Saturday, December 11, 2010

Seattle's Catcher in the Nigh

Isn't it funny how some teams just can't seem to find a player to play a certain position? For example, the Tampa Bay Rays have no luck in finding a DH that hits any better than a pitcher. For the Seattle Mariners, that position seems to be the catcher. For years, the Mariners have underwhelmed when it came to their catching corps and the signing of Miguel Oliva does not lend inspiration that their dry spell behind the plate will get any better.

Here's a look at some of the gory details the past few years:

  • 2010: Slash line - .201/.263/.303   Okay, that's pitiful. They did manage to throw out 28% of base steal attempts. That's pretty good these days.
  • 2009: Slash line - .224/.282/.354.  Not as bad, but still, pretty awful. They were good, however, at throwing runners out, which they did at a 40% clip.
  • 2008: Slash line - .252/.297/.377. That's three years now with an OBP under .300. 29% of base steal attempts gunned down.
  • 2007: Slash line - .291/.331/.429. Johjima's best offensive year, but the team still had only 22 walks from the catching position in 639 plate appearances. Johjima was very good at throwing base stealers out. 39%.
  • 2006: Slash line - .269/.310/.420. 23 walks in 645 plate appearances.

Not a pretty picture. At least in 2006 and 2007 they slugged a little bit. But for years now, the Mariners have had catchers that never took a walk. Last year, of course, was the nadir of them all. You can't survive with a .569 OBP from your catchers. 2010 was supposed to be the year Adam Moore took over as catcher. But he didn't hit (.195). He didn't walk. He didn't throw out base runners (19%) and he struck out a lot without any power. Moore had an .850 OPS in the minors and had good success throwing out runners, so perhaps this small sample size is unfair to his abilities. He is only 26 and could turn it around.

But Miguel Oliva is no upgrade. First of all, he's had ten or more passed balls in three of his last four years and four times in his nine year career. He's not bad at throwing out runners. But check out his career slash line: .246/.283/.427. Just what the Mariners need, another catcher with a sub-.300 OBP. Last year's offensive numbers were inflated by Coors Field in Colorado. Olivo has walked only 125 times in 3058 plate appearances. That translates to 4%. That makes the Molina brothers look like Frank Thomas.

So maybe Moore will get another chance and just maybe he'll show a little bit of his minor league success. But if not, the Mariners are headed into their fourth straight year of woeful offensive catching.

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