On Wednesday night, with the bases loaded and the game tied, one out in the bottom of the ninth, Mike Wuertz struck out Pat Burrell swinging. Michael Barrett though allowed the ball to get away, and though he recovered in time to catch Jimmy Rollins in no man's land, marooned between third and home, Barrett then literally threw the game away. What ought to have been a simple inning-ending run
down turned into a catastrophic game-ending score. And that led me to think, just how bad is Barrett's defence? And to what extent does it undermine his rather more quantifiable offensive value?
The common consensus, which is based based largely on just watching the two behind the plate and with which I agree, is that Barrett is at best a mediocre defensive catcher, but that Henry Blanco is a fine defender, one of the best in the game. Perhaps it would be interesting to monitor just how the two have fared so far this year.
There are plenty of complex defensive metrics around that aim to measure defence, but I generally find them just too obscenely obscure, abstract, incalculable, contradictory etcetera. But Catcher ERA, a very simple yet alarmingly crude and therefore flawed statistic, gave me an idea - calculate each pitcher's line throwing to Barrett, and then their line throwing to Blanco, and see what that throws up. And so I did...
|Greg Maddux||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||101.2||119||15||19||62||4.96||15||1||to Blanco||39.0||39||5||5||24||3.92||4||3|
|Carlos Zambrano||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||87.2||69||10||34||73||3.39||1||6||to Blanco||59.1||42||2||28||59||3.03||0||3|
|Mark Prior||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||25.0||24||5||8||29||4.68||1||0||to Blanco||81.1||59||12||27||83||3.32||0||2|
These are the three pitchers who've thrown the most innings to both catchers. All the same, the sample sizes are still far from overwhelming, and neither are these numbers adjusted for ballpark, strength of opposition, days of rest, and what not. It's tough to draw many firm conclusions then. It's even tougher with regards to the rest of the numbers, because simply not enough innings have been thrown to one or both catchers such that a comparison holds any real value. With that in mind, here are the rest of the splits all the same...
|Ryan Dempster (SP)||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||23.1||25||2||14||25||5.01||1||2||to Blanco||11.1||12||1||8||11||5.56||0||0|
|Ryan Dempster (RP)||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||22.1||16||1||14||24||2.42||0||0||to Blanco||11.0||9||0||5||5||3.27||1||0|
|Mike Wuertz||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||34.2||33||4||24||43||5.19||3||3||to Blanco||10.0||8||0||5||8||3.60||1||0|
|Roberto Novoa||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||17.2||21||1||16||14||5.09||0||0||to Blanco||9.0||6||0||3||12||1.00||0||0|
|Todd Wellemeyer||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||17.1||20||5||9||18||6.75||1||0||to Blanco||7.1||1||0||5||7||0.00||0||0|
|LaTroy Hawkins||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||12.0||12||3||3||7||4.50||1||0||to Blanco||7.0||6||1||4||6||1.29||0||0|
|Will Ohman||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||18.1||16||2||6||17||1.96||2||0||to Blanco||6.2||8||2||6||6||5.40||1||0|
|Mike Remlinger||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||27.2||24||3||10||23||4.23||0||1||to Blanco||5.1||7||2||2||7||8.44||0||1|
|Glendon Rusch (RP)||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||28.0||35||3||15||28||4.50||0||1||to Blanco||3.0||6||0||1||3||6.00||0||0|
|Chad Fox||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||5.1||5||1||6||9||6.75||0||0||to Blanco||2.2||3||1||2||2||6.75||0||0|
|Sergio Mitre (RP)||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||10.0||16||5||4||13||8.10||2||0||to Blanco||2.1||2||1||2||1||3.86||0||0|
|Cliff Bartosh||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||18.1||21||7||9||14||5.89||1||0||to Blanco||1.1||2||0||2||1||0.00||0||0|
|Joe Borowski||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||10.0||12||5||1||10||7.20||2||0||to Blanco||1.0||0||0||0||1||0.00||0||0|
|Jon Leicester (RP)||IP||H||HR||BB||K||ERA||SB||CS||to Barrett||5.1||5||0||7||3||6.75||0||0||to Blanco||0.2||1||0||1||1||13.50||0||0|
All other pitchers have thrown just to Michael Barrett.
What do all these numbers tell us then? Not as much as I'd like. All the same, a number of things are at least suggested if not categorically stated...
- It appears as though when pitching to Barrett, a lot of our staff has had problems keeping the ball in the park, and allowing home runs is the single worst thing a pitcher can do. Look not just at Maddux, Zambrano and Prior, who all have higher home run rates with Barrett, but also Wellemeyer, Hawkins, Mitre, Bartosh and Borowski, who've gone crazy and given up 25 dingers in just 67.2 innings pitching to Barrett. That's insane, about twice as bad as Eric Milton even! With Henry Blanco on the other hand, even if you don't overlook Mark Prior and his nine homers allowed in three starts, this hasn't been as much of a problem. If this enormous difference in home runs allowed is for real, and it may not be, Barrett's game calling could be rendering his bat null and void.
- Just how amazing is Henry Blanco's arm? He's allowed just eight stolen bases this year, and has thrown out ten. But four of the steals he's allowed were off Greg Maddux, who does so little to hold runners that Michael Barrett has thrown out just one of sixteen this year. Off pitchers not called Greg Maddux then, Henry Blanco has allowed just four bags to be swiped off him in nearly 220 innings behind the plate, and, as we all know, even though it was a bad throw, Hector Luna was clearly out in that Sunday night game against the Cardinals! So that's three. Scott Podsednik, Willie Harris and, last night, er, Chase Utley. Yes, that's right, it took until August 4th for a National League baserunner to really steal a bag off Henry Blanco!
- Blanco seems to work better with Zambrano and Novoa in particular, the two pictures for whom Spanish is also their mother tongue. Perhaps then it would be a good ploy to use Blanco as Zambrano's personal catcher, and to then use Novoa specifically in relief in those games. At the very least that might establish whether or not Novoa and Blanco really have something going, or whether it's just an oddity of the nine inning sample size involved. Sergio Mitre threw a complete game shutout, remember, nine innings is nothing. With Zambrano and Blanco, it's a bit clearer - they seem to work well together.
- Does Blanco have trouble catching lefties? Not one of Ohman, Remlinger, Rusch and Bartosh has fared particularly well with him behind the plate. Then again, besides Ohman, they've not fared particularly well with Barrett either, although Rusch as a starter was of course excellent. That's not to mention though that Remlinger and Bartosh probably wouldn't fare that well with the greatest defensive catcher in the history of the world back there. It's probably nothing, or just 16.1 innings...
Continue the discussion in the comments...