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AL Roundup: Catchers

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After posting the other day that Mauer was leading the league in batting average, I began to wonder how the Twins were shaping up by position throughout the American League.  But this time I'm more interested in seeing performance metrics, as opposed to achievement metrics.

These numbers were accurate yesterday, but I wasn't able to post this last night.  I used the catcher with the most plate appearances for each club...so sadly, there's no Jorge Posada.

Name Team LD% GB% HR/F IF/F ISO BABIP K% BB%
J. Mauer MIN 22.4 49.3 0.0 13.2 .083 .356 7.1 11.9
K. Suzuki OAK 14.4 38.8 1.6 7.7 .049 .275 13.9 7.2
I. Rodriguez DET 22.5 57.5 4.3 N/A .118 .311 16.0 4.5
A. Pierzynski CHI 18.3 42.0 5.3 7.7 .175 .318 6.9 8.8
K. Johjima SEA 15.7 50.4 4.7 20.9 .089 .224 6.3 4.2
V. Martinez CLE 28.6 47.9 0.0 14.3 .060 .345 10.7 8.7
J. Varitek BOS 11.7 44.7 12.8 9.8 .206 .348 22.5 9.9
G. Laird TEX 15.6 50.0 9.0 9.1 .118 .313 15.2 8.3
R. Hernandez BAL 25.2 40.2 7.7 8.1 .135 .212 10.8 6.9
G. Zaun TOR 18.4 49.0 2.9 9.4 .072 .278 10.7 12.2
J. Buck KC 14.9 40.2 5.0 17.9 .105 .294 16.7 10.0
D. Navarro TB 21.4 47.6 3.8 26.9 .093 .393 10.6 6.7
M. Napoli LAA 11.4 24.3 24.0 13.3 .334 .217 23.6 10.9

The Unlucky Award:  Ramon Hernandez

In spite of making excellent contact this year, Hernandez has run into some horrendous luck.  In spite of hitting more than his share of line-drives, and coming in below league average in ground balls (both good things), his BABIP is a miserable .212...when it should be closer to .370.  Additionally, he's got a little power, pretty good for a catcher and doesn't strike out a lot.  Hernandez has had a good season peripherally, but it's not showing up in his numbers.  He deserves better than .207/.244/.339.

The Lucky Award:  Jason Varitek

Varitek has had a lot of bounces go his way so far this year.  By all means, he does have a few things legitimately working for him:  the ability to hit the ball out of the park, good walk rate, slightly above average ground-ball ratio, lots of fly balls which aren't quite as easy to turn into outs as ground balls.  But along with the power comes the (by far) highest strikeout rate among American League catchers, which could be called a push.  It's the low line-drive percentage that raises a red flag for me, because it means that if Varitek were to lose his power stroke, he'd run into some serious productivity issues.  Walks would drop because pitchers wouldn't be worrying about the long ball, and if you can't hit the ball squarely it makes it a whole lot easier for the defense to put you away.  Right now, in spite of the second lowest live-drive percentage among AL catchers, he still boasts a solid .348 BABIP.  It should be closer to .240.

Finally:  Joe Mauer

Not much on this chart should surprise us.  Joe is a good hitter and makes solid contact?  Check.  No home runs?  Duh.  Takes a lot of walks, doesn't strike out much, hits ground balls with regularity?  Check, check, check, check.  If there's one thing that does seem out of place, it's the surprising amount of infield fly balls he's popped up.  Those turn into easy outs.

Basically what looking at Mauer's chart tells me is that there is, indeed, nothing to worry about.  There's nothing wrong with a 25-year old, no matter what position, that possesses these kind of peripherals.  Sure we'd all like to see some home runs, but he's so solid all-around that it's a moot point.  He hits the ball hard, has excellent control of the strike zone, is the owner of some of the league's best plate discipline and his line is reflective of all this:  .333/.404/.413.  If every man in your lineup could hit like that, it wouldn't matter that there were no home runs.

But that's not going to happen, which is why lineups have balance.  Hopefully the rest of the lineup can find their own roles soon.