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  1. I have to say if this is a trend and not a coincidence it’s a little disheartening. I love defensive minded catchers. Guys like Yadi and Miguel Montero are awesome, but I’d much rather my catcher be able to catch better than anyone rather than hit.

    Comment by semperty — March 6, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

  2. I grew up watching baseball in the 80s and 90s. “When I was a kid”, catchers were generally power hitters and thumpers.

    Then along came Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, and ESPECIALLY Vince Coleman and teams needed defensive catchers (and slide moves by pitchers) to cut down on the running game (also on turf).

    It’s also possible that right now there are some freaks at the catcher position and the trend may be to keep them their rather them getting the Biggio-Zeile treatment and being moved off the position.

    In more recent history, catchers that could hit, spare Piazza, were moved away from catcher to “save their legs/knees” and things of that nature.

    It may also be possible that teams realize that a catcher that can hit may be the most value on an offense aside from a SS that can hit, and are keeping guys at the position, strongly scouting hitting catchers, etc.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — March 6, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

  3. Look at what you just said and consider some of it was directed at Yadier Molina …. quite possibly the best defensive catcher of the last 10 years.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — March 6, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

  4. Actually it might be a question if teams would be willing to risk a high ceiling offensive player at catcher, seeing that they are losing 25% productivity per year and maybe more than that in total career years.

    Comment by nj — March 6, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

  5. Definitely well aware of how offensively inept Yadi was 4+ years ago, I was just saying now. Even before his offensive out break Yadi was my favorite (former defensive minds catcher than grew up as Yadi grew into the Majors). His type of catcher is by far my favorite. Offense or no offense, top notch defense must be there.

    Comment by semperty — March 6, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

  6. I’m guessing we will see a trend of great catchers getting long breaks at first during the season, much like Buster Posey last year. This may only apply to contending teams, however — why grind a guy down if you’re not going anywhere? The most important thing is to be able to play your best backstop everyday in the highest leverage games, pennant or post-season.

    Comment by Agrijus — March 6, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

  7. Yeah, I’m wondering if teams are more willing to let good players who come up as catchers play catcher for a longer period now. It seems likely that guys like Posey, Mauer, Santana, etc. will eventually be moved permanently to a different position (probably 1B or DH), but they’re going to get in at least 5 good years before they do so. In the past did more up-and-coming catching sluggers just get moved earlier?

    Comment by DJG — March 6, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

  8. Here is an idea why the caught stealing numbers declined post 2003. PED usage came under scrutiny, and the game had to start to adapt. Gone were the lineups of 9 20+ homer hitters. Teams had to manufacture runs, ie, incorporate the running game more. Instead of just one maybe two reasonable quality base stealers on a team, alot had that one or two, but had three or four more capable base stealers. Sure, one may think that the rate of caught would stay semi-same. But then again, it may not. Either way, it is food for thought.

    Comment by Cidron — March 6, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

  9. Bryce Harper sure got forced out of catching in a hurry.

    Comment by MustBunique — March 6, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

  10. Here’s a revealing fact – until 1972 no catcher (even 3-time MVP Yogi Berra) had ever led the AL in any positive offensive category. Then the change began with Pudge Fisk (3B-T), followed by Darrell Porter, the other Pudge, Mauer. It’s a striking transition. Seems to me that the difference between the AL and NL in this regard suggests that style of play, or simply tradition, was a factor.

    Comment by Mr Punch — March 6, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

  11. In addition to more teams adding speed players to the lineup (given the PEDless drop in pop) it also seems like less pitchers are using the slide step these days. There’s been a lot more focus/discussion on altering the time pitchers hold the ball and going to quickened deliveries from the stretch without changing mechanics. The reason given was that the slide step reduces effectiveness of pitches for most pitchers.

    Comment by GoodasGoldy — March 6, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

  12. How can you mention Wilin Rosario and Jesus Montero and not Salvador Perez? At least Perez has performed well at the major league level, which is more than you can say for Montero, and he is younger than both.

    Comment by rbt — March 6, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

  13. Part of that was because his bat was ready almost immediately. Making him catch would have taken a few years. Most of these other guys are good hitters, but they’ll need more time in the minors when they will also work on catching. Mainly something to keep an eye on.

    Comment by Mark Smith — March 6, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

  14. Being a catcher got Neil Walker drafted 9th, but I think he got switched pretty quickly. Seems to me like he’d be a lot more highly regarded throughout fandom if he were a catcher in MLB today.

    Comment by SprayingMantis — March 6, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

  15. I meant as an offense-oriented catcher. From what I’ve heard, Perez is just fine behind the plate. Looking at Rosario and Montero, the hope is that the offense outweighs the defensive issues.

    Comment by Mark Smith — March 6, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

  16. The catcher CS% going down could be a result of selection bias. Specifically, managers with the help of front offices, could be sending only the base runners who have a high efficiency in stealing bases, thus lowering the CS% for catchers.

    Comment by dan w — March 6, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

  17. 99% of this is Brad Ausmus losing his starting job after 2007 and retiring shortly after.

    Comment by Sparkles Peterson — March 6, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

  18. I think this is part of it… the scouting is also probably better as you have coaches (1st base or bench) generally breaking down split times to homeplate, catcher release, etc.

    I imagine teams have things broken out… only certain guys will run if the combined splits are below a certain value, another group of guys if it is higher, and pretty much everyone if AJ Burnett is on the mound.

    Comment by Hank — March 6, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

  19. Yeah, I think it’s a combination of a couple things. First is the decline of the green light as sabermetric knowledge really sunk in with the Theo Red Sox and similar minded not give up an out teams. Otis Nixon and Brett Butler types lost their green lights. See Johnny Damon During his Red Sox years. After teams started stealing less teams started caring less about Catchers arms and looked for other strengths. When this happened these catchers who were inept at throwing became more prevalent base stealers started running again against bad throwers. (see Carl Crawford vs. Wakefield, Varitek, Posada etc.) I’s like to see a graph of base stealers with over 20 attempts going back to the Maury Wills, Lou Brock days going forward that looked at stolen base attempts and whether those attempts became more concentrated against Varitek and less concentrated against better throwers. I mean Rickey, Rock, Vince, Butler, Nixon and various others seemed to run against everyone.

    Comment by Dimaggio — March 6, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

  20. To be fair, Piazza retired around the same time. Together, they were an average hitter. There was just a huge gap between their individual contributions.

    Comment by vivalajeter — March 6, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

  21. This is a good point. I threw it out there as an interesting point, but there’s a lot that goes into stealing bases.

    Comment by Mark Smith — March 6, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

  22. Ernie Lombardi and his schnozz disagree.

    Comment by Therood — March 6, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

  23. Catchers job is:

    1. Handling a pitching staff.

    2. Calling a game.

    3. Playing defense.

    4. Hitting.

    It’s nice that Molina, Posey and others can hit. But Santana cost his team games with how poorly he does playing the catching position. There were stats last week about he and Marson hurting Justin Masterson with his poor framing of pitches.

    Russell Martin doesn’t hit much – though he does get some nice clutch hits – but Russell Martin is easily one of the most valuable catchers in MLB, something the Yankees and their fans are going to find out shortly.

    Comment by Ben — March 6, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

  24. I also get the feeling that managers are much more reticent to hit and run or pitch out today than 15+ years ago, two strategies which lead to more CS.

    Comment by Bhaakon — March 7, 2013 @ 3:46 am

  25. throughout fandom, possibly, but not throughout the Pirates’ pitching staff.

    Comment by AJK — March 7, 2013 @ 8:31 am

  26. Not to be a wet blanket, but could it be tested whether the catcher wrc+ is significantly moving closer to league average? Looking at the wrc+ graph to me at least, makes it seem like nothing is really changing other than a high blip in 2012. Maybe next year’s data will make things look different, but at this point it seems like 2012 could just be a fluke.

    Comment by Fred — March 7, 2013 @ 9:22 am

  27. Sure it could. It’s more something to keep an eye on than something conclusive. Are there catchers you expect to regress in 2013?

    Comment by Mark Smith — March 7, 2013 @ 11:16 am

  28. No, not off the top of my head but I haven’t thought about it all that much. What I wrote was just my first instinct looking at the graph. 2012 just looks a lot different than previous years. This definitely seems like a really cool thing to keep monitoring year after year because it makes sense that as certain aspects of the game become valued differently, the profile of players at individual positions could change.

    Comment by Fred — March 7, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

  29. I think that I am so used to looking at p values all day every day at work that when I don’t see one (or something else indicating statistical significance) I immediately wonder about that.

    Comment by Fred — March 7, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

  30. Or guys in college or HS that have some batting talent but lack professional range at SS are moved off of SS to positions like C that require a similar skill set.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — March 7, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

  31. That’s another aspect that I would like ot see considered as well. Yadi Molina has a very high CS%, which is amazing to me because it would seem logical that only the best base stealers steal against him, as opposed to say everyone stealing on Martin.

    The BIG change, and really it is a significant change, are pitchers moving to the slide step out of the set position. Back in the 80s, guys like Dwight Gooden would STILL use the big leg kick in the stretch and give the runner a whole ‘nother step, which is very often the difference between safe and out on a stolen base … especially stealing 3rd from 2nd where a runner can get a walking lead.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — March 7, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

  32. How does the slide step affect the effectiveness of pitches? (Literally)

    Comment by CircleChange11 — March 7, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

  33. It’s a fair point. It’s definitely an outlier, but there’s some supporting evidence for them getting better. It’ll be something I keep an eye on this season.

    Comment by Mark Smith — March 7, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

  34. Wil Myers, too.

    Comment by jgordon — March 7, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

  35. This hearkens back to the days I spent excited by up and coming catching prospect with a big bat, Carlos Delgado.

    Comment by HAL9100 — March 7, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

  36. Was Bryce Harper ever viewed to be a major league catcher? Or was he just viewed as a major league batter that happened to play catcher? I ask genuinely because I haven’t read it conclusively that teams loved him at catcher, but were just awed by his physical ability and hitting skill. I’ve read about his 96mph heat to 2nd base (not sure Ibelieve it), but haven;t heard much about hsi times to 2nd or framing/blocking ability and associated aspects that would lead me to believe that teams were looking for him to be a MLB catcher.

    Same thing with Wil Myers. Has anyone heard great things said about his catching ability? I ask because I’ve only pretty much heard of him as being a good hitter and adequate fielder.

    When we talk of people being moved away from catching, we’re talking about “good catchers” like Biggio, Zeile, etc not necessarily all guys that are changed from the position. If we did that there’d be tons of guys in the discussion for being moved off catcher or moved away from SS, due to not being able to handle the position well at the higher levels. Being moved to proloing your career is one thing, being moved because you’re not good at the defensive aspect of your position is another.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — March 7, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

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