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  1. You discuss the effect of career longevity but what about number of games per season? I would think that as a DH Montero would be able to play more games than if he played the majority of his games as a catcher. Or is this covered in the +5 to +10 adjustment for not playing catching? I guess what I’m asking is the +5 to +10 adjustment based on equal playing time or does it assume that the player will have more PAs at a position other than catcher?

    Comment by Drakos — January 16, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

  2. Odds are pretty good that Montero will DH most days he’s not catching, similar to how the Twins have used Mauer in previous years. So, the bulk of the at-bats that would be lost in the C vs DH scenario would likely end up going to him at DH anyway.

    To answer your question, though, the +5 to +10 run estimate is measured on rate stats, not playing time. I’m just not sure he’d actually play that much less if he was a catcher.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — January 16, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

  3. Unless there is a way to quantify for the average wear and tear a catcher received throughout the year, and the number of games he could reasonably be expected to need fully off in order to recover.

    Comment by BurleighGrimes — January 16, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

  4. This is subjective and not likely measurable, but: any challenges around focus or maturity here, in asking a young 20-something to DH fulltime? IIRC, a bunch of the challenge of DH for some guys was similar to pinch hitting – sit around for however long on the bench, then snap into total focus and be able to hit relatively quickly. I thought that e.g. Edgar battled that by being in the cages, hitting the stationary bike, watching video, etc. in between at-bats. Relative to the amount of focus any professional athlete has, is it going to be asking a lot of a new guy and young guy to not just be the heart of the order, but to do nothing but hit every 40 minutes or so?

    Comment by Chris from Bothell — January 16, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

  5. I saw Montero play a triple-A game last season and he was the worst defensive catcher I’ve seen since I coached 9 and 10 year old kids. His defensive prowess is perfectly suited for the DH role. The Yankers knew how bad he was behind the plate and traded him and $24 in trinkets for something worth a LOT more. Nice play, Cashman.

    Comment by The Rajah — January 16, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

  6. One comment on the Disaster Catcher scenario:

    “So, let’s give Disaster Catcher not only Pierzynski’s 20% caught stealing rate (Montero’s rate in the minors is 21%, for context) but also increase the rate of attempts to account for the adjustment managers would make in playing against him.”

    Why? If AJP throws out 20% of runners and we then apply the same 20% to our Disaster Catcher, why balloon the steal attempts by 30%? I know managers are stupid, but…

    At the very worst I’d give our DC the league high steal attempts. Since steal attempts are a function of the pitcher’s delivery/awareness and the catcher’s arm, I don’t see how going any higher than that is warranted, since we should assume the Yanks rotation’s influence on steal attempts is average (without looking at any numbers).

    In any case, this reduces the -18 throwing arm runs to a more reasonable -13.

    Comment by Slartibartfast — January 16, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  7. seems to me this deal will work if one of two things happens: Montero can be a serviceable catcher for the M’s with a good bat or he turns into a great slugger. Curious Dave, which you think is more likely and what are the odds one of these happen for the Mariners?

    Comment by PR — January 16, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

  8. Great article, and a good bit of nuanced analysis.

    As a Mariners fan, you may find the pitching splits for Felix Hernandez throwing to Kenji Johjima and Rob Johnson interesting, or, for that matter, the splits for various Mariners pitchers with Johjima behind the plate. If the Mariners decide that Montero belongs behind the plate, I might anticipate a similar effect.

    Comment by thefatkid — January 16, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

  9. Would a move to a corner position be possible or is Montero considered too lead-footed for that?

    Comment by TheGrandslamwich — January 16, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

  10. Montero is a liability with a glove on. You don’t want him anywhere near 3B. I wouldn’t want him anywhere near 1B either, but what do the M’s have to lose by letting him play in front of Smoak?

    Comment by The Rajah — January 16, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

  11. If by corner you mean first base. He probably can’t play LF, definitely not 3b. Since the Mariners already have Smoak at 1b, that leaves DH for Montero.

    Comment by Preston — January 16, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

  12. Still, we have to remember that there’s a pretty significant selection bias issue here

    This is the key. It may seem ridiculous to evaluate Montero as league worst defensive catcher in every area, but he might be getting favorable comparisons due to the “low tolerance for bad defensive catchers” in MLB.

    I expect Seattle not to put him at catcher mostly due to the abuse catchers take (injuries and daily wear). The Posey injury being so recent only highlights the risk.

    Comment by Anon — January 16, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  13. One thing a little different about poor defense at catcher is that teams can proactively exploit it. Other than possibly laying down a bunt (e.g., bunting against Jim Abbott), you can’t do that in any significant way with other defensive positions. In addition, teams are more likely to attempt to exploit the weakness in higher leverage situations.

    Comment by M.Twain — January 16, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  14. Why does Montero have to play in Seattle this year? The M’s have 3 catchers. One has one year on his deal, one will be 28 and still has 5 years of team control and the third is coming into his age 27 season. I would like to see the M’s move Olivo, let Jaso and Moore fight it out over spring training and let Montero work on his catching skills in Tacoma for at least the first half of the season.

    If Mike Piazza is the comp for Montero, let’s remember Piazza got a taste (23 gams0 at age 23 and became the full time backstop at 24. That’s 2 more years for Montero.

    Comment by Doc Milo — January 16, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  15. Fascinating piece Dave. There’s really no other way to approach a piece on the catching position other than a nuanced approach. So many things go being a successful field general that it could be a statistician’s life’s work and he might not come up with a statistic which could be well-defended.

    Comment by Mike Newman — January 16, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

  16. I would alternate JM and MO behind the plate and DH. Keep both bats in the lineup and reasonably fresh.

    I don’t know what’s the best rotation scheme, 3 on 2 off, or catch your worst catcher when the best control pitchers are pitching or what.

    But, there’s only one way for JM to get better and that’s practice and innings at catcher.

    They have JM for 6 years. They need to get max value out of him during those years. If they play to extend his career when he *may* be more valuable, even part-time behind the plate, then they may just be doing a favor for the team that signs him when he hits free agency.

    Mike Piazza was a “bad” catcher that caught a lot of years and was very productive. Mike Napoli improved with playing time. I haven’t seen JM catch and as a former pitcher and StL who gets to watch Yadi a lot, I have great admiration for catchers.

    As one that lives in “Cub Country”, I saw what Soto had to do to provide good value and I’d like to see what JM can do in a full season catching a good deal of the time. The possibility of really good value is just too great to pass up.

    Dave, good article. You answered my question from the other thread. If JM is the DC, then any improvement can increase his value as a catcher. I think you have to at least try it, even part-time. Having JM and MO split catching/DH duties may be the best overall value for the team. You’re dead on about Napoli and he and Piazza were the examples that came to mind about all bat no glove catchers. If I’m the M’s I hire a catching coach just for these guys and work them. A good hitting adequate catcher is simply too valuable to not try everything.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 16, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  17. I had Mike Fast’s study on catcher framing in mind the whole first half of the article, so I was very pleased to see you mention it later on. Notably Doumit and Posada had observed values in the neighborhood of -25 runs per season, so the worst case there might be pretty bad. Of course those are *observed* stats and I have no idea what the actual true talent limit would be.

    I like when a writer anticipates points the reader is going to make and addresses them outright, so thanks for the nice article.

    Comment by mickeyg13 — January 16, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

  18. Here is the key for me, I think:

    “When faced with the decision of whether a team should keep a premium hitter behind the plate, career length has to be taken into account. The Mariners acquired Montero with the hopes that he would become a franchise hitter, and if he develops as expected, they’ll be exploring a long term contract with him within a couple of seasons. Even if they believe that Montero would provide maximum value behind the plate, they’d have to factor in the long term value they’d expect to receive if he was moved to DH that they wouldn’t get if he stayed behind the plate.”

    In a nutshell, here is the question that the Mariners must answer: Would you rather have 5-6 MONSTER offensive seasons from the catcher position that results in a career cut short by the wear and tear (and the potential for a Buster Posey-type disaster of an injury) of 130+ games/season behind the plate or would you rather have 10-12 very good (i.e., non-monster) seasons from the DH position? This is the age old quality vs. quantity dilemma, more or less. Would you rather have five seasons of Tim Lincecum or ten or twelve seasons of, say, Mark Buehrle?

    If you are the Mariners, and you have a guy who you may or may not be able to re-sign in a few years–I’m sorry, but if he’s a perennial MVP candidate in a few years as a catcher, he’s a prime candidate to return to the Yankees as a free agent on a $125+ mil contract–then the temptation is very, very strong to sacrifice career longevity and play the guy at catcher, where he will presumably be light years better than nearly all of his peers as a hitter. At which point the Yankees or whoever can gamble on whether or not he can continue to play at an MVP level into his thirties after several years behind the plate. It seems to me that, from management’s perspective (and this can be applied to non-sports work environments, obviously), you want to extract as much value/labor from the player/worker as possible since you know in advance that the individual player/laborer is a fungible commodity. Sounds harsh but isn’t this true?

    I think the most logical thing to do here is to play him 80-100 games/season at catcher and DH him the rest of the time. It will be very interesting to see how the Mariners handle this. A lot is riding on the line, obviously. The other scenario that we may see is not getting much discussion: Justin Smoak turns out to be a dud and Jesus Montero is handed the every day 1B job. Of course, the Mariners offense is so incredibly bad that an underwhelming Smoak is still one of the 4-5 best hitters on the team, so there’s that.

    Comment by Robbie G. — January 16, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

  19. There is a larger context to be considered here. The Mariners are nowhere close to being contenders at the present time. If they are ever going to risk playing Montero at catcher, the time is now. It is possible, after all, that he might improve.
    I grant that there is a downside in the “wear and tear” aspect of catching, but I find it difficult to believe that the risk of that is high for a 20-year-old for a year or two.
    In addition, with Olivo at backup, Montero would not have to play full-time at catcher during this tryout.
    I say, “Go for it!”

    Comment by Baltar — January 16, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

  20. Hmm, 2300 words and you don’t even touch cERA? what if Monstero is the “disaster catcher” but handles the Pitching staff such that they all have great years?
    (wait, this is FG. scratch that thought)

    Comment by Nate — January 16, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  21. The M’s have Roger Hansen as a special adviser to the GM and he is one of, if not the best, catching instructor in the game. If anyone can make Montero a better catcher he can. Montero also seems to very much want to be a catcher and seems willing to put out the effort required. The kid is 22, I think he still is capable of improving. How much is the question. When the M’s figure that out they can make a decision. Hopefully Edgar can talk to him about the value of DHing if it comes to that.

    Comment by maqman — January 16, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

  22. Make that “22-year-old.”

    Comment by Baltar — January 16, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

  23. Well said.

    Also, selection bias and weakness in evaluating catchers are two problems that don’t get acknowledged much. Kudos to Dave for the good article.

    Comment by Anon — January 16, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

  24. I think from now on it can be called the “Adam Dunn effect.”

    Comment by Dekker — January 16, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

  25. You don’t appreciate how badly the M’s need his bat in the lineup right now.

    Comment by Chris from Bothell — January 16, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

  26. cERA….


    Comment by Slartibartfast — January 16, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

  27. You’re forgetting John Jaso, who isn’t amazing but is a lefty, which suits the park well.

    Comment by The Ancient Mariner — January 16, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

  28. Olivo should only DH for the kind of manager who thinks batting Adam Kennedy cleanup is a good idea… Seriously, when you have a bad bat for a catcher, DH is not the answer.

    Comment by Bookbook — January 16, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

  29. Without a doubt, Montero has improved as a catcher between 2008-2011. However, at the time I first scouted him in Charleston, he was the equivalent of a good JV catcher at the high school level.

    Comment by Mike Newman — January 16, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

  30. can i try it, too?

    I saw Montero play a triple-A game last season and he was the best defensive catcher I’ve seen since I coached johnny bench and gary carter.

    look, i did it!

    Comment by jim — January 16, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

  31. he’s already spent 2 full years in AAA in the international league, how would spending another year in AAA in the PCL help at all?

    Comment by jim — January 16, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

  32. One of my biggest pet peeves is the idea Piazza was simply a “bad” catcher. Without a doubt, Piazza was not good a throwing which is the easiest thing for the average baseball fan to identify and point out. However, Piazza was a fine defender in other areas and handled pitching staffs quite well.

    Comment by Mike Newman — January 16, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

  33. The counter argument is you don’t want to catch a 22- year old in search of adding wins to a team that’s not ready to contend such that the wear and tear might negatively impact him later when the team is ready to contend.

    Comment by hk — January 16, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

  34. I would think the M’s could maximize the benefit from Montero by starting him at C ~30 times per season and playing him at DH in the other games. Doing this will reduce the effects of wear and tear on his body and allow the team to seek optimal situations for ~30 those starts. Optimal situations may be those in which the M’s SP does a great job of holding runners (if the M’s have such a SP) or when they are facing a team that does not run much at all (i.e. Detroit) or particularly well (i.e. the ChiSox).

    Comment by hk — January 16, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

  35. The Mariners have Jesus Montero signed for 10-12 seasons?

    No, they have him for 6 seasons.

    If he turns out to be a beast with the bat, what are the odds they resign him once he hits FA?

    If he has the chance to go to a more batter friendly ballpark, why wouldn’t he do that? Certainly he’s going to look around the league and see that being a DH in Texas, Boston, or NYY is going to be better for his stats (and probably playoffs) than continuing to try and hit well in a pitcher friendly park. I’m certain his agent will be telling him that.

    He’ll hit FA entering the prime of his career.

    That was my point earlier. Why should SEA sacrifice possible additional value to them to increase JM’s longevity for another team, perhaps even a rival?

    Don;t you have to try and get max value from the players on your team while you have them under contract?

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 16, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

  36. that may have also had to do something with a language barrier…Johjima struggled with his English. I know that’s not all, but it’s worth considering that at least Felix and Montero wouldn’t have that issue at all

    Comment by Ben — January 16, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

  37. That’s why I put “bad” in quotations.

    He seemingly earned the rap as a “bad” catcher and people just kept repeating it. He certainly wasn’t great, but perhaps average when all things are considered.

    He also played during the era when catchers like mike matheny were considered elite because of his “pitcher handling” and things of that nature.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 16, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  38. It could help his defense. If his greatest value is at catcher then it makes sense to give him more time to develope. Mike Piazza’s first year at starting catcher was his age 24 year. Mike Napoli came up at age 24. Could there be a reason for this?

    Give Montero a half year in Tacoma while the other roster answers are figured out and that gives Montero a half year at catcher. If Moore breaks out then there might not be the need to bring Montero up this very moment.

    Carp at DH at the age of 25 could very well be as productive as Montero at 23. I would like to see Wells get a shot in LF with a possible move to CF if Gutierrez is not productive or traded.

    There is no rush to bring Montero up to the big leagues at the start of the season.

    Comment by Doc Milo — January 16, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  39. There is no rush to bring Montero up to the big leagues at the start of the season.

    I can think of a few reasons.

    1. Fans – seriously who else are fans going to come to see? I knoe Mariners fans are loyal, but how many anemic seasons can they reasonably expect to tolerate?

    2. Offense – They need it, he has it.

    3. Team Control – They likely only have him for 6 years. Why waste any of that time having him repeat a league he’s already dominated? He had two very good season in the IL, why does anyone really need to see him put up a 1.000+ OPS season in the PCL? Granted it’s 60 PA, but he’s already hit well in the majors. I would operate under the assumption that if he is really good for 6 years, he’ll go somewhere else once he hits FA.

    4. Jack Z’s job – Is he really going to keep him in the minors as SEA struggles to score … again? I think it’s safe to say that Jack would rather have this job than not. The moves he has made have not exactly paid off in a good way. He’s traded away more WAR than he’s brought in. His signings have not produced like expected.

    FWIW, I thought the same thing about Shelby Miller and StL when Wainwright was injured for the season. Instead, they chose to have McClellan start with a terrible bullpen.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 16, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  40. 2366 words to say “maybe”? You’re going to ruin both the interweb and sabermetric reputations for stridency. Seriously, as both a Mariner and Dave fan, I am very impressed. I feel much better informed about the tradeoffs for the team and the player. What a fascinating trade and gamble for Z. At the very least we get less F-bombs this year. Color me very grateful.

    Comment by hoser — January 16, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  41. We are making the same argument. I am agreeing with you. Seattle should play Jesus Montero at catcher as much as possible over the next six years so as to extract maximum value from him. Montero would have to truly godawful behind the plate to justify moving him to full-time DH or to 1B. I do think that he’ll play a fair amount of DH but only to give him some rest. I think we’ll see Seattle use Montero about the same way that Texas used Mike Napoli this past season. Seattle should not concern itself with how well Montero is going to be playing in 2018 and beyond after six years behind the plate. No pro sports team really needs to be thinking that far into the future, there are way too many variables at work.

    Comment by Robbie G. — January 16, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

  42. Pat Burrell is another guy whose numbers tanked when he was switched to DH.

    Comment by fffffffff — January 16, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

  43. Did Carp die?

    Comment by Corey — January 16, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

  44. Yeah, plus I suspect the Safeco fans would definitely revolt if we started Montero in AAA.

    Comment by Westside guy — January 16, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

  45. I would alternate JM and MO behind the plate and DH. Keep both bats in the lineup and reasonably fresh.

    Given Olivo’s plate approach, especially as the season progressed – maybe Mariner fans would benefit if the team didn’t keep his bat fresh. He might even take a walk occasionally.

    Comment by Westside guy — January 16, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

  46. I think there is probably an argument to be made for not having him come up and play immediately, but in this case it’s just not gonna happen. Not saying that letting him play a year in AAA wouldn’t be the best option, but Seattle is thirsting for a bat and I don’t know if logic is the only thing to consider right now.

    Comment by Eric — January 16, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

  47. Now I absolutely have to read the article. -25 runs per season? That is amazing to me.

    Comment by Eric — January 16, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

  48. I don’t know what’s the best rotation scheme, 3 on 2 off, or catch your worst catcher when the best control pitchers are pitching or what.

    The obvious approach seems to be to pair Montero with the experienced pitchers (Felix and Vargas) and Olivo with the others (new-to-league Iwakuma, plus whoever wins out of spring training).

    Comment by Chris from Bothell — January 16, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

  49. Per interview at the winter meetings, Wedge sees Carp as the everyday first baseman. I doubt he’s going to get to rotate through DH much unless Guti is healthy.

    Comment by Chris from Bothell — January 16, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

  50. I don’t care how bad of a catcher he is, he can’t be worse than Miguel Olivo, defensively and offensively. Olivo was a stop-gap only. In an ideal world, if Moore had stayed healthy, we would never have been forced to watch him.

    Keep working Carp at the outfield corners, Smoak at first, and rotate Moore and Montero as catcher. When Montero is catching, DH Carp and put someone else in at LF.

    Comment by Dan Gayle — January 16, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

  51. Either sarcasm over my head or you’re a troll.

    Comment by Eric — January 16, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

  52. did you guys know that jimmy rollins has the best ssERA in the league

    Comment by juan pierres mustache — January 16, 2012 @ 4:30 pm


    Comment by Jeff K — January 16, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

  54. Actually, team control is one reason to keep him down. The Mariners aren’t going to contend in 2012, and they have him for six Major League seasons regardless of how much time he spends in the minors. They may get more value out of him in his age 23-28 seasons, when they’re a year closer to contention, than in his age 22-27 seasons.

    Comment by Ian R. — January 16, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

  55. Is there not an inherent flaw in this argument by starting with positional adjustments as an assumption of what is true and then working backwards for value based on that?

    Comment by Colin — January 16, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

  56. It’s a good thing that Seattle’s whole scouting department never had a chance to see him catch then!

    Comment by Seideberg — January 16, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

  57. Ian, that’s a very good point.

    I thought playing in MLB last year started the clock, but evidently it doesn’t work that way.

    My thinking though is that we don;t really have a good idea on what’s going to occur 3+ years from now. King could be gone, as could Ichiro and Jack Z.

    If they’re wanting all of these guys to play together, I would just start him at MLB now.

    They can’t just “waste” the King Felix (and I suppose Ichiro) years, thinking about how good they’ll be 3 years from now. A LOT of things will have to go right for them, including great drafts, good acquisitions, and great player development.

    If they were to start him in MiLB, I don;t know they wouldn’t trade Felix for 2-4 prospects that might include 1-2 really good prospects that could all be playing in MLB together and under team control.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 16, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

  58. Of all the catchers listed in the above post, this was their age when they became a full time backstop in the bigs:
    A.J. Pierzynski: 24
    Brian McCann: 22
    Kurt Suzuki: 24
    Russ Martin: 23
    Alex Avila: 23
    Giovani Soto: 25
    I’m talking over 100 games in a season. There is no rush to put the break on Montero getting reps in the minors next season and lets us figure out things better with the rest of our roster.

    Comment by Doc Milo — January 16, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

  59. So basically, if a catcher can hit, he’s a MLB starter by age 23.

    Jesus Montero is currently 23yo.

    It’s still difficult for me to understand why SEA wouldn’t trade Felix if they are this concerned about “the future”?

    This is also why I REALLY don;t like the team-controlled aspect for players with his ability. Even though he’s MLB ready, he may be down in the minors again so that his employer can benefit off of his MLB performance for an additional year.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 16, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

  60. Montero’s greatest value (assuming he is indeed a future offensive force) is… in-the-lineup-as-much-as-possible. Whatever takes away from that main factor detracts from the equation.

    Comment by algionfriddo — January 16, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

  61. He will gain nothing from being in the hitter-friendly PCL, if he isn’t playing in the bigs right away the entire trade was absolutely pointless.

    Comment by Ste1ngrabber — January 16, 2012 @ 7:19 pm

  62. Good article Dave.

    The one major issue I have with catcher defense conversations is the general lack of acknowledgement of the pitching staff’s impact on it.

    I know most people realize this and there is no way to effectively separate this out but tossing around CS%’s can be misleading and trying to translate that directly into runs is a bit problematic. I know there is currently no better way of doing it, but I think the error bar on catcher is even bigger than suspected.

    Comment by Tom — January 16, 2012 @ 8:20 pm

  63. Well, you don’t know that Seattle’s scouting department doesn’t think the same thing about Montero’s defense at Catcher. The plan could be to have him as a 1B/DH

    Comment by bender — January 16, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

  64. Dave’s point was that opponents didn’t run as often against Pierzinski as they did against other catchers(McCann, Soto, R Martin, etc.). What if they had? That’s what the extra 10% is about.

    How good/bad Seattle pitchers are at holding runners on/delivering the ball quickly to the plate will determine a lot of that.

    Comment by bstar — January 16, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

  65. I don’t know that his defense will be that big of a consideration in whether he catches or not. Olivo is so bad in every phase of the game. If he’s an even half-competent defensive catcher then it makes sense to play him there. The Mets kept on putting Piazza behind the plate and it worked out well for them. Rotating him in and out of the DH slot makes some sense though.

    Comment by hernandez17 — January 16, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

  66. Just a thought- given today’s market, wouldn’t it be cheaper to get a valuable, great defensive catcher than a DH who can rake? The hypothetical debate seems as though there are two reasonable sides. Maybe Catcher Montero + Realistic DH option for the Mariners isn’t as good as DH Montero + Realistic C?

    Comment by Al — January 16, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

  67. Whatever position he ends up playing, he simply HAS to play. He will not start the season in the minors. Put Montero behind the plate and let Venus de Milo DH and your offense still improves.

    Comment by bstar — January 16, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

  68. don’t put too much stock in that mike fast piece. wait until there’s been a little more research into it before we accept it as anything more than a curiosity

    Comment by jim — January 16, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

  69. You’re crazy to think the Mariner’s should start Montero in AAA after giving up the #2 pitcher in the organization. Besides, Seattle needs Montero’s bat yesterday.

    Comment by Jerome310 — January 16, 2012 @ 8:57 pm

  70. How does that scenario play out for the Mariners bench? If you have a catcher that DH’s 30 games a year, is only one other catcher good enough? Most managers don’t like having only one catcher available to them for a game, no matter how unlikely an unfortunate situation comes up. Are the Mariners going to be okay with no catcher on the bench for 30+ games? If they decide they need to carry three catchers, what does that do for their flexibility at other positions?

    Comment by Nathaniel Dawson — January 16, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

  71. I don’t recall Mauer having a season where he got in 150 games. I think he is more of a 140 G type player (when healthy). I think there is more wear and tear that you are admitting to there.

    Comment by Barkey Walker — January 16, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

  72. Not just CS%, but SBA.

    This is what is so impressive about the catcher’s with the best arms. Not only are they throwing out a high %, but they often have fewer SBA. So, it’s reasonable to assume that only the best baserunners steal on them … and they still throw out a good %.

    I was going to say that not having runners attempt steals is good for the defense, but really with a strong throwing catcher, you might want them to steal more often given that they’d be giving away outs more than they should.

    Likewise, the bad thing about poor CS% catchers is that they often have larger numbers of SBA. So, more players are running against them AND making it safely.


    There was also a good study piece done on passed balls and wild pitches by location. Basically, the further from the catcher AND the further from their glove side, the lesser the chance of the ball being blocked.

    So, RHP’s the dirt a lot of curves and sliders are going to be nightmares for catchers … especially if they dirting them a foot in front of the plate, and even more especially low and away.

    IIRC, something like 68% of pitches in MLB get blocked by the catcher. That number stuck with me because, as a coach, I should keep that in mind when I’m/we’re getting all over a 10yo catcher that *only* blocks 8 of 10.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 16, 2012 @ 10:32 pm

  73. Yeah, in actually looking into the matter, I’m just wrong. Even during the DH era, catchers just don’t rack up 600+ PA very often. Of the 3,400 catcher seasons (50% or more games at C) since 1973, only 77 of them have resulted in a player getting 600+ PA.

    There’s selection bias issues here, too, but you’re right, even guys like Mauer are only playing 130-140 games per year.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — January 16, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

  74. And on the third day god invented the shake-off…

    Comment by TheGrandslamwich — January 17, 2012 @ 12:24 am

  75. It seems like Dave was just looking at worst-case scenarios for each measurable component. In the end, he states, “it seems fair to assume that his glove could cost the Mariners in excess of 15 runs per season behind the plate.” -29 was seen as the overall worst case, while -15 is maybe the best-worst case?

    In any case, using only estimates, there’s at least reason to believe he could be as valuable to the club playing DH over Catcher.

    However, at catcher he would keep Olivo (and his .253 OBP) out of the cleanup slot, and off the diamond. That’s gotta have some extra value, right?

    Comment by Matthias — January 17, 2012 @ 1:10 am

  76. Montero doesn’t have anything else to prove in Triple-A. After two seasons there already, he is ready to take the next step. The Mariners aren’t going to compete next year so why not let him try to improve his catching while he gets used to major league pitching and life in general. If the plan is to compete in 2013 wouldn’t you want him to come into the season with a year in the big leagues under his belt? His bat is ready, the Mariners need it. I see no problem with him working on his catching in the majors for a team that isn’t going to compete for the division this year.

    Comment by Bandit23 — January 17, 2012 @ 2:09 am

  77. Sorry to do this, since this is just a small detail in your article, but there’s a correction: Arencibia was the league leader in PB for QUALIFIED catchers with 12. Saltalamacchia was actually in first with 26. I know a lot of that is Wakefield, but still, that’s pretty scary to not even have the required PA and be in the lead by that much.

    Comment by Jack Burton — January 17, 2012 @ 3:29 am

  78. Having Olivo serve as DH would be a waste. I think you are grossly overvaluing his bat. All he has is some power but not enough to make up for his terrible approach at the plate. We need that DH spot when Montero is catching to be filled by either Carp, Smoak, or Wells. If you have Olivo as the DH, you are sitting one of Carp, Wells, Smoak, or Guti (Wells would play CF and Carp LF). Any of those guys are not only better hitters than Olivo, but also have a future with the team. So I pray that Olivo is either catching or has his ass on the bench.

    Comment by Bandit23 — January 17, 2012 @ 4:42 am

  79. Its odd that the M’s now have Olivo, Montero and Jaso, all terrible defensive catchers. Either they dont care about defence or they think they can turn it around?

    nice article though.

    Comment by Adam Sampson — January 17, 2012 @ 8:57 am

  80. While I’m not a fan of cERA, I whole-heartedly believe that a catcher can affect a pitcher’s performance. I think if you asked any major league manager, they will tell you the same. Just because something isn’t quantifiable doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Sort of the same thing with a Quarterback’s “intangibles”.

    Now if a manager wants to base his decisions primarily on how they perceive a catcher to handle pitchers (i.e. Wakamatsu), that’s a VERY subjective and flawed approach. As always, a combination of statistics and scouting is necessary to make the best decisions.

    Comment by Mekias — January 17, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

  81. I whole-heartedly believe that a catcher can affect a pitcher’s performance.

    This is where someone would ask “List the ways a catcher can affect pitcher performance” and then we start seeing if we can measure those individual ways.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — January 17, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

  82. Well, one way a bad defensive catcher affects pitching performance is by taking away certain pitches in certain situations that can be effective but won’t be used. An example: Pitcher A and catcher B know that a hitter has a tendency to swing at breaking balls in the dirt in two strike counts, but pitcher A won’t throw said breaking ball to catcher B with men on base because he thinks a passed ball is likely because of catcher B’s obvious and well known defensive shortcomings. Over time, hitters stop looking for that pitch in those situations and pitcher A becomes less effective with men on base and thus his ERA goes up. That’s one example. I can think of at least three others.

    Comment by fergie348 — January 17, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

  83. Would anyone here trade Montero at $1 for Ackley at $6 in a keeper league?

    Comment by Kevin Garrett — January 17, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

  84. Uh, no. Felix already has one of the highest Passed Ball + Wild Pitch rates in the majors, and that’s with non-Disaster Catchers blocking the plate (though Olivo and Johnson were definitely not good, they would seem to be better than Montero is reputed to be). Having Montero catch Felix would result in either every baserunner getting gifted a base or two, or forcing Felix to throw nothing but fastballs with men on base (which is a good recipe for giving up runs). And while Felix generally doesn’t allow that many men on base in the first place, that’s still asking a lot.

    Let Montero catch the guys who don’t throw pitches that fall off the table.

    Comment by joser — January 18, 2012 @ 2:59 am

  85. I keep hearing how great Roger Hansen is, but I sure haven’t seen the results. He’s supposed to have been brought in to help pretty much every catcher the M’s have had the past few years, and yet they’ve all been among the league leaders in passed balls (among other dubious defensive achievements). Maybe they were even worse before he applied his magic, but his magic seems to be pretty limited.

    Comment by joser — January 18, 2012 @ 3:28 am

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