Can it be considered ironic that at a time when Moneyball is being run 24 hours a day, seven days a week on cable, the Oakland A’s are contradicting their methods by using Derek Norris behind the plate over George Kottaras? Has the curmudgeonly Phillip Seymour Hoffman taken over the body of Bob Melvin and ignored the wishes of
Brad Pitt Billy Beane who brought in an underrated Kottaras at the end of July? Hasn’t Jonah Hill interrupted with his classic line, “Because he gets on base,” yet? And can we please get that little girl to stop singing that stupid Lenka song which has invaded my subconscious and emerges at the most random parts of my day? OK, so that last one is a personal problem, but in looking at the numbers, seeing Norris in the lineup four or five days a week seems to not only be a very un-Oakland like move here, but also one that makes little sense as the A’s make a move towards the playoffs.
I understand that the A’s are expecting Norris to be their catcher of the future and that the in-game experience he gets now will be beneficial down the road. But at 23-years old, there’s a long road ahead that leads to more on-the-job experience that doesn’t come at a time when his .196 average and equally pathetic .270 OBP are a detriment to the team’s offense. The minor league numbers are a much better indicator of the reasons Norris is expected to stick with the team — double-digit walk rates at every level, coupled with some killer OBP marks — but the fact of the matter is that, right now, he is failing miserably. His walk rate sits at just 8.6% while his strikeout rate sits in the treetops at 29.3%.
Meanwhile, Kottaras, in his incredibly limited amount of time, has outproduced Norris offensively. Norris may have the edge defensively, but it’s really not by that wide of a margin. Not wide enough to play an offensively inept guy in lieu of, that is. And while the offensive difference between the two hasn’t been that significant in August, the overall numbers for the season show that Kottaras is better suited to play during this home-stretch playoff run.
You can just go down the line, from HR/AB to ISO to slugging percentage and OPS; Kottaras has a clear edge. And the fact that his walk rate and strikeout rate are both at 21.3% jibes very well with the whole “because he gets on base” philosophy. If we’re to believe that the main goal is to “buy wins” and for that you have to “buy runs” and defense is secondary (see: Scott Hatteberg, nerve damage, never played first base), then Kottaras and his .383 OBP (.351 wOBA) fit much better into this equation. Not to mention, as a fantasy owner in an OBP league in need of a better second catcher, Kottaras would make for a nice option to plug in there for the final month. Just because MLB has made it easier to reach the playoffs with a second wild card, doesn’t mean you can slight yourself in offensive production.
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