The Mariners’ Catchers Can’t Hit

In a season defined by Murphy’s Law, the Mariners’ inability to field a worthwhile hitting catcher ranks lower on the repair list than it would in most years. The Mariners’ collection of backstops has combined for a .246 wOBA. As faith has it, the 2005 Seattle club was the last team to have a catching staff so inept at the plate that they combined for a positional wOBA under .250. In other words, Seattle has seen this movie before.

The 2005 edition of Seattle’s finest highlighted their patent on Everlasting Gapstoppers. Miguel Olivo, Pat Borders, Yorvit Torrealba, Rene Rivera, Wiki Gonzalez, Dan Wilson, and even Miguel Ojeda contributed to the mess. This year’s group is more concise, with Adam Moore being the most responsible. Moore and Olivo actually have more in common from their awful seasons than one would suspect. Moore is older now than Olivo then, but their respective lines stack up well:

Olivo (’05): .151/.172/.276
Moore (’10): .169/.199/.260

Olivo and Moore each struck out in nearly a third of their at-bats and, while Olivo walked once for every 12.5 strikeouts, Moore is walking once every 11. Don’t mistake Moore as the only contributor to the awfulness. Rob Johnson and Eliezer Alonzo both own wOBA lines below .265, and Josh Bard’s .303 shines bright in comparison.

The free agent catching market is rarely strong but the Mariners would be hard-pressed to find a downgrade. After all, their wOBA is closer to Mario Mendoza’s career mark (.231) than Paul Bako’s (.275). The M’s won’t respond like they did in 2005: by drafting Jeff Clement during the season then adding Kenji Johjima in the winter. Jack Zduriencik has shown a savvy for trades, so maybe the answer arrives from that form. Whatever happens, history suggests the 2015 Mariners’ backstops are going to be atrocious.




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31 Responses to “The Mariners’ Catchers Can’t Hit”

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  1. grandbranyan says:

    Neither can their 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, or DH.

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  2. Peter Parks says:

    I vaguely recall a trade for one Jesus Montero. Oh wait…

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    • Luke in MN says:

      Or Wilson Ramos, if you want to name someone who actually profiles as a good defensive catcher. But I guess it’s not like they didn’t have an equally gaping hole at 1st.

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    • Gio says:

      and if they had, people would then bring up the fact that he’s right handed hitter and will probably end up at first base.

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    • ofMontreal says:

      While I agree with your sentiment, I have to say that he-who-shall-not-be-named at ESPN was making that up. The Yankees never ever offered Montero. They offered a bunch of other stuff, but Montero was who Seattle was holding out for. The guy was just pulling a Gammons and making a good tweak story.

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    • Max says:

      Who doesn’t project as a major league catcher (defensively) anyway, so a moot point.

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    • Max says:

      And Ramos isn’t as good as a hitter as Smoak.

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  3. The Nicker says:

    Nice title. In other news, water is wet.

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  4. chris d says:

    Come on give Moore a break. He hit well at AAA and it often takes rookies time to adjust to ML pitching. Even ARod had to go back to AAA to readjust. Give him at least a season before ripping on him.

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    • Bodhizefa says:

      The real issue with Moore is that his power alley seemingly overlays the deepest and most difficult part of Safeco to be successful power-wise for a hitter. In other words, someone like Moore — who in a neutral park may have a league average bat — may be far less valuable to the M’s than to all the rest of the teams in the league. And that’s a problem.

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    • dnc says:

      I believe ARod was a month or two younger than Moore at that point…

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    • brendan says:

      wasn’t ripping him. just said that moore has hit poorly this season, which is true.

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  5. JCav75 says:

    you’re about 15 years late on this article. Mariners catchers haven’t been able to hit since they did this: After the 1993 season, the Reds traded Wilson to the Seattle Mariners for second baseman Bret Boone. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Wilson_%28baseball%29

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    • dnc says:

      Johjima gave a brief respite from this, but for the most part, you are correct.

      That said, pre-Dan Wilson era M’s catchers hit?

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    • dw says:

      Wilson’s wOBA was over .300 in five of eight seasons between 1994-2002. In the other three, he had long stints on the DL.

      Once upon a time, catchers couldn’t hit. You kids all spoiled by Mauer need to get off my lawn.

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  6. maqman says:

    They could spend a few bucks on Buck this off-season

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  7. #6org says:

    But Adam Moore is 25.

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  8. algionfriddo says:

    Ranked by OPS (275pa min)

    1-Russ Branyan .810 (35th in the AL)
    2-Ichiro .750 (64rd)
    3-Franklin Gutteirez .684 (98th)
    4-Michael Saunders .657 (113th)

    Their cleanup hitter most of the year has been Jose Lopez at .580. That is not a misprint.
    Michael Saunders has had a rough rookie go but is their 4th best hitter? Wow!

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  9. brendan says:

    backup’s name is Eliezer Alfonzo. If you add in the missing ‘f’, the link to his fangraphs page should appear. He was pretty decent (317 wOBA) for the giants back in 2007, taking over mid-season after mike matheny had a career-ending concussion.

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  10. Jeff Wise says:

    The last Mariner to hit the ball well was Dan Wilson. I would give Moore one more full season though.

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    • ThundaPC says:

      Kenji Johjima was the last Mariner catcher to hit the ball well (2006, 2007). He’s the main reason why “Mariners’ catching problem” hasn’t become an annual topic.

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  11. ThundaPC says:

    Man, I want to say you got this idea from reading Sunday’s (9/19) Game Thread at Lookout Landing but I can’t imagine too many people being interested in reading the game threads these days so this is probably just a coincidence.

    As far as the offseason goes, I should note that the non-Moore/Johnson catchers were guys that came off the scrap heap to begin with. And, as you might imagine, improving offense at the catcher position….well….isn’t the team’s most pressing need. Adam Moore probably gets another shot next year.

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  12. Detroit Michael says:

    Speaking of Jack Z.’s savviness for making trades, Brandon Morrow says “hi.”

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    • dw says:

      Johermyn Chavez says “hi” right back.

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      • Steve says:

        ooh burn….

        so….major league starter with unreal stuff and results catching up to it

        vs.

        a prospect with good numbers in the most offensive environment in professional baseball.

        whatever. it was a terrible trade for the Mariners.

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      • dw says:

        Do you think that Morrow would have had the same season if he hadn’t been traded? Do you think he’d be throwing his changeup and curveball more if he were still in Seattle? Would he be a starter? Or stuck in the endless no-I-want-to-close-no-start-no-wait-what-day-is-it he was in for three years?

        Morrow didn’t have a lot of value. He had talent but zero consistency and a tendency to melt down. The Jays, to their credit, figured out how to adjust his mechanics and finally get him to pitch like he was expected to.

        The problem with the Morrow-League trade comes down to three things: The Mariners and Morrow were never on the same page, depressing his talent; Jack Z then dealt Morrow at a discount (League and Chavez); and League didn’t even pitch the way he did in Toronto for umpteen reasons, primarily related to the Mariners pitching coaching staff.

        So, really, what it comes down to is the same damn problem the Mariners have had for… what now, 15 years? The Mariners can’t handle pitchers. They can’t. They got Ian Snell and now he’s even worse than he was in Pittsburgh. At least labrums aren’t fraying left and right like they were under Woodward and Gillick, but even now you see the same damn problems with bad pitching coaching screwing decent pitchers up. All that “Felix must establish the fastball” crap of 2006-2008.

        But the MORROW TRADE LOL shorthand is simplistic BS. It just shows the #6org meme as the Tea Party of sabermetrics.

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  13. joseph pittman says:

    the fact that the mariners wanted Smoak over Montero is criminal performance aside the 3 year difference in ages points to Smoaks deficiencies

    coming into this season The 20 year old Montero had 659 total bases and the 23 year old Smok only 259 total bases, this despite Smoak hitting in the hitter friendly PCL and for those who say Montero wont be a catcher, he Still played the far more defensively challenging position, While out hitting Smoak in virtually every category.

    Smoak was totally overmatched in his time in Seattle as his 23:1 strikeout to walk ratio suggests . Mariner fans are blind to Smoaks flaws because USS Mariner Guru Dave Cameron came out in favor of Smoak over both Ramos and Montero, but time will prove that in this case Cameron missed badly as did Mariner GM Jack Z. as another prospect in the same shortsighted deal, Josh Lueke, has created a firestorm with his rape allegations which the front office overlooked

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