• Position Analysis: Catcher

    Joe Mauer is looking to have a big year for the TwinsLikely Starter: Joe Mauer
    2012 Stats: .319/.416/.446, 10 HR, 85 RBI, 81 R

    Potential Backups: Ryan Doumit, Drew Butera, Chris Herrmann


    Joe Mauer wasn't officially honored as the American League's Comeback Player of the Year last season, losing out to Fernando Rodney, but he had an awfully good case. His 2011 campaign was as tumultuous as that of any player in baseball, seeing him descend from idol to villain in the eyes of a fan base frustrated by vague injuries, disappointing on-field performance and lacking accountability. Magnifying all these issues were the backdrops of a disastrous season for the club and a massive contract that was just getting underway.

    In 2012, Mauer put it all behind him.

    Some worried that the seeds of trouble sprouting in that '11 season would blossom into long-term limitations but last year it was like none of that stuff had ever happened. Mauer looked like his old self, spraying line drives all over the field and competing for a batting title down to the final days of the season. Rejuvenated, he posted the third-highest home run total of his career. As if to prove a point about the condition of his legs, he attempted 12 stolen bases -- as many as the previous four years combined -- and set a career high for games played with 147.

    The one thing that changed, relative to past successful seasons, was a dramatic reduction in his workload at catcher. Behind the plate for 83 percent of his starts in 2010, Mauer saw that number drop to 50 percent as his playing time at DH and first base shot up.

    This approach made sense for two principal reasons: first, caution with his battered legs was clearly warranted; second, moving Mauer out from behind the plate didnít hurt the lineup the way it has in the past due to the presence of an offensive asset as the backup.

    Ryan Doumit looked like a great fit when the Twins signed him to a one-year deal prior to the 2012 season, and he worked out so well that the club extended his contract for two years in the middle of the summer. Heíll be back to help ease Mauerís workload, while both players can periodically fill in elsewhere.

    With those two locked in, the question is whether a third backstop will accompany them on the roster. That has largely been assumed, since Drew Butera has held down a spot three years running and re-signed for $700,000 during the offseason, but Ron Gardenhire has hinted that heís ready to snap his long-standing trend and carry two catchers in favor of a more potent bench.

    Without Butera weighing the position down, the Twins could realistically boast the best offensive output of any team in the league at catcher, especially if the prime-aged Mauer takes another step forward with 2011 shrinking in the rearview mirror.
    This article was originally published in blog: Position Analysis: Catcher started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 31 Comments
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      If we do get the 2-man catching crew this season (and they stick to it), and assuming no significant injuries to Mauer or Doumit, wouldn't you have to expect Joe to catch around 90 games, possibly even more? He'd catch more often than Doumit, they're not going to split the games half and half between those two. Someone would be up in September to take maybe 15-20 games away from those two, but they're gonna split 140+ games if they can stick to those two for the season, and I would guess they'd go around 60% Mauer, 40% Doumit.
    1. Old Twins Cap's Avatar
      Old Twins Cap -
      Has anyone on here seen Herrman try to catch? If not, realize this: he is not MLB worthy at that position. Not even close. He might be an emergency catcher, but he is not a back-up catcher. Not at this point.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      This is just a weird discussion. Seth might need to chime in about the defensive capabilities of both Herrmann and Pinto, but they certainly have caught a fair number of games if they are so damn bad behind the plate. They both have been called average defensively, though both of them have been pretty successful at throwing runners out.

      Pinto caught 56 of his 93 games at Fort Myers. Does one really want to quibble with that? In the minors, that's what catchers do--they often split time behind the plate. After his promotion to New Britain he barely caught. I wonder why? Oh, yeah, Chris Herrmann was there catching.

      As far as Herrmann's .754 OPS at AA . . . yeah, that's a good thing. For a backup catcher to have an upper .600-lower .700 OPS is very good. That's basically Mike Redmond's average .OPS with the Twins. Herrmann should be a bit better.

      Butera's defense is overrated. His presence with pitchers is not overrated, for sure.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      Mauer's eye at the plate amazes me. Watching the WBC
      This.

      Apart from whether the two strikeouts in the Mexico game were questionable or not, Joe has a real "notion" up there at the plate, every time. As I mentioned in another thread, I was there in Phoenix last weekend, and one of our running jokes was "bet Mauer swings on the first pitch?" each time he was up. I can't remember if he ever crossed me up on that; and most times, he'd make the pitcher throw him one strike looking, sometimes two, before picking out something to take a good whack at. I sat there griping, when he'd look at a strike on 2-0, "this is *why* you work the count to 2-0, to get a pitch like that." And yet, he had a really good WBC first-round series, and more times than not he made a monkey out of me and my petty griping. Maybe the line-drive foul he sent one seat down and to the right of me was a message.

      At least, I wasn't "that guy" yelling Sterrr-roids! Cheeea-ter! to Braun in left field or when he was up to bat. By the second game, some lady a few rows down from him complained, and either he shut up or was escorted elsewhere, I don't know which.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Teflon View Post
      This is like making your kids share a bed room even though you have another one unoccupied on the off-chance that the Pope will move in with you when he retires.
      [Joke involving a pope in a bedroom with kids deleted before the moderators get a chance to.]
    1. worm33's Avatar
      worm33 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Yikes, dunno how that happened. Dreaming, I guess...
      Dont blame you, that was 1 amazing season.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      This is just a weird discussion. Seth might need to chime in about the defensive capabilities of both Herrmann and Pinto, but they certainly have caught a fair number of games if they are so damn bad behind the plate. They both have been called average defensively, though both of them have been pretty successful at throwing runners out.

      Pinto caught 56 of his 93 games at Fort Myers. Does one really want to quibble with that? In the minors, that's what catchers do--they often split time behind the plate. After his promotion to New Britain he barely caught. I wonder why? Oh, yeah, Chris Herrmann was there catching.

      As far as Herrmann's .754 OPS at AA . . . yeah, that's a good thing. For a backup catcher to have an upper .600-lower .700 OPS is very good. That's basically Mike Redmond's average .OPS with the Twins. Herrmann should be a bit better.

      Butera's defense is overrated. His presence with pitchers is not overrated, for sure.
      At this point, we seem to agree then that Herrmann projects to be a career back-up catcher/5th OF. Pinto is a little younger (a year and a half) and will have to show more behind the plate to match his projected above-average-to- decent MLB bat to qualify as a solid #1 catcher. I'd still feel better looking outside the organization.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by Old Twins Cap View Post
      Has anyone on here seen Herrman try to catch? If not, realize this: he is not MLB worthy at that position. Not even close. He might be an emergency catcher, but he is not a back-up catcher. Not at this point.
      For the most part I've heard below average regarding Hermann's defense behind the plate. I'm not sure I've heard anyone who follows the minor leagues or the organization describe it as being so terrible he should only be used in an emergency capacity.

      If this is true it is quite an indictment on the organization.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      At this point, we seem to agree then that Herrmann projects to be a career back-up catcher/5th OF. Pinto is a little younger (a year and a half) and will have to show more behind the plate to match his projected above-average-to- decent MLB bat to qualify as a solid #1 catcher. I'd still feel better looking outside the organization.
      I don't think of Pinto as being a starter. Neither one is going to be the primary catcher as long as Joe Mauer is around.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Last year, Butera was used to catch about 30 games. The 130 AB's he got didn't really come out of either Mauer or Doumit's AB's. Most of those 30 games, either Mauer or Doumit or sometimes both, were in the lineup at DH or some other position. Largely, Butera's AB's come at the expense of some other backup. While that hurts the offense, it is not nearly as much as some people suggest.

      A second thing to keep in mind is that Butera doesn't really take catching appearances from Mauer either. Mauer is going to catch as many games as his health and productivity allow. So, since Butera's defensive appearances come at the expense of Doumit or some other 3rd catcher, the real question is this--Does Butera superior defensive skills to Doumit or some other 3rd catcher such as Herrman, make up for the rather small loss of offense you get by having Butera on the roster over some other backup?

      I don't really know the answer to that question. Clearly, Butera is better at most catching skills than Doumit and Herrman at this stage of their careers. Whether his defense is enough better to make up for the dozen or so hits you are going lose by having Butera on the roster, is a rather interesting question.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Well said, Jim. I personally tend to think his defense doesn't make up for his horrendous bat, but the other side of that opinion has more merit than a lot of people suggest.
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