Catching Next YearOctober 2nd, 2012 by terrybenish
Jason Churchill looks at the year that was from a why Olivo perspective and why not Jaso and Montero. It is an interesting read because I think it accurately frames how Wedge et. al. makes roster choices and daily playing decisions. I don’t believe it is the way that other organizations look at those choices from the position and thought it might be an interesting read both his piece and what I want to suggest. So I will summarize his points, and if you want to see his whole piece there is a link at bottom.
First off he suggests that Mike Zunino is the future, which I completely agree with, but whether that future is next spring, or all star break or 2014, is undetermined. It is true, but I will note that this organization rushes everybody here.
He suggests that Big Jesus is but a spot player behind the plate, this year and forever more. Yes and that is what I said from the day of the trade. He can’t throw in the sense that he is too slow. In 54 starts he allowed 53 stolen bases, while Olivo in 68 starts allowed 47 stolen bases, which is better, but not as heroic as you might think. Jaso allowed 24 in 38 starts which is the best of the three.
This is a little different way to look at it, traditionally the throw out percentage which for Olivo is at 30.9% and Jaso at 22.6% and Montero at 15.9% is the sine qua non. When you look at it though teams seem to run or attempt more and are more successful on a per game basis on Olivo than Jaso and Montero is just terrible and not worth discussing. All together teams stole 124 bases against all three of them which is fifth worse in the league.
That’s a big thing for Wedge and very traditional, he looks at the throw out percentage and makes his decision there. I would suggest there might be some other stuff at play, some obvious and some not so obvious at play.
The three of them had 19 passed balls led by Olivo with 8 and Montero with 7 and Jaso with 4. The team was third worst in the league with 60 wild pitches. The distinction between the two events are due to some arcane rules about whether the ball hits the ground first in front of catcher and the deal, the real deal is that at that level you’re supposed to keep the ball in front of you. No matter the game scorer’s relationship with you. Sometimes pitchers cross up catchers and throw the wrong pitch, not that much though.
At this point in his career, Olivo either is unable to flop with both knees down and occasionally will go to one knee, but mostly he turns his mitt this way or that way to try to do a hockey goalie glove save. It is brutal to watch and he has to be the worst receiver in professional baseball now that Kenji Johjima retired from Japanese baseball the other day.
So most of this is not new and has been chewed on a bunch, cud if you will. I want to talk about some things that I think are new and a fresh cut at least in terms of proportionality. Where did that word come from? What I’m about to illustrate or try to illustrate is something that some major league managers such as Mike Scioscia and Tony Larussa and maybe some others understand more than others, say Wedge for example and that is this, in a given season a pitching staff may throw about 23,000 pitches.
I can almost feel the knowing winks and nudges from the faithful readers, almost hear the exclamations, “He’s going to talk about framing.” Well sort of, but not without a little chatter first. Framing connotes actions like Olivo, jerking the ball back into the strike zone or guys catching a ball on the edge to the left with their glove thumb up. It is more subtle than that really and involves setup and body sway, centering ball, but the catching ball of the ball firmly mostly. The catcher needs to beat the ball to a spot and ball make big thump in mitt, not soft squishy sound such as when you’re late to the ball, umpires are influenced by that. A firm, unmoving catch as opposed to a mitt flashing through an area gets strikes, no matter on or near plate.
Sabermetrics does not capture that…yet. No matter what some tracer shows, it is just not observable, yet. If there are 144 pitches a game or there abouts and a catcher influences five percent of those per game that is seven strikes. Seven strikes times 162 is over fourteen games worth of outs, rough numbers. I think it might be worth more than five percent of pitches. Some managers like the ones mentioned earlier do as well. It’s why Mike Scioscia does not fee bad about trading Mike Napoli despite how good a hitter Napoli is. It is how Jorge Posada continued to play when he could not throw very well, cause he could do this and hit a bit.
Seemingly Jaso can do this too and the best pitcher on the staff likes him receiving him as well. Miguel Olivo does not do this well now or even knows to do it. All the Molinas do it well. I suspect that Zunino, given his pedigree does too. I don’t expect a good decision roster wise here and fully expect to see Olivo on a smaller deal back here with Wedge jabbering about mentoring and stuff as if Olivo could tell Zunino stuff that would make him better.
Pitching coaches, pitchers have a huge input here. Johjima disappears due to that. Pitchers need strikes out of marginal pitches like junkies need heroin. Throwing the ball down the middle of the plate is a recipe for being a high school coach.