# Dan Szymborski's Positional Reports

## Positional Report: AL Catchers

by Dan Szymborski

This is the first of the many positional reports I share with a group of sabermetrically like-minded people in my area. I've decided in order to encourage some debate and criticism during the baseball off-season, to also print them on the MSN Baseball Board and the Baltimore Orioles Mailing List (and general baseball mailing list) that I subscribe to in addition to Usenet. Anyone with interest in being added to the hard copy list for next year, please send your address to my growing (!) mailing list (this is the 5th year I've done this).

To those already privy to what PRC and PRC/27 are, the below paragraph only explains them.

First off, I am ranking the players offensively based on a variant of Bill James' Runs Created measurement. The idea of Runs Created was to seek to understand the main components of offense and to be able to separate individuals from an offense in order to determine the individual players effect on the offense. The formula, when applied to an entire team, almost always predicts the amount of runs scored by a team within 5%. I have ranked the AL Catchers by RC/27, which is how many Runs Created the player produces for every 27 outs. This gives a valuable context as it's an approximation of what an entire team of that player would score in every game. I also have included the player's Runs Created over Average and Replacement. This is so that you could look at a team and ask "How would it affect a team's ability to score runs if this player was replaced by a league average player? Or your run-of-the mill AAA player?" Replacement value here is defined as creating 1 run less per 27 outs than the average player. So, PRC/27 is a qualitative evaluation, PRC is a quantitative. Both have uses. I use Total Baseball's Method for calculating park effects, but weigh them slightly differently (so my PRC/27 may depart from Nelson Lu's slightly). I also use a different spec of replacement value than Mr. Lu does.

Actually, I lied. The players are actually ranked by PRC/27 which means park adjusted RC/27. This is because a Dodger Stadium run is of more value than a Coors Field home run. Park values are available upon request.

After the chart, I go into players in more detail with more extended comments. With other positions, I have an additional ranking with defense taking into account, but for catchers, I merely comment. Catchers' defense is the most difficult position, by far, to evaluate and there really aren't any particularly good way to objectively rate a catchers' defense and absolutely no way to quantify it.

(At least 250 Plate Appearances. If team had no catcher with 250 plate appearances, the catcher with the most plate appearances is substituted). Normally I use 350, but catchers are a special case.

For example. A team made up of 9 Sandy Alomars would score around 7.59 runs/game. Sandy Alomar is responsible for about 86 of Cleveland's runs. If Cleveland had replaced Sandy Alomar in every at bat with a duff AAA catcher, it would've cost Cleveland around 43 runs (Each additional win for a team is worth about 10 runs). If Sandy Alomar was replaced by your typical AAA duff with the same defensive ability, Cleveland would've probably lost around 4 wins.

```Player          PRC/27        PRC       PRC Above ReplacementAlomar          7.59          86        42.94
Rodriguez       6.54         100        41.70Hatteberg       5.67          53        17.48
Leyritz         5.58          57        18.00Hoiles          5.54          49        15.15
Mayne          	5.01          34         8.10Wilson          4.99          69        16.36```
`Average       	4.81          63        13.13`

```Steinbach     	4.22          53        5.33Santiago       	4.01          38        1.88
MacFarlane  	3.95          29        1.01Girardi         3.87          42        0.71```

`Replacement?    3.81`

```Fabregas     	3.75         37         -0.59Casanova     	3.53         30         -2.37
Kreuter      	3.41         25         -2.97Matheny      	3.38         30         -3.89```

It's pretty apparent that Alomar and Rodriguez were clearly the class of the American League this year. Between Rodriguez and Hatteberg, there's a huge dropoff to the second tier. Hatteberg/Hoiles/Mayne/Leyritz/Wilson are pretty much interchangable until another fairly big dropoff to the Steinbach/Santiago types.

Note: PRO+ is how a player's park adjusted OPS (on-base plus slugging) is compared to league average. 100 is average, 120 is 20% above average, etc., etc. Please note that these are not positional adjusted. A catcher with a PRO+ of 95 is almost definitely not a below-average offensive catcher. It's just a good quick way to compare overall value.

Sandy Alomar 1998 Age: 31/32

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  203  6  0 10   7  26  .300 .333 .478  106
96  418 23  0 11  19  42  .263 .300 .397   7497  451 37  0 21  19  48  .324 .354 .545  133
98? 387 29  0 17  17  47  .277 .307 .493```

Great season for Sandy Alomar. The big question for me is whether this was a career year for him or whether it was his actual level of production. I'm going to cop out a bit here and say a little from column A and a little from column B. It shouldn't probably be ruled out as a simple fluke, because in 1994, he did take a big step forward in progression as a major league hitter. A bit less power than he displayed this year, but he had an excellent K/BB ratio (31/25). 1995 was similar (although injured a lot) and 1996 was probably the 2nd worst season of his career. I don't think he'll ever equal 1997 again, but if healthy will still be a valuable offensive performer.

Ivan Rodriguez 1998 Age: 26

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  492 32  2 12  16  48  .303 .330 .449   98
96  639 47  3 19  38  55  .300 .344 .473   9797  597 34  4 20  38  89  .313 .360 .484  116
98? 614 42  3 23  44  84  .322 .368 .513```

Will never be the offensive powerhouse at catcher that Mike Piazza is. However, since nobody in history has been, Rodriguez is an excellent catcher in his own right. His on-base percentage and slugging percentages have been climbing steadily every year and should hit their peak in the next few years. The only question is how durable Rodriguez will be as he enters his early 30s. He'll already be at 1000 games by the time he has his 27th birthday. By all accounts, a very good defensive catcher. I still believe that 5 years from now, he may be a third baseman.

Scott Hatteberg 1998 Age: 28

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95    2  0  0  0   0   0  .500 .500 .500  156
96   11  1  0  0   3   2  .182 .357 .273   6097  350 23  1 10  40  70  .277 .354 .434  106
98? 349 21  1 11  33  73  .264 .340 .438```

No fanfare accompanied the arrival of Scott Hatteberg in Boston (not that there should?ve been), but Hatteberg showed that he's a useful addition. Supposedly not the best defensive reputation, but Hatteberg is an offensive asset when used properly (not hitting lefthanders). Jimy Williams loves platoons sometimes too much, but Haselman/Hatteberg worked quite well. Seems like Hatteberg's been forever. I must be losing my mind. Either way, he probably will be out of baseball in 5 years.

Jim Leyritz 1998 Age: 34

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  264 12  0  7  37  73  .269 .375 .394  102
96  265 10  0  7  30  68  .264 .359 .381   8697  379 11  0 11  60  78  .277 .379 .393  101
98? 267  8  0  6  32  61  .253 .334 .352```

Remarkably consistent hitter with very good plate discipline. I bet the Yankees wish they had a catcher like that. Wait. They did. Jim Leyritz and Mike Stanley. However, New York decided that they needed less offense out of their catcher and picked up Joe Girardi before the 1996 season. I feel sorry for Leyritz. He gets kicked out of New York. He got kicked out of Anaheim for Todd Greene. Texas acquires him presumably as insurance for Rodriguez? departure. Then, Rodriguez signs a big long-term contract and meanwhile, back in Anaheim, Greene gets injured and Chad Kreuter becomes the semi-regular. Poor guy. Needs a cookie.

Chris Hoiles 1998 Age: 33

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  352 15  1 19  67  80  .250 .376 .460  114
96  407 13  0 25  57  97  .258 .362 .474  11097  320 15  0 12  51  86  .259 .375 .419  108
98? 397 14  0 17  61  74  .237 .338 .401```

Hoiles was having another excellent offensive season until he got injured. Lenny Webster filled in admirably for Hoiles, but combined with the Alomar injury, caused the Orioles to go for a month with 3 holes in the lineup along with 2B and SS. Upon return, Hoiles appeared to have lost a good deal of power and was never quite the same. Hoiles has been declining since his big 1993, and combined with an injury and the fact he?ll be a 33 year-old catcher, this may be the year that Hoiles? offensive production takes a substantial drop. If he ends up being the DH, then he should bounce back a little.

Brent Mayne 1998 Age: 29/30

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  307 18  1  1  25  41  .251 .313 .326   66
96   99  6  0  1  12  22  .263 .342 .354   9097  256 12  0  6  18  33  .289 .343 .406   92
98? 195  9  0  3  18  34  .246 .310 .338```

Mayne put out the best season of his career. Nothing exciting. Brent Mayne is one of those players who wouldn't cause a stir if he caught wearing a clown outfit. Mayne should probably return to typical Mayne next year and should have his playing time reduced as George Williams gets more playing time. He won't be horrible, he?ll be one of those useful scrubs. He did have a good 1997, though and was one of the pleasant surprises of the A's season. Nobody noticed though (if people can't get excited about Matt Stairs? monster season, noone's going to give a red cent about Mayne)

Dan Wilson 1998 Age: 29

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  399 22  3  9  33  63  .278 .336 .416   94
96  491 24  0 18  32  88  .285 .333 .444   9497  508 31  1 15  39  72  .270 .326 .423   94
98? 521 27  0 19  38  74  .265 .315 .426```

Wow. Look at that last column. Very consistent. I always find Dan Wilson very interesting. Half the world thinks that Dan Wilson is underrated. Half the world thinks he's overrated, partially in response to the first group's overrating of him. My personal view is that even if he's not the God of Defense as some people make him out to be, Wilson's an above average offensive and defensive player. Nothing special, but a fine player like Dave Duncan was in the early 1970s for awhile. If George Williams still doesn't play much, Dan Wilson will probably be the 3rd best offensive catcher in the American League next year. Not too shabby.

Terry Steinbach 1998 Age: 36

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  406 26  1 15  25  74  .278 .325 .458  107
96  514 25  1 35  49 115  .272 .343 .529  12197  447 27  1 12  35 106  .248 .302 .394   79
98? 326 18  1 15  27 104  .262 .320 .463```

Tough year for Steinbach, as it was for a lot of Twins. Expected to contend for the wild card, the Twins instead folded after two weeks. Steinbach was a major disappointment for Minnesota, albeit their expectations were probably unrealistic. Steinbach had a fine year in 1996, but should?ve been expected to return to his normal level of production. He was much worse than that though this year. My educated guess is that he?ll rebound to 1995 levels next year and then drop off consistently in the following years.

Benito Santiago 1998 Age: 33

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  266 20  0 11  24  48  .286 .354 .485  119
96  481 21  2 30  49 104  .264 .333 .503  11497  341 10  0 13  17  80  .243 .279 .387   75
98? 287 11  1 14  13  75  .256 .287 .446```

Similar to Steinbach in a few ways. Both hit a lot of home runs in 1996 and were signed to fairly big contracts. Both then proceeded to play below their career standards. Like Steinbach, I expect Santiago to bounce back a bit. Then again, Santiago has had a fairly odd career and seemed like dead back in Florida but responded with two legitimately good seasons. God only knows what Steinbach will do now. He's 3 years older now, so I don't expect too much. I've been wrong before, though.

Mike MacFarlane 1998 Age: 34

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  364 18  1 15  38  78  .225 .322 .404   85
96  379 24  2 19  31  57  .274 .341 .499  11197  257 14  2  8  24  47  .237 .316 .401   82
98? 162  9  1  6  13  26  .240 .297 .420```

Even though he was better than Sweeney overall for the year, it didn't really help the Royals that much. They know what MacFarlane can do. Sweeney was pretty awful himself this year, but he's still a decade younger than MacFarlane and should improve. MacFarlane will probably live out his days as a backup/spot starter unless of course, Cito Gaston lands another managerial position (which seems possible as I write this)

Joe Girardi 1998 Age: 33

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  462 17  2  8  29  76  .262 .308 .359   59
96  422 22  3  2  30  55  .294 .348 .374   8197  398 23  1  1  26  53  .264 .311 .334   73
98? 344 17  1  1  27  51  .262 .313 .323```

Girardi, not Dan Wilson, should have the title of most overrated catcher in baseball. His defensive reputation appeared out of the blue upon arrival in New York. New York sportswriters probably wondered why the Yankees would sign him and figured that he must be incredible at handling pitchers. Most of New York's pitchers pitch the same with Posada catching, so I can't really see why. Offensively, Girardi's fairly awful. The Yankees will start to play Posada more, if they're smart.

Jorge Fabregas 1998 Age: 28

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  227 10  0  1  17  28  .247 .299 .304   58
96  254  6  0  2  17  27  .287 .332 .335   7197  360 11  1  7  11  43  .280 .302 .382   80
98? 291  8  0  5  13  41  .258 .289 .337```

Another reason for Jim Leyritz to lose his mind. Fabregas is the one who gets traded to Chicago and gets the majority of the playing time. Leyritz goes to Texas to become Rodriguez backup. Has Leyritz had a psychiatric evaluation? After all, Ivan Rodriguez does look a bit like Juan Primo. Any Fort Worth residents know of any knife-toting psychopaths that like Leyritz? (Hopefully SOMEONE understands the reference. I tried a reference from Twelve Angry Men last year and nobody understood). Anyway, Fabregas really isn't much of a catcher or a hitter or anything for that matter.

Raul Casanova 1998 Age: 25/26

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+96   85  1  0  4   6  18  .188 .242 .341   45
97  304 10  1  5  26  48  .243 .308 .332   6898? 312 12  2  6  29  44  .255 .320 .365```

Something about catchers named Casanova. Paul Casanova didn't hit too well. I guess Casanovas are better lovers than hitters (surprisingly since they wear all that gear). Anyway, Raul Casanova was a pretty decent disappointment for the Tigers this year. I guess it counteracted Damian Easley's possession by aliens, though.

Chat Kreuter 1998 Age: 33/34

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95   75  5  0  1   5  22  .227 .293 .333   62
96  114  8  0  3  13  29  .219 .310 .368   75
97  255  9  2  5  29  66  .231 .310 .341   6898? 169  5  0  3  14  33  .223 .284 .308```

Another willing participant in the Cosmic Plot to Ruin Jim Leyritz. Lucky for Anaheim, though, Todd Greene will be the full-time catcher next year. I can see now what may happen next year. Texas trades Leyritz to the Mets. Leyritz starts until Hundley comes back from injury and become Hundley's backup. Kreuter gets traded to Texas to back up Ivan Rodriguez. Ivan Rodriguez gets injured and Kreuter gets 300 at bats. Jim Leyritz hangs himself.

Mike Matheny 1998 Age: 27

```Yr   AB 2B 3B HR  BB  SO    BA  OBP  SLG PRO+95  166  9  1  0  12  28  .247 .306 .313   58
96  313 15  2  8  14  80  .204 .245 .342   4497  320 16  1  4  17  68  .244 .294 .338   66
98? 299 14  1  4  13  71  .231 .263 .324```

Matheny was one of only a few legitimately bad catchers in the AL that wasn't out to get Jim Leyritz (OK! I'll drop it). Anyway, Matheny is easily replaceable by basically any catcher. Stinnett and Levis are interchangable with Matheny. None are really good. Well, that's it for now. Next year's report should feature Todd Greene, Mike Sweeney, George Williams, and possibly B.J. Waszgis or Kevin Brown (not in Texas, though)

To send comments, critiques, criticisms e-mail Dan Szymborski at Czerny@baseballstuff.com.

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