said about a pitcher who is incapable of keeping the runner within a reasonable distance from first and second by the time he lets go of his pitch.

Is this news? We all know that for the most part the Gold Glove Award goes to the most productive player at his position with fielding a close second. A player would have to absolutely stink out loud to win a Gold Glove award and those who voted would have to get called out when made aware of his floundering fielding percentage. But I think the year when Rafael Palmeiro won the Gold Glove award and played no games in the field is appalling. In 1999 Raffy was a designated hitter. Look it up! He has no fielding statistics for that year and yet, he got the Silver Slugger and Golden Glove. Which, once and for all, proves that the Golden Gloves usually goes to the best hitter for that particular position. I feel for those first-basemen who were scooping balls du jour, in 1999, and like Palmeiro's stats it just didn't happen. What those voters- whose duty it was to vote for the gold glove that season- did was shameful. They chose not to vote and presto Palmeiro is handed a Golden Glove award. Why were those cursed with the choice not held accountable?

So I can understand the author's angst. Catcher is a tough position because of all that goes into it. Blocking pitches, blocking the plate as you prepare to get slammed into, the constant up and down, twisting and turning with gear (that you can't go lightweight on because there is a reason for the thickness of the stuff. It is worn to protect you from foul tips or any accidental play where the ball glances off of something into you. Don't wear the hockey mask without the padding or you may end up with a premature exit like Mike Matheny. I contend that Matheny may still be playing if he didn't switch to the less-padded hockey mask.)

AND you have to be on the same page as your pitcher. The two of you (known as the battery) have to be simpatico (being on the same wavelength) so as to not allow the opposing team to perhaps steal your signs due to your body language or communications running amok. You have to give the other team the impression you are ON to their game and you know exactly how to get them out. Those of us who have played the game, at any competitive little league level, know when you get the batter to over-think his/her approach with each at-bat that there is a really good chance he/she will not be at his/her best when stepping up to the plate. Because when you get the opponent to question what they are doing you have WON the battle and that's when you trust your pitcher to do his thing. This is also where the catcher can shoot a little casual conversation into the matter. Some heartfelt stuff like, "You don't seem to be yourself today, is everything okay?" Or to bring a little levity to the situation, because, afterall, you're on the winning side and it's time for laughs. "What do you do if you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?" or "Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do "practice?" Sometimes it's worth the effort in that he spills the beans. Or he may just as well rip off expletive after expletive taking himself further out of the game to which you and your batterymate go for the jugular. Either way it seems like a win-win to me.

(thanks to MLB Blogs Network for the inspiration for this opinion)

Kevin J. Marquez