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Monday, May 09, 2022

Josh VanMeter was forced to catch for the first time in 12 years. It didn’t go well

Instead of an actual catcher, the Pirates were forced to turn to their emergency catcher, second baseman Josh VanMeter. VanMeter had never caught in a professional setting before. Not in the Majors, not in the minors. In fact, the last time VanMeter caught was in high school, 12 years ago, when VanMeter was “14 or 15.”

The Pirates couldn’t score in the top of the inning, so VanMeter was entering his first ever professional catching experience in a tie ballgame. The pressure was on, and VanMeter’s inexperience showed.

The first hitter of the inning was hit by a pitch. Pitcher Wil Crowe wasn’t doing VanMeter any favors as he proceeded to throw a wild pitch. Obviously, VanMeter had a difficult time stopping it, and the runner advanced to second base. Tommy Pham walked to put two men on with nobody out. The umpire Little was definitely not helping VanMeter out. VanMeter had no idea how to frame pitches, so unless the ball was right down Broadway, Little was calling anything and everything a ball. Mike Moustakas walked. Bases were loaded for Tyler Stephenson. The first pitch of the at-bat was fouled off, right into VanMeter’s mask. You could tell that didn’t sit too well with the career utility man.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 09, 2022 at 12:13 AM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pirates

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   1. salvomania Posted: May 09, 2022 at 09:39 AM (#6075849)
Lesson No. 1 for the backup catcher: don't get ejected for heckling from the dugout.
   2. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: May 09, 2022 at 09:54 AM (#6075851)
VanMeter would not have enjoyed catching Bob Feller.
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: May 09, 2022 at 09:58 AM (#6075852)
VanMeter had no idea how to frame pitches, so unless the ball was right down Broadway, Little was calling anything and everything a ball.

that line amused me
   4. Ron J Posted: May 09, 2022 at 10:39 AM (#6075855)
Mike Lamb spent 7 innings at catcher. He had a notoriously rough time there. DRS has him as -343 runs/year which feels about right if you happened to have seen any clips. (yeah, sample size. Don't care. It was rough)
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2022 at 11:23 AM (#6075865)
Lamb and this fellow VanMeter highlight something about catcher defense that I've always wondered. It's possible that, absent framing, a typical catcher can't do much to distinguish himself defensively from others. At the same time, the barrier for entry is so much higher than it is for any other position on the diamond. You can slot in a below-average outfielder at short and he's going to cost you runs, but not nearly as much as asking even the best defensive non-catcher to play catcher, I suspect.

I don't know how you would capture that in something like WAR, but it does seem meaningful.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 09, 2022 at 12:13 PM (#6075869)
I don't know how you would capture that in something like WAR, but it does seem meaningful.

It really depends on the scarcity. If there are a lot of guys who can do it, and hit to a 70 OPS+ (or whatever the requirement is for a backup C) it's hard, but not valuable. Scarcity is really what drives WAR, not difficulty.
   7. 57i66135 is a hard word for me. Posted: May 09, 2022 at 12:55 PM (#6075874)
In fact, the last time VanMeter caught was in high school, 12 years ago, when VanMeter was “14 or 15.”
Pitcher Wil Crowe wasn’t doing VanMeter any favors as he proceeded to throw a wild pitch
The umpire Little was definitely not helping VanMeter out

^^^
this article wasn't not written by a bot.
   8. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: May 09, 2022 at 01:12 PM (#6075876)
DRS has him as -343 runs/year which feels about right if you happened to have seen any clips.

I saw all of Lamb's 7 major league innings at catcher, and wow, the stats and analytics are most likely underselling how incredibly bad he was. What makes it even better is that he wasn't strictly an emergency catcher. This was a planned thing. The club gave him a couple of one-inning trials to close out some losses early in the season, then decided he was good enough to start a game at catcher a week later. The wreckage from that start -- 5 innings, 2-0 SB/CS, 1 PB, 3 WP -- was enough for the club to finally scrap the idea entirely because as bad as that was, he looked much worse.
   9. . . . . . . Posted: May 09, 2022 at 01:50 PM (#6075884)
I caught in HS. My coach always tried to replace me, because I was a lumbering oaf with a good arm, but he wanted "athleticism" behind the plate to "give the team energy".

I ended up catching most of 3 years. Because everyone else he tried looked GREAT for a game or two before something horrific happened to them and/or their soul.

Catching isn't that hard if you can do it, but 90% of people can't do it.
   10. vortex of dissipation Posted: May 09, 2022 at 02:11 PM (#6075887)
Mike Blowers spent 11 seasons in the majors, primarily at third base, with time at first base and a few games in the outfield. He caught one inning in 1993 as the Mariners' emergency catcher. He's been the TV color commentator for the Mariners for several years. He often talks about his one inning at catcher. I get the impression that moment was as memorable to him as just about anything else he accomplished in his career...
   11. Howie Menckel Posted: May 09, 2022 at 02:12 PM (#6075888)
per my own Post 3, I just remembered that somebody here once posted that framing of pitches by catchers was a myth...
   12. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: May 09, 2022 at 02:20 PM (#6075889)
Nothing highlights just how good these guys are as what happens when they play out of position. It's just really incredible how big the difference is and how quickly it becomes apparent.
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 09, 2022 at 02:37 PM (#6075891)
Catching isn't that hard if you can do it
Yogi?
   14. CFBF is Obsessed with Art Deco Posted: May 09, 2022 at 02:51 PM (#6075895)
Am I remembering incorrectly, or did Robert Fick play a game at catcher for the Nationals toward the end of his career that was so bad it literally made Frank Robinson cry?
   15. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 09, 2022 at 02:55 PM (#6075896)
I think Robinson had to take Fick out in mid-inning because he was so awful, and felt so bad about (in his view) embarrassing Fick that he said it made him tear up, or something like that.
   16. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 09, 2022 at 02:56 PM (#6075897)
   17. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 09, 2022 at 02:56 PM (#6075898)
And Fick was a catcher at the big league level!
   18. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 09, 2022 at 03:10 PM (#6075899)
Fick actually played 158 games at catcher in his 10-year career, including 26 with the Nationals in 2006. None in his last 2007 season, probably as a result of the disaster mentioned in # 14, when the other team was stealing at will, causing Robinson to send in a mid-inning relief catcher.
   19. JJ1986 Posted: May 09, 2022 at 03:12 PM (#6075900)
None in his last 2007 season, probably as a result of the disaster mentioned in # 14, when the other team was stealing at will, causing Robinson to send in a mid-inning relief catcher.
Except that wasn't Fick.
   20. Der-K's tired of these fruits from poisoned trees Posted: May 09, 2022 at 03:26 PM (#6075907)
Or Lucroy! (It was Matt LeCroy, who had been a catcher (though always kind of marginal behind the plate) and is now the AAA manager for the Nats.)

(sorry for the pedantry - just pointing it out because Jonathan Lucroy is a solid defender + I know BLB knew which one it was)
   21. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2022 at 03:38 PM (#6075909)
Am I remembering incorrectly, or did Robert Fick play a game at catcher for the Nationals toward the end of his career that was so bad it literally made Frank Robinson cry?


As a catcher, Fick was a perfectly fine backup.

As a person, he was pretty awful. So he probably made some people cry, just not Frank.
   22. vortex of dissipation Posted: May 09, 2022 at 03:47 PM (#6075911)
That was LeCroy's last game at catcher for the Nationals, although he did start four games at catcher for the Twins the next season. From 2004 until the end of his career in 2007, he allowed 43 stolen bases, and threw out 2 runners trying to steal.
   23. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: May 09, 2022 at 03:51 PM (#6075913)
He often talks about his one inning at catcher.


Can confirm. Blowers has spent more time talking about playing catcher than actually playing catcher.

EDIT:
(It was Matt LeCroy, who had been a catcher (though always kind of marginal behind the plate) and is now the AAA manager for the Nats.)


Years and years ago I wrote a song about this incident. It was from the POV of a Mariners fan who was dreading the possibility that the M's would trade for Lecroy.

Lecroy is probably only the second-most obscure ballplayer I've written a song about. I also wrote one called "John Wasdin Blues" about a pot dealer who spends his evening listening to the Rangers lose on the radio.
   24. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: May 09, 2022 at 04:31 PM (#6075921)
VanMeter would not have enjoyed catching Bob Feller.


I see what you did there! Well done.
   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 09, 2022 at 04:52 PM (#6075927)
Except that wasn't Fick.
Well I’ll be ficked.
   26. Perry Posted: May 09, 2022 at 04:54 PM (#6075929)
Probably everyone here knows this, but what the hell. The ultimate emergency catcher appearance was probably Lenn Sakata's, in 1983 for the Orioles. Came into the 10th inning of a tie game vs. Toronto, not having caught since childhood. Three consecutive Blue Jays reached base; eager to steal vs. Sakata, each was picked off by Tippy Martinez. Then Sakata hit a walkoff homer to win it.
   27. Howie Menckel Posted: May 09, 2022 at 05:05 PM (#6075931)
anybody who got more than two steps off first base vs. Tippy deserved to get sent back to the dugout.
   28. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 09, 2022 at 08:06 PM (#6075950)
The greatest game involving an emergency catcher was this one: https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1983/B08240BAL1983.htm
   29. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 09, 2022 at 08:09 PM (#6075952)

I see what you did there! Well done.


wow. I just got that.
   30. Ron J Posted: May 09, 2022 at 10:44 PM (#6076002)
I tuned in to that game right at the point Sakata went in to catch. It was absolutely clear that Martinez would still be throwing over if he hadn't picked everybody off.

He had no intention of throwing to Sakata with a runner on.
   31. Lassus Posted: May 10, 2022 at 06:37 AM (#6076030)
this article wasn't not written by a bot.

Yes, I also noticed this.

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