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Monday, February 20, 2012

Deadspin: Buster Posey And The Dusk Of The Slugging Catcher

But they can’t DH him in the National League!

The hitting catcher feels like a relic from the 90s. Pudge Rodriguez and Mike Piazza and their ilk made it seem normal and necessary to have a backstop who wasn’t a liability at the plate. If you’ve got to throw a mask and shinguards on some hulking, plodding slugger to get 25 home runs out of that lineup slot, so be it — even at the expense of pitch-calling and cutting down baserunners. It wasn’t always this way: Johnny Bench, hailed as one of the greatest hitting catchers of all time, had a career OPS of .817 — there were seven catchers who matched or beat that figure last season.

The Non-Catching Molina (sjs1959) Posted: February 20, 2012 at 01:40 PM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: giants, history

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   1. GEB4000 Posted: February 20, 2012 at 05:09 PM (#4064922)
There was only one catcher who had a higher OPS+ in 2011 than Bench's career OPS+. Tough position.
   2. The District Attorney Posted: February 20, 2012 at 05:16 PM (#4064936)
There was an interesting Posey article yesterday.
Bruce Bochy has forbidden Buster Posey from blocking the plate. The Giants’ manager confirmed it on Sunday, and much will be made of that decision.

But here is one more vital scrap of information: Posey was under the same order the night that Florida’s Scott Cousins speared him like a tackling dummy... The Giants already knew the risk involved with putting their best offensive player in a chest protector. They saw what happened in August, 2010, when the Cleveland Indians lost promising rookie Carlos Santana to a torn knee ligament in a collision at the plate. Shortly after that, Bochy sat down Posey and told him that saving one run wasn’t worth the risk...

The smart money is that Posey won’t be a catcher for long beyond 2012. Bochy probably tipped his hand while lauding the stockpile of catchers in the system: A group that includes Tommy Joseph, Andrew Susac and Hector Sanchez.

“We have some good young catchers in camp – the best I’ve ever seen,” Bochy said...

One other note: Posey said he is going to leave discussion of a rule change to the people who makes those decisions. He isn’t going to lobby for an amendment to protect catchers.

But Bochy isn’t going to set down his megaphone on this subject.

He got resistance last year from Joe Torre when he was MLB’s chief of on-field operations. But Torre stepped down and the league hasn’t named a replacement.

If it’s Tony LaRussa, then Bochy should be able to gain more traction on a rule change. LaRussa was receptive to the idea when Bochy discussed it with him last year. Several other managers also feel the issue merits more discussion, Bochy said.

Bochy said he’d continue his grass-roots efforts to gain consensus with his fellow managers on this topic.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: February 20, 2012 at 05:32 PM (#4064955)
Good luck Mr. Bochy. It's well past time to rid the sport of plate blocking (and, more imporant, catcher maiming).

   4. Mefisto Posted: February 20, 2012 at 05:38 PM (#4064966)
What makes Posey's injury worse is that he wasn't actually blocking the plate. Cousins had plenty of room; he just chose to take out Posey. Video here.

Personally, I'm not sure Posey's hitting will ever recover. I guess we'll find out.
   5. BDC Posted: February 20, 2012 at 05:39 PM (#4064967)
Here's some information FWIW, which may not be much. I ran a B-Ref PI search for the median OPS+ of regular catchers (defined as >75% catching, >2500 PAs) in each decade:

2000s 92
1990s 93
1980s 97
1970s 95
1960s 105
1950s 104
1940s 91
1930s 104
1920s 96
1910s 83
1900s 74
1890s 93

One factor to note immediately is that the longer ago you run this search, the fewer catchers appear by decade: partly because of expansion of leagues and schedules, but partly too I'd imagine because better medicine and equipment allow catchers to accumulate longer careers. (And thus selecting for the better hitters in the earlier decades in this list; perhaps the rest of the playing time is taken up by weaker bats.) In any case, to pick the 1990s as the decade that invented the monster-hitting catcher is odd. They were the decade of Mike Piazza, one extra-memorable guy, but the typical catchers of the decade were Benito Santiago and Sandy Alomar, guys who could make some contact and had odd-HR power, but were not exactly Gabby Hartnett. I don't know when the heyday of the .220-hitting glove man at catcher was, exactly, but it's most evident about 100 or more years ago, when truly nobody cared what catchers hit. After the lively ball, people started to care a lot, for lots of reasons. We think of the 1960s as a new deadball era, but it was more like a deadball/longball era: HR or nothing. Tom Haller, John Romano, Bill Freehan, Earl Battey, John Roseboro, and Elston Howard were all good hitters with fair power. None of them hit .220, and several were outstanding fielders.
   6. Blubaldo Jimenez (OMJ) Posted: February 20, 2012 at 05:45 PM (#4064974)
Maybe they should teach him to PROPERLY block the plate. If he stays on his feet instead of dropping to his knees he gets out of this unharmed.
   7. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: February 20, 2012 at 06:57 PM (#4065036)
Good luck Mr. Bochy. It's well past time to rid the sport of plate blocking (and, more imporant, catcher maiming).


Leave, go and watch the NFL.
   8. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 20, 2012 at 07:16 PM (#4065050)
Leave, go and watch the NFL.


More of a college football man myself. Can I watch that instead?

The play by the catcher requires violating the rules as written, and encourages collisions that are inconsistent with the way the rest of the sport is played. I see no place for it in the game.
   9. DanG Posted: February 20, 2012 at 07:35 PM (#4065062)
21 players in history with 115 OPS+ and 900 G at catcher

Rk            Player BtWins OPS+   BA   PA From   To
1    Charlie Bennett  11.06  118 .256 4310 1878 1893
2      Jack Clements   8.96  117 .287 4721 1884 1900
3    Roger Bresnahan  21.03  126 .279 5374 1897 1915
4       Chief Meyers   7.41  117 .291 3226 1909 1917
5       Wally Schang  17.31  117 .284 6423 1913 1931
6    Mickey Cochrane  24.03  128 .320 6206 1925 1937
7     Gabby Hartnett  22.94  126 .297 7297 1922 1941
8        Bill Dickey  22.88  127 .313 7060 1928 1946
9     Ernie Lombardi  19.54  126 .306 6349 1931 1947
10    Roy Campanella  13.32  123 .276 4816 1948 1957
11     Walker Cooper   7.91  116 .285 5078 1940 1957
12        Yogi Berra  23.28  125 .285 8364 1946 1965
13     Smoky Burgess  10.76  116 .295 5013 1949 1967
14         Joe Torre  31.15  128 .297 8801 1960 1977
15    Thurman Munson  11.62  116 .292 5903 1969 1979
16      Johnny Bench  27.06  126 .267 8669 1967 1983
17       Ted Simmons  21.66  117 .285 9685 1968 1988
18       Gary Carter  16.34  115 .262 9019 1974 1992
19      Carlton Fisk  19.57  117 .269 9853 1969 1993
20       Mike Piazza  39.43  142 .308 7745 1992 2007
21      Jorge Posada  20.05  121 .273 7150 1995 2011 
   10. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: February 20, 2012 at 07:40 PM (#4065066)
LotS doesn't want sissies watching the glory of true football. Alabama would have beaten Indianapolis 10 times out of 10! The SEC has higher quality play than the NFL!

I think blocking the plate with a leg is different than blocking the plate with your whole body. The former is definitely better for the catcher than the latter.
   11. DanG Posted: February 20, 2012 at 07:48 PM (#4065072)
20 players in history with 75 or lower OPS+ and 900 G at catcher

Rk              Player BtWins OPS+   BA   PA From   To
1    Malachi Kittridge 
-25.49   56 .219 4454 1890 1906
2          Jack Warner 
-12.79   73 .249 3827 1895 1908
3          Bill Bergen 
-34.69   21 .170 3228 1901 1911
4           Lou Criger 
-12.34   72 .221 3619 1896 1912
5            Red Dooin 
-17.47   71 .240 4271 1902 1916
6       Billy Sullivan 
-19.64   63 .213 3981 1899 1916
7        Bill Killefer 
-17.23   63 .238 3400 1909 1921
8        Oscar Stanage 
-16.45   69 .234 3845 1906 1925
9          Luke Sewell 
-23.64   70 .259 6041 1921 1942
10      Rollie Hemsley 
-20.10   74 .262 5509 1928 1947
11          Mike Tresh 
-11.57   71 .249 3637 1938 1949
12           Bob Swift 
-14.92   61 .231 3136 1940 1953
13           Jim Hegan 
-19.50   73 .228 5318 1941 1960
14       Buck Martinez 
-10.77   72 .225 3072 1969 1986
15      Bruce Benedict 
-11.20   71 .242 3289 1978 1989
16      Kirt Manwaring 
-13.16   69 .246 3336 1987 1999
17         Joe Girardi 
-17.18   72 .267 4535 1989 2003
18       John Flaherty 
-12.75   74 .252 3640 1992 2005
19        Mike Matheny 
-20.00   64 .239 4287 1994 2006
20         Brad Ausmus 
-22.04   75 .251 7101 1993 2010 
   12. bigglou115 Posted: February 20, 2012 at 08:21 PM (#4065102)
McCann has 880 G at Catcher so i think that list will increase by 1 in a few months.
   13. Bhaakon Posted: February 20, 2012 at 10:14 PM (#4065176)
Maybe they should teach him to PROPERLY block the plate. If he stays on his feet instead of dropping to his knees he gets out of this unharmed.



A valid criticism, if he were actually blocking the plate. The problem is that he was conceding the baseline to the runner, so had no reason to brace properly before getting demolished.
   14. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: February 20, 2012 at 10:23 PM (#4065181)
A valid criticism, if he were actually blocking the plate. The problem is that he was conceding the baseline to the runner, so had no reason to brace properly before getting demolished.

Yes, but if they were to ban blocking the plate, then baserunners would no longer crash into the catcher. Because crashing into the catcher would make them automatically out.
   15. DanG Posted: February 20, 2012 at 10:25 PM (#4065184)
McCann has 880 G at Catcher so i think that list will increase by 1 in a few months
I see 840 G at C, so yeah, he figures to join the list in June. Of course, whether he can maintain a 115 OPS+ for his career remains to be seen, he's at 122 in mid-career.
   16. Wins Above Paul Westerberg Posted: February 20, 2012 at 10:26 PM (#4065186)
Why a catcher hasn't led the American League in slugging (and OPS, OPS+) since 2009! With onions tied around his belt, no doubt.
   17. Dale Sams Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:42 AM (#4065279)
More of a college football man myself. Can I watch that instead?



Was that taunting? 1rst down and goal from the #9 post.
   18. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 21, 2012 at 02:51 AM (#4065293)
A valid criticism, if he were actually blocking the plate. The problem is that he was conceding the baseline to the runner, so had no reason to brace properly before getting demolished.


He wasn't conceding the run however. I guess the base-runner should have conceded the out, and stayed rigidly on the baseline, just like all base runners do at home, 2nd, etc.
   19. tjm1 Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:59 AM (#4065305)
Plays at the plate should be governed by the same basic rules as tag plays at the other bases. Blocking the plate is interference, unless you already have the ball. If you tried to bowl over a second baseman applying a tag -- well we saw what happened when Albert Belle did that to Fernando Vina, and he was suspended for it. Belle's excuse was that Vina was standing in the baselines, which Vina was, but crashing into him still drew a suspension. If Vina had been a catcher and Belle hit him like that, it would have been called good hard baseball.
   20. WhoWantsTeixeiraDessert Posted: February 21, 2012 at 09:54 AM (#4065344)
Umpires need to enforce the interference call when a catcher sets up with his left leg across the line before the ball gets there, but the hop on throws home make it pretty easy for catchers to start off in front of the plate and then get themselves in the way as the throw comes and make it seem like part of the play.
   21. WhoWantsTeixeiraDessert Posted: February 21, 2012 at 10:01 AM (#4065345)
Also, it seems like umpires do have at least one example of some discretion to protect fielders, with the "neighborhood" call for a force by a shortstop or second baseman needing to just make it "look good" at second when attempting to get the force before throwing to first on the double play. You rarely see a fielder get called for interference when his foot or leg is in front of his base on a tag play, however.
   22. Blubaldo Jimenez (OMJ) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 10:53 AM (#4065370)
A valid criticism, if he were actually blocking the plate. The problem is that he was conceding the baseline to the runner, so had no reason to brace properly before getting demolished.


If by conceding you mean in the act of receiving the ball and moving his body back into the baseline, then yes. Its not like he was standing near the on deck circle.

He was making a play on the ball in the vicinity of the plate, and thus should have been using proper technique to a.) minimize the chance of injury, and b.) maximize the chance of tagging the runner. Sometimes there is nothing you can do, like with the carlos santana injury. In this case the injury was totally due to his lack of proper technique.


Edit: In fact, if you'll watch the video, Cousin's last step before hitting Posey was on the baseline, and Cousins had every reason to believe that Posey had the ball and was going to tag him out, the bowling over is the right play there for him I think.
   23. Mefisto Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM (#4065387)
In fact, if you'll watch the video, Cousin's last step before hitting Posey was on the baseline, and Cousins had every reason to believe that Posey had the ball and was going to tag him out, the bowling over is the right play there for him I think.


Only if Cousins doesn't know how to slide. You're right that his last step was on the baseline, but he launched himself to his left and the spot of collision was nearly a yard off the plate. There's no excuse for that.
   24. SoSH U at work Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:12 AM (#4065390)
Belle's excuse was that Vina was standing in the baselines, which Vina was, but crashing into him still drew a suspension. If Vina had been a catcher and Belle hit him like that, it would have been called good hard baseball.


Fine, no suspension. And there were a number of people who did call it good hard baseball.

But it's rarity and the league's reaction to it demonstrates why the play at home really runs counter to the way the game is played. Baseball doesn't allow players to intentionally destroy other players anywhere else on the diamond (and has taken considerable steps to reduce middle infielder destruction by outlawing the Hal McRae body roll and other dangerous sliding techniques).

Frankly, I don't know how it's logically consistent that Arod is called out (and Jeter sent back to first base) for trying to slap the ball out of Arroyo's hand while a runner whose only goal is the exact same _ to separate the catcher from the ball, home plate be damned _ is rewarded for his success.

   25. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4065398)
Baseball doesn't allow players to intentionally destroy other players anywhere else on the diamond


Mike Lowell did run into Cano rather hard going to second and no suspension was issued. Although Lowell really didn't hit Cano with everything he had or launch himself at Cano. Lowell's response to some people crying about it was great "who do you think taught me that?" (it was the Yankees). Too bad Cano made a great play, Lowell should have hit him harder.
   26. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:27 AM (#4065410)
I agree 100% with SOSHIally. Catcher collisions are stupid and contrary to the spirit of the game. I don't know how they ever became accepted practice.
   27. Blubaldo Jimenez (OMJ) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:45 AM (#4065433)
Only if Cousins doesn't know how to slide. You're right that his last step was on the baseline, but he launched himself to his left and the spot of collision was nearly a yard off the plate. There's no excuse for that.


Well I guess if you don't consider trying to be safe an excuse, sure. And I guess if by a yard off the plate you mean right on the plate. Look at the video, Cousins is on the plate during the collision. Posey was conceding the plate only in the loosest definition of the term. Could he have slid? Sure. Was Posey so far off the plate that it takes this play from standard baseball practice to a dirty move? I don't think so. And none of this changes the fact that Poesy himself could have both avoided injury and made the play, but did neither.

Edit: If we want to litigate these collisions out of the game for the safety of the players I am all for it. But to act outraged that these sort of collisions aren't standard practice is intellectually dishonest.
   28. SoSH U at work Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:53 AM (#4065440)
While I hate the play, as I said at the time, I don't know how you can fault Cousins. Not because of what he could have known or what he should have done differently, but because annihilating the catcher is not just an accepted practice for trying to score a run in the big leagues, but is almost required for a player of Cousins' pedigree.

If he goes for the hook slide and is tagged out, he may find himself on the next bus to New Orleans, never to experience the bright lights and spare crowds of Sun Life Stadium again. A player like that probably feels compelled to go for the knockout blow, the better way to cement his reputation with his manager and fellow players. And as long as we allow this nonsense to continue, then players of marginal skills (and some with non-marginal skills but a similar attitude) will continue to opt for Jack Tatuming the backstop rather than making a play that's consistent with the activity at the other three bases.

   29. Mefisto Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:27 PM (#4065517)
Well I guess if you don't consider trying to be safe an excuse, sure. And I guess if by a yard off the plate you mean right on the plate. Look at the video, Cousins is on the plate during the collision. Posey was conceding the plate only in the loosest definition of the term. Could he have slid? Sure. Was Posey so far off the plate that it takes this play from standard baseball practice to a dirty move? I don't think so. And none of this changes the fact that Poesy himself could have both avoided injury and made the play, but did neither.


The point of first contact between Cousins and Posey is roughly a yard to the left of Cousins. Posey was not "blocking" the plate; there was plenty of room for Cousins to touch the plate by sliding. It's ridiculous for the rules (or custom) to allow a collision under such circumstances.

That said, I agree with SoSH that the expectations for Cousins were such that he pretty much "had" to run into Posey. That's why a ban is needed (along with an equivalent ban on catchers blocking the plate).

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