Wild pitches happen. There’s no question about it, they’re certainly frustrating especially when they come in a key spot, but no matter how hard you try you’re still going to allow about one every couple games. The Texas Rangers have been the best this season as their pitchers have averaged about one wild pitch every four games.
Meanwhile, it seems as if the Twins can’t catch a break (pun not intended). After three wild pitches allowed by Juan Centeno last night, Twins pitchers have now uncorked 63 of them in 125 games. That’s third-worst in the majors this season.
Early in the season, I showed that John Ryan Murphy had not shown to be adept at blocking pitches in his short career. Summing the catcher’s passed balls and wild pitches allowed as “unblocked pitches” or UP, Murphy had averaged about 1 UP per 15 innings while Kurt Suzuki had rated far better at 1 UP per 29 innings. Murphy was so bad that he would have been second-worst last season, except the only catcher above him was Russell Martin who was tasked with catching knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
Even in his short time in the major leagues, Murphy somehow found a way to be even worse at blocking pitches. With two passed balls and eight wild pitches allowed in just 101 innings, Murphy slipped to a horrendous 1 UP per 10.1 innings. Yeah, practically one wild pitch or passed ball per game! (Though it should be noted that if you read my linked article above, Murphy had three allowed in one game.)
Meanwhile, Suzuki has had 29 wild pitches and no passed balls in 687 2⁄3 innings this season, which has come out to 1 UP per 23.7 innings, so he’s been a little worse than he had been in his career. But the real culprit happens to be John Ryan Murphy’s replacement in Juan Centeno. Before this season, Centeno had played in only 24 major league games so we didn’t have much data to rely on, but in that short time he had amassed 11 UP in 142 innings, or 1 UP per 12.9 innings. Again, quite worse than Russell Martin from last year. Well, Centeno went and topped himself as he’s allowed 29 wild pitches and passed balls combined in 321 2⁄3 innings after last night’s loss. That’s right, the same number of unblocked pitches as Suzuki but in less than half the innings played. That spits out a rate of 1 UP per 11.1 innings, nearly as bad as Murphy from this season but with three times the playing time.
I don’t really know what’s causing this, to be honest. It’s entirely possible that Centeno and Murphy are just bad at blocking pitches in the dirt (the passed balls rarely happen so I don’t really care about those). But, I still find it interesting that Suzuki has been slightly worse this season as well. Maybe it’s just random fluctuation for him, I don’t know.
It could also be a byproduct of the Twins finally looking for pitchers that have the stuff to rack up strikeouts rather than follow the pitch-to-contact archetype that we’ve grown accustomed to over the past decade or so. My final hypothesis is that perhaps the catching trio has simply faced a higher volume of bounced pitches and are blocking a relatively average number of pitches, but it appear as though they’ve been struggling. This final idea would benefit from some research that I could possibly pull up at Inside Edge and I’m definitely intrigued to see if it’s correct.
At the very least, I’m hoping this is merely a simple blip on the radar. Murphy was supposed to be the team’s future starting catcher, Suzuki is getting older and Centeno should not be considered as a regular player. This would be a significant disadvantage if we knew that Trevor May or Glen Perkins couldn’t bounce a breaking ball in a tight spot hoping to get a batter to chase because they didn’t have the faith that their catcher could block it. We shall see though, especially since this is a facet of the game that I’ve never really paid attention.