Monday, July 19, 2010

Catching Lightning Without Spending

Remember the month of April? Gregg Zaun was in the middle of his poor start to the season, while Jason Kendall was hitting single after single in Kansas City.

While the hatred of Zaun grew incredibly fast, so did the appreciation for Kendall's departed service. In short, Zaun started the year 0-21, during the same stretch as Kendall's 14 game hitting streak. Many questioned Doug Melvin for not extending Kendall and all the 'veteran leadership' he provided. Never mind his below average production and high asking price... Doug Melvin was wrong.

And then reality set in.

Kendall's OPS is back where it belongs: in the mid-.650's. He has played below average defense as well. All Kendall's 314 at bats have led to is a 0.6 WAR for a player in a two year, $8 million contract. Not very good return on the Royals investment for a team looking to rebuild with a 36 year old catcher.

The fans in Milwaukee have seen a much different kind of story behind the plate this season: production without paying much for it. Below are the current lines for Milwaukee catching this season.

Gregg Zaun: 102 AB's, .265/.350/.392/.743, 2 HR's, 14 RBI
Jonathan Lucroy: 93 AB's, .280/.316/.376/.692, 2 HR's, 5 RBI
George Kottaras: 143 AB's, .203/.326/.427/.752, 7 HR's, 21 RBI
Brewers Catchers: 338 AB's, .243/.330/.404/.734, 11 HR's, 40 RBI

All told, Brewers catching ranks 14th in OPS and OBP and wOBA. Not bad considering their best option (Zaun) went down early in the season. Brewers backstops have been productive. Zaun, Lucroy and Kottaras have all racked up 0.6 WAR, despite limited playing time, equaling the production of Kendall in nearly 1/3 the at bats.

Brewers backstops have also thrown out 20 of 87 would be base stealers this year, which is slightly above the league average.

With Jonathan Lucroy seemingly ready to take control of catching for seasons to come, fans have to be excited over what might be. Better yet, the Brewers are not on the hook for a $4.5 salary for a below average, aging catcher next season. I know it hasn't been said much this season, but kudos to Doug Melvin and the front office on this one.

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