Monday, March 10, 2008

CRAP: Catchers

So far, we've looked at the outfield and the infield. We'll move on to the backstop, the position that's undergone the most turmoil since last season.

The good news is that treading water on the offensive side of the ball likely won't be that hard. Nats catchers hit .245/ .325/ .354 last season. As bad as that looks, that's really not far below league average, which should tell you everything you need to know about the state of catching in the league.

  • Paul Lo Duca
             HR  RBI  AVE  OBP  SLG
    BJ 8 56 289 338 402
    CHONE 8 51 267 315 370
    Marcel 7 52 281 325 386
    ZIPS 5 47 279 325 374
    CRAP 5 45 270 315 380

    Lo Duca doesn't walk, but he also doesn't strike out. He puts the ball in play, and good things sometimes happen. (and some GIDPs too) He's had a tendency to wear out in the second half over his career, and he's no spring chicken. Last year was near a career low for BABIP as a regular catcher. Either it was just a down season and he'll revert some, or he's hanging by his fingernails off the cliff. If his cellphone weren't TOAST, maybe he'd be able to call someone for help.

  • Johnny Estrada
             HR  RBI  AVE  OBP  SLG
    BJ 4 30 295 339 420
    CHONE 9 54 277 315 403
    Marcel 10 60 276 309 404
    ZIPS 6 48 269 306 368
    CRAP 5 30 270 305 380

    He's another tough one to judge because his performances have been so wacky. One year he's an all-star, the next year a double-A catcher. We know that last year was affected by an arm injury, so there's some hope for a rebound. But we also know that he's still not healthy this season, though that could just be related to the healing process for the surgery instead of something crippling. We just don't know. Still, I'm banking on the low side of the other projections; I think he's nearer the end than the beginning. And, still, even in his death rattles, if you compare him to league average, he's not that far below. Man, this league's catchers suck.

  • Jesus Flores
             HR  RBI  AVE  OBP  SLG
    BJ ----------------------
    CHONE 11 43 227 285 368
    Marcel 7 38 270 340 412
    ZIPS 12 42 243 295 412
    CRAP 4 18 240 315 400

    The team has been pretty adamant in insisting that he's not going to play in the majors this season, going so far as to say that he won't even come north if one of Lo Duca or Estrada aren't ready to go.

    Truthfully, that makes a lot of sense, even as much as I love me some Jesus.

    We all can agree (I hope), that he's not a finished player. He needs a bit more work offensively, and likely defensively. The argument goes that since he has to learn still, why can't he just learn in the majors. I think learning in the majors, especially how to hit when you're facing Smoltz and Hudson and Pedro, is exceedingly difficult, but even if it's not, there's a bigger reason to send him down.

    Teams control players for six seasons of play. If Flores stayed up the entire time, he'd be a free agent after his age 27 season. He'd be a FA right in the prime of his career, and if it goes according to plan, he'll be making a crapload of money from someone (hopefully us!). By sending him down, they're pushing back the time for his FA eligibility. If he goes down this season, he won't be eligible for FA until after his age 28 season.

    Would you rather have a season of Flores learning on the job in a part-time role as a 23-year old, or a developed Flores as a 28-year old wrecking Omar Minaya's Mets 18 games a year (assuming that Omar isn't shitcanned before then!)? It's a pretty easy call. Send him down, let him learn, reap the rewards later. Hell, send him down for part of the seasaon in 2009, too, and you'll get his age 30 season while you're at it!

    I love the guy and I want to see him do well, but I think I'll love him a whole lot more in 6 years. It's best for his career (if not his future salary!), and it's certainly best for the franchise.

    • I'm a huge Flores fan, but I now agree with you 100% that he shouldn't be rushed. My only concern is this: what happens when PLoD or Estrada are on the DL? Does Humberto Cota become the #2 backstop?
      And if (when) they both happen to go down, is that where you see Flores' four dingers coming from? I am assuming they would have to start him if they are forced to bring him up in this situation.

      By Blogger Rob B, at 3/10/2008 10:32 AM  

    • Either injuries or in September. (The latter more likely)

      We'll find out. I'm not 100% sold on their Cota thing either, because there are 40-man roster implications, although some of that clears up if they lose the Rule 5 kids.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/10/2008 10:35 AM  

    • It's great to trade a season of 23yr old average Flores for a season of 28 yr old super Flores and I guess since this season is again meaningless when it comes to playoffs its fine. Personally though, I thin once you've had significant major league time - significant minor league time isn't as helpful as even split major league time. Your mind has caught up to the speed of major league play. Hmmm, seems there's a research project here.

      Now about Lo Du....Holy crap! Did you out project the projections for the SLG for every single OF?

      By Blogger Harper, at 3/10/2008 11:18 AM  

    • Apparently. I think they're all defensible projections, even if there's a bit of fanboy in them.

      I could make a case that each could do better than those, as well.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/10/2008 11:21 AM  

    • Eh, I wasn't down on your prognosticating. These guys are all young so any projection is going to be little more than a guess. And if you can't be optimistic about their futures, you might as well be me.

      Austin is the only one I have a problem with. Sure he got injured but before that last half-season he hadn't broken .470 in one of the best offensive parks in the majors.

      By Blogger Harper, at 3/10/2008 11:56 AM  

    • That's fair. I'll admit to being a Kearns fanboy.

      He did slug .500ish in his first (partial) season. He's finally healthy now, and in his prime.

      If he's ever going to, it's going to be this year.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/10/2008 12:00 PM  

    • Aside from CRAP, if you haven't read Ladson's mailbag, please's fantastic as usual....including:
      Zim will hit 40 homers and Lannan could start opening day...

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/10/2008 3:43 PM  

    • I think he's just baiting me now.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/10/2008 3:46 PM  

    • Chris, I think you have real humor potential by adding in Ladson's predictions for this season.

      Zimmerman: 40 HR, 120 RBI
      Milledge: 100+ RBI
      Dukes: (potentially 40 HR), 100+ RBI
      Kearns: 35 HR, 110 RBI

      I'm a little concerned with how Kearns and Dukes will combine for 70ish HRs and 210+ RBIs while splitting time in RF, but crazier things have happened!

      Hell, who cares who's pitching with the type of numbers Ladson's throwing around.
      I'm predicting a steroid renaissance!

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/10/2008 4:31 PM  

    • Predictions: PLoD has fewer than 200 at-bats, five HRs and throws out less than five runners stealing. He may spend more time with lawyers at Covington and Burling than on the active roster. Estrada is just a stiff, even when healthy, which he isn't. Kid Flores, totally bummed with confidence broken by starting the season, at Double-A Harrisburg, has a so-so year in the minors while opposing teams run wild on the Nats' so-called backstops. In this particular instance, JimBo has spent too many hours getting dizzy on his Segway. The Plan, Catching Divisionl, Sucks.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/10/2008 7:41 PM  

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