Rob Johnson’s Catching

Dave · April 23, 2009 at 7:23 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Much has been made over the last few years about Kenji Johjima’s game calling, how the pitching staff doesn’t like throwing to him, etc… Much has also been made about Rob Johnson’s work with the pitching staff, how great of a communicator he is, how well he handles a pitching staff, his leadership, and all of that stuff.

Their reputations couldn’t be more opposite. A lot of people think that having Johjima behind the plate really hurts the pitching staff, while having Johnson behind the plate really helps the pitching staff.

Let’s insert some facts into the discussion, shall we?

Team with Joh behind the plate.

Team with Johnson behind the plate.

Opposing hitters have fared slightly better against the M’s when Johjima is behind the plate, posting a .650 OPS versus a .613 OPS when Johnson is behind the plate. However, let’s look at the breakdown by pitcher.

Felix: 56 PA, .702 OPS with Joh, 27 PA, .638 OPS with Johnson
Bedard: 22 PA, .747 OPS with Joh, 56 PA, .448 OPS with Johnson
Washburn: 12 PA, .000 OPS with Joh, 68 PA, .608 OPS with Johnson
Silva: 51 PA, .836 OPS with Joh, 0 PA, NA with Johnson
Jakubauskas: 17 PA, .639 OPS with Joh, 43 PA, .931 OPS with Johnson
Rowland-Smith: 20 PA, .733 OPS with Joh, 0 PA, NA with Johnson
Morrow: 15 PA, .500 OPS with Joh, 11 PA, .282 OPS with Johnson
Aardsma: 15 PA, .298 OPS with Joh, 11 PA, .273 OPS with Johnson
Corcoran: 16 PA, .648 OPS with Joh, 18 PA, .914 OPS with Johnson
Batista: 13 PA, .615 OPS with Joh, 12 PA, .817 OPS with Johnson
Kelley: 4 PA, .500 OPS with Joh, 12 PA, .727 OPS with Johnson
Lowe: 7 PA, .452 OPS with Joh, 15 PA, .533 OPS with Johnson
White: 0 PA, NA with Joh, 17 PA, .301 OPS with Johnson

Johnson hasn’t caught Silva at all this year. Think that matters? Yea, me too. Selection bias is the glaring problem with catcher ERA. If Roy Halladay had a personal catcher, I’d bet the farm on him leading the league in CERA, even if he wasn’t very good defensively. Likewise, the best defensive catcher of all time couldn’t make Brandon Backe into anything other than a crappy pitcher.

That problem manifests itself here. Joh only caught Bedard for five innings and only got four innings with Washburn before he had to leave with his injury. By the way, if the situation had been reversed, and Joh replaced Johnson while Wash had a perfect game, only to immediately give up a base hit and a home run as soon as he entered, that would have been a story in the news, yes? It would have fit the narrative. That it happened the other way means it doesn’t get mentioned. This is how myths are created.

But, getting back to the point at hand – look at the breakdown of pitchers who have been caught by both Joh and Johnson.

Felix: Marginal difference in favor of Johnson
Bedard: Big edge to Johnson
Washburn: Big edge to Joh
Jakubauskas: Big edge to Joh
Morrow: Big edge to Johnson
Aardsma: Push
Corcoran: Big edge to Joh
Batista: Big edge to Joh
Kelley: Big edge to Joh
Lowe: Marginal difference in favor of Joh

This is all ridiculously small sample stuff, but five pitchers have gotten significantly better results with Johjima behind the plate. Two, Brandon Morrow and Erik Bedard, have gotten significantly better results with Johnson behind the plate, and of course that comes with the caveat that Johjima caught the still-working-stuff-out version in Minnesota, while Johnson caught the okay-now-I’m-ready-for-the-season version lately.

What should you conclude from this? Absolutely nothing, because the sample sizes are basically worthless and there are all kinds of problems with using both catcher ERA and OPS against for a pitcher. But that’s the point – the “Rob Johnson is awesome” crowd has created this idea that the team pitches significantly better when he’s behind the plate, and want you to extrapolate actual abilities from those results, even though you shouldn’t. I’m simply pointing out that even the results that those conclusions are based on don’t support the idea that Joh is ruining the pitching staff and Johnson is working miracles behind the plate.

By the way, opposing hitters had an .886 OPS against the Mariners last year when Rob Johnson was behind the plate – easily the worst of any catcher the M’s used last year.

Don’t buy into the myth. Rob Johnson can work hard, be a great communicator, an awesome leader, a nifty teammate, and all that goes along with the praise for his work ethic, and no one still has any idea how much it matters. What does matter is that he can’t hit, and the Mariners aren’t in a position where they can afford to be giving regular at-bats to a guy with no bat and a question mark surrounding his defensive contributions.

Comments

72 Responses to “Rob Johnson’s Catching”

  1. jvalentine on April 23rd, 2009 7:38 am

    Very good post Dave. I had heard people talking about this and even Blowers mentioning it during a broadcast.

    IMO, I think the reason why people are favoring RoJo is because people picture him as the prototypical catcher that shows great hustle and plays the “right” way. In contrast, the majority of M’s fans have never fell in love with Kenji in the 3+ years he has been here and last year’s performance at the plate. He has never been able to connect to the Seattle fans.

    Should be interesting to see if Wak keeps using the Bedard-Johnson and the Silva-Johjima combos (barring injury) for the remainder of the season.

    Happy Felix Day! (Sorry, too early?)

  2. terry on April 23rd, 2009 7:40 am

    But what about the cWHIP?

    :-)

  3. Graham on April 23rd, 2009 7:51 am

    Has anyone else noticed how bad Johnson’s blocking/receiving instincts are?

    As long as he doesn’t show off his arm I could easily mistake him for Clement back there.

  4. Mike Snow on April 23rd, 2009 8:00 am

    Johjima caught Bedard in Minnesota, April 7.

  5. AssumedName on April 23rd, 2009 8:11 am

    Hehe…Joh’s game “galling.” Freudian slip there?

  6. AuburnM on April 23rd, 2009 8:26 am

    Great analysis.

    But here is the real question: is Clement’s defense really so bad that it outweighs the value of a badly needed bat?

  7. Hero 3 on April 23rd, 2009 8:30 am

    I wonder what would happen if you told Washburn he pitched better when throwing to Joh?

  8. bakomariner on April 23rd, 2009 8:31 am

    I think a good part of it is nostalgic…I’ve heard quite a few people who say that RJ reminds them of Dan Wilson…

  9. AuburnM on April 23rd, 2009 8:44 am

    I think there are three levels of baseball fans:

    1. The casual fan who cares more about liking the guys than about any statistics. (mostly women) They all miss the old, loveable M’s.

    2. Traditional fans who follow traditional stats and 100 year-old conventional wisdom. (Me)

    3. Sabermetric geeks. (Who I respect more and more because it seems they are usually right)

    #3 is by far the smallest subset.

  10. Ralph_Malph on April 23rd, 2009 9:00 am

    This is what we sometimes hear (mostly from writers trying to stir up a story):

    Johjima: can’t work with the pitchers, doesn’t communicate with the pitchers, doesn’t speak enough english, pitchers don’t like throwing to him, not a leader.

    Ichiro: not a team guy, doesn’t speak enough english, doesn’t communicate with his teammates, teammates don’t like him, not a leader.

    Hmmmm…..what do these two players have in common besides these two memes?

  11. PositivePaul on April 23rd, 2009 9:03 am

    Has anyone else noticed how bad Johnson’s blocking/receiving instincts are?

    As long as he doesn’t show off his arm I could easily mistake him for Clement back there.

    YES! Every time I saw him in Tacoma last year, I picked up on this right away. I’ve always been baffled by the people who say he’s an excellent defensive catcher. He’s been a passed ball machine, really, and not anywhere close to Dan Wilson in that regard.

    I guess he gets his reputation as a good defensive catcher because he’s pretty much been a terrible hitter, save for his 3rd season in AAA last year…

  12. Dave on April 23rd, 2009 9:09 am

    The rep for his defensive abilities have way more to do with his personality than his skills. Every coach who works with him raves about how great he is at the mental side of the game. Even the new guys who were brought in over the winter talk about how good he is at that stuff. It’s almost certainly true – Johnson is probably a fantastic communicator/leader/motivator/worker.

    Johnson’s never been good at blocking balls in the dirt. The gushing over him has always been about how he handles a staff.

    The problem, of course, is that no one really has any idea if that actually matters or not, and if it does, how much so.

  13. Paul B on April 23rd, 2009 9:44 am

    I’ve always thought that the impact of catchers’ fielding is like manager impact: there are 10% that are really bad, and 10% that are really good, and all the rest fall in a big group where it makes little difference.

    I think this is because the catchers who are really bad (cannot throw out baserunners or have lots of passed balls) get weeded out. And there just aren’t very many who are way above the rest when it comes to throwing to a base or calling a game or framing a pitch for the ump or blocking a pitch in the dirt or blocking home plate and applying a tag or annoying the batter or whatever.

  14. bumkus on April 23rd, 2009 9:58 am

    I’d rather see Clement back up as soon as he figures out how to catch up to the inside pitches, however….

    I think this is being pretty harsh on Johnson. Saying he can’t hit is an overly simplistic generalization. He looks like he’s doing okay to me – he’s holding his own and is definitely not a black hole of suck.

  15. Dave on April 23rd, 2009 10:06 am

    He can’t hit. At all. He’s a terrible, awful, ridiculously bad hitter.

  16. et_blankenship on April 23rd, 2009 10:06 am

    Johnson might be a swell teammate but pitchers will grow increasingly tired of his sloppy receiving skills if this continues. How can a pitcher feel confident throwing a splitter, or sinker, or cutter or slider down in the zone if there is a runner on base and Johnson is catching?

  17. kelliejo on April 23rd, 2009 10:06 am

    Rob has hit in every game he has played. He has hit in extremely clutch situations. If you know anything about being behind the plate, the other night when he caught for washburn, he framed pitches unbelievably well.

    Why so harsh about his time in AAA when he started over Clement down there too? He hit over .400 in spring training this year.

    Clement does a great job in areas, Joh does a great job at times, and so does Burke. They all have great talent or they wouldn’t be there. It just so happens that Johnson has gotten the opportunity to show it and by the way, is batting .268. I don’t think that’s so bad thus far…

  18. Dave on April 23rd, 2009 10:12 am

    Rob has hit in every game he has played.

    In 62 major league plate appearances, Johnson is hitting .200/.200/.300. He has no walks and three extra base hits.

    If you know anything about being behind the plate…

    I spent my baseball career as a catcher, thanks.

    the other night when he caught for washburn, he framed pitches unbelievably well.

    This is a load of crap. The umpire had a wide strike zone for both teams. It wasn’t framing – it was poor umpiring.

    Why so harsh about his time in AAA when he started over Clement down there too?

    He didn’t start over Clement. They split time in Tacoma because the Mariners wanted to get them both work. There wasn’t a starter/backup system.

    He hit over .400 in spring training this year.

    Spring training stats are worthless.

    It just so happens that Johnson has gotten the opportunity to show it and by the way, is batting .268. I don’t think that’s so bad thus far…

    You need to stop using batting average to evaluate hitters. You also need to realize that Rob Johnson has a long track record of not being able to hit.

  19. mwb on April 23rd, 2009 10:15 am

    Wow – great analysis and nice debunking, Dave.

  20. kelliejo on April 23rd, 2009 10:15 am

    Well, you should be a coach then Dave, or maybe a professional baseball analyst instead of spending your time on ussmariner.

  21. Dave on April 23rd, 2009 10:17 am

    According to my tax returns, I am a professional baseball analyst.

    Maybe you should spend more time learning and less time showing off your ignorance.

  22. joealb1 on April 23rd, 2009 10:17 am

    Please don’t feed the TROLL!!!!

  23. kelliejo on April 23rd, 2009 10:18 am

    haha

  24. marc w on April 23rd, 2009 10:23 am

    2 points:

    1) Dave’s 9:09 post is right on. Johnson is not now, nor has he ever been a ‘great defensive catcher.’ This should not be surprising, considering he was converted to catching very late, having spent his college career in the OF.

    2) At the same time, this is not ‘debunking.’ You simply can’t tally up how Johnson’s done with the pitchers and give a ‘big edge’ to anyone when you’ve got ridiculously small samples like four freaking plate appearances. Yes, there are plenty of caveats in the post, but c’mon… this isn’t data. I think you may be right that his reputation hasn’t or won’t translate into improved pitching lines for the guys Johnson handles. But we have no idea, but saying that five pitchers have done better with catcher X than catcher y at this stage is asking the reader to take more out of this than they should (and more out of this than you probably want them to). If someone posted this in a comment, you’d rip it to shreds.
    Catcher ERA is stupid, and the only way to really measure this effect would probably be some sort of Tango-esque WOWY analysis (which for all I know he’s busy doing). But that’ll take tons and tons of data to be anything approaching meaningful.

  25. Dave on April 23rd, 2009 10:26 am

    I think you missed the entire point of the post, marc.

    I explicitly stated that you should not draw any conclusions from any of the data, even calling it “worthless”.

    I’m simply pointing out that the belief that the pitching staff has performed better with Johnson than with Johjima (and that belief is certainly out there) isn’t based on reality.

  26. kelliejo on April 23rd, 2009 10:29 am

    Rob didn’t spend his time in college in the outfield. The games he didn’t catch, 1 in every 5, he would play in the outfield…Both at Saddleback and Houston.

  27. torx on April 23rd, 2009 10:30 am

    FWIW, Fangraphs lists the 2009 projections for Mr. Johnson and they aren’t too pretty.

    Booting Marcel for low PAs, the average of the other three gives RJ a .254/.304/.360 line. That’s between Jose Vidro 2007 and Jose Vidro 2008 in production. So far he’s OPSing .354, ten points less than his projections.

    Now, granted Johnson is a catcher and not DH Vidro, but Johjima’s projected line is .259/.307/.392 (ZiPS doesn’t like Kenji) and Clement’s is .255/.332/.445

    I think it’s clear who should be the two backstops in Seattle based on offense. And based on what I’ve seen from Johnson’s ball blocking ability – this year I’ve seen two catchable balls in the dirt lead to runner advancement – I’m not sure how much you can call Johnson a defensive upgrade over Clement.

  28. torx on April 23rd, 2009 10:31 am

    Oops, I posted last year’s OPS. My mistake. Johnson is OPSing .654

  29. Graham on April 23rd, 2009 10:32 am

    By the way, Rob Johnson’s offence projected out for a full season is currently about a win worse than Jeff Clement’s MLB performance in 08.

  30. naufrago on April 23rd, 2009 10:38 am

    It seems to me that the cERA thing is a case of finding a stat to back up a preconceived notion, i.e. that Rob Johnson is phenom game-caller. I figured it would get dismantled here as soon as I heard Blowers say it.

    However, I’m not sure I like discarding the game management skill as a factor in a player’s game altogether just because we can’t express it statistically. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be mystified either.

    And I´ll note that they’re clearly trying to sell his defense, either to us, the fans, or to the baseball world in general. Blowers had to know that stat was meaningless.

  31. AuburnM on April 23rd, 2009 10:44 am

    Of course a catcher’s ability to call the game and manage pitchers is important. The point is there is no evidence yet that Johnson is any better at that than Joh is.

  32. marc w on April 23rd, 2009 10:49 am

    “I think you missed the entire point of the post, marc. “

    I think I did too.
    Still, I think people are going to take this as a ‘debunking’ of a ‘myth’ or some such. The third to last paragraph certainly helps, though the last sentence seems like you still sort of want to use the results to support the point.

    I think we agree on the overall point, but I just worried that the point was obscured here. Nobody knows what sort of an effect a ‘great communicator’ or whatever has on a pitcher. To date, no evaluation of cERA has found that it’s a valid way to look for such an effect. A WOWY analysis may be the only way to do it, but you’d need years worth of data. What we DO know is that Johnson’s not much of a hitter, and we know that this ‘leadership effect’ would have to be pretty sizable to justify keeping his bat in the line-up.

  33. SvHoopsStar5 on April 23rd, 2009 10:51 am

    “By the way, opposing hitters had an .886 OPS against the Mariners last year when Rob Johnson was behind the plate – easily the worst of any catcher the M’s used last year”

    I’m not one of the people that is on this whole Rob Johnson bandwagon but the .886 OPS fact from last year is essentially worthless given the time in which Rob was playing (September), who he was playing with (AAA guys) and who he was catching (No Washburn, Bedard, and an injured Felix). As a result, I wouldn’t necessairly hold those numbers against him

  34. Graham on April 23rd, 2009 10:54 am

    It just baffles me that they’re willing to keep Johnson playing despite being, well, bad at hitting and bad at the physical part of catching.

  35. huhwhat on April 23rd, 2009 11:00 am

    My question is, was Clement that bad behind the plate last year? I remember several games where he caught Felix and they seemed pretty good and I also remember him catching Silva and Batista which would hurt any catcher.

    Just wondering if Clement was really that bad behind the plate.

  36. naufrago on April 23rd, 2009 11:01 am

    The point is there is no evidence yet that Johnson is any better at that than Joh is.

    Well, there is evidence:

    Every coach who works with him raves about how great he is at the mental side of the game. Even the new guys who were brought in over the winter talk about how good he is at that stuff.

    But, this isn’t evidence we can really value highly, right? So I’d say it makes sense to assume that Johnson does call a game well, but that the other holes in his game of which we have better evidence probably outweigh this other skill. As for him being better at it than Johjima, we have no idea, as Dave said. I’m certainly not trying to imply otherwise.

  37. Graham on April 23rd, 2009 11:03 am

    Clement’s footwork was, and likely always will be abysmal. But it’s not like Johnson’s that great behind the plate either.

  38. Graham on April 23rd, 2009 11:08 am

    So I’d say it makes sense to assume that Johnson does call a game well, but that the other holes in his game of which we have better evidence probably outweigh this other skill.

    I don’t have much doubt that Rob Johnson is very good at calling a game and making pitchers love him. The real questions here are, as you’ve alluded to:

    Does it matter?
    How much does it matter?
    Does it compensate for his other shortcomings?

    I’d argue that the answers are yes, not much, and no, just because I’m reasonably sure that some of the cERA-style research would have picked up on a game-calling skill by now. This isn’t something that hasn’t been looked into before; people have been hunting this for years. If they can’t find a real effect, it’s probably not very important.

  39. bakomariner on April 23rd, 2009 11:25 am

    I think the only reason RJ is starting is because Joh is hurt and they are probably leaving JC in Tacoma so he can start killing the AAA league again…then they ship him off…

    Johnson won’t be starting once Joh is back…

  40. Slippery Elmer on April 23rd, 2009 12:02 pm

    Man, is anything the announcers tell us accurate?

  41. Paul B on April 23rd, 2009 12:18 pm

    They usually get the temperature at game time right. ;-)

    I think cERA was a cool idea, when it was originally proposed, but it just hasn’t proven to be very useful. At least, I am not aware of any use to which it has been gainfully put.

  42. kelliejo on April 23rd, 2009 1:02 pm

    Let’s get a win tonight M’s…regardless of who is behind the plate.

  43. kelliejo on April 23rd, 2009 1:06 pm

    From what I can gather and I by no means am a statistic freak, I’m just a fan with his own opinion and this is how I see it.
    Kenji – Bad rep with pitching staff

    Rob – Pitching and coaching staff, which btw Don Wakamatsu is an ex big league catcher and I think he know a litte about what makes a great catcher, love him

    Kenji – Swipes pitches out of the strike zone (could be why pitchers get annoyed with him?)

    Rob – Frames the pitch and holds tight
    Kenji – His batting average has constantly dropped form 2006 to present.

    Rob – His batting average is on the rise. Granted this year is really his first shot at getting a lot of playing time but it show improvement.
    Last year with Kenji behind the plate they had the worst record in MLB.

    This year with Rob behind the plate they’ve started out at the top of the AL west.
    Kenji gets paid an absurd amount of money to have a rookie catcher be just as good if not better showing him up in pretty much what is his debut year behind the plate for the M’s

  44. Graham on April 23rd, 2009 1:16 pm

    kelliejo, are you really trying to say that Rob Johnson is responsible for Erik Bedard being healthy, Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez playing in the outfield, and Jose Vidro, Brad Wilkerson and Richie Sexson not being on the team?

    I know having facts in an argument is good and all, but why not go for broke and try some logic?

  45. kelliejo on April 23rd, 2009 1:28 pm

    not at all…just being a fan. that’s what fans do right…fans can have opinions.

  46. Graham on April 23rd, 2009 1:36 pm

    Yes, but your opinion is not automatically irrefutable simply because you hold it.

  47. kelliejo on April 23rd, 2009 1:42 pm

    I welcome everyone’s comments, it’s really such a small deal. The Mariners are winning at this point, and I’m excited for them as an organization.

  48. MKT on April 23rd, 2009 2:11 pm

    “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

    — Harlan Ellison

  49. ivan on April 23rd, 2009 2:22 pm

    Hi Dave:

    I’m not here to dispute anything you say about Johnson’s hitting or his fielding. But sometimes is is all in the eye of the beholder, and all relative, no matter what the numbers say.

    I watched this guy throughout his entire big league career, which lasted 11 years. He was a well-regarded receiver, but as a hitter, he made Rob Johnson look like Albert Pujols up there.

    Slight exaggeration, maybe, but that’s what a REALLY bad hitter looks like.

  50. BiC on April 23rd, 2009 2:24 pm

    Dave, at what level did you play catcher? Stick to data. I agree with you on the RoJo thing, by the way. Another question though: why the hatred for results-based analysis? Yes, statistically and mathematically speaking, results are poor predictors, but they win games. I have yet to see how sabermetrics (i.e. predictive analysis) can be translated to results. The traditional statistics in baseball are typically pretty indicative of a team’s W-L performance, no? Obviously, sabermetrics are valuable, but how valuable?

  51. eponymous coward on April 23rd, 2009 2:27 pm

    I welcome everyone’s comments, it’s really such a small deal. The Mariners are winning at this point, and I’m excited for them as an organization.

    It’s not a small deal that the Mariners, being in the bottom third of offense in MLB from their Cs in 2008, are on pace to repeat that in 2009. Basically, the Rob Johnson/Johjima/Burke triumvirate at C gives you about the same offensive contribution as playing Willie Bloomquist every day (Bloomquist is a slightly worse hitter, but far better baserunner). This offense already has enough issues with playing a lot of light-bat, heavy glove players, and there’s a fair amount of evidence that Rob Johnson isn’t really a superior defensive catcher. Giving away outs by playing bad players could mean the difference between postseason play and July deadline deals to blow up the team.

  52. Mike Snow on April 23rd, 2009 2:38 pm

    The traditional statistics in baseball are typically pretty indicative of a team’s W-L performance, no?

    Right, that’s why we determine who wins the World Series based on batting average and ERA.

  53. eponymous coward on April 23rd, 2009 2:42 pm

    I have yet to see how sabermetrics (i.e. predictive analysis) can be translated to results.

    Seriously? If you have yet to see this, you’re not paying attention.

    Sabremetric analysis could have told you that Jarrod Washburn, Carlos Silva and Miguel Batista were poor ways to spend 30 million and change a year, whereas traditional analysis would have said “Hey, we have three veteran starters! One coming off of an ERA title when we signed him! What could go wrong?”

  54. Jeff Nye on April 23rd, 2009 2:49 pm

    Yeah Dave, stick to data so it’s easier to dismiss you as a basement dwelling stat geek with no athletic background.

    Otherwise, people might have to strain themselves to come up with new ways to be incredibly rude to you on your own site.

    Seriously, the comments over the last few days have been awful. Post smarter or go elsewhere.

  55. BiC on April 23rd, 2009 2:51 pm

    [try making at least one post where you don't act like an utter jerk]

  56. BiC on April 23rd, 2009 2:52 pm

    Wow Nye, did you even bother to note that I agreed with him? If you thought that was rude, you’re being a little sensitive. I meant no disrespect towards him, and in fact offered him agreement.

  57. Tuomas on April 23rd, 2009 2:55 pm

    Dave, at what level did you play catcher? Stick to data.

    I guess I’m sensitive.

  58. msb on April 23rd, 2009 2:56 pm

    I only give a shit whether or not we win or lose. All the other stuff is extraneous when examining W/L.

    But shouldn’t you have a base of knowledge to determine if the personnel you hire will get you those wins (or losses)?

  59. BiC on April 23rd, 2009 2:57 pm

    [metacommentary, and your definition of respectful needs serious work]

  60. BiC on April 23rd, 2009 2:58 pm

    But shouldn’t you have a base of knowledge to determine if the personnel you hire will get you those wins (or losses)?

    Definitely. But to what extent does this base of knowledge predict team performance?

  61. Benne on April 23rd, 2009 3:06 pm

    Speaking of Johnson, Wak has him hitting 6th today. With Jamie Burke at 1B. Yeah…..

  62. BiC on April 23rd, 2009 3:08 pm

    Any word on Sweeney? I was first baseline last night and he looked pretty bad on that swing he hurt himself on. Back? Oblique, maybe?

  63. Benne on April 23rd, 2009 3:09 pm

    Any word on Sweeney? I was first baseline last night and he looked pretty bad on that swing he hurt himself on. Back? Oblique, maybe?

    Strained back, from what I heard. Not in the lineup today.

  64. cdowley on April 23rd, 2009 3:17 pm

    The gushing over him has always been about how he handles a staff.

    The problem, of course, is that no one really has any idea if that actually matters or not, and if it does, how much so

    As a former pitcher, I’d say that there is definitely some effect in this regard. I primarily just pitched to two catchers. The first, who was around for my sophomore and the start of my junior year, basically sucked. Poor defensive catcher (I know, not the point, but bear with me), and when things went sideways, he refused to do anything more than shrug.

    My out pitch was a forkball, and the next best was a hard slider, so his defensive shortcomings sapped my confidence in being able to use those pitched without getting myself in trouble with runners on. And since he, again, refused to do much more to inspire confidence than shrug, I had to rely on my (well) below-average fastball to get people out, which meant I got knocked around alot.

    Then he got hurt (got hurt in a car accident I think?), and we got a new catcher. This guy… I liked him. Always kept the ball in front of him (I know, again, not the point, but still!), and always, ALWAYS, made sure he and his pitcher were on the same page. If something wasn’t right, he immediately popped up and came running up to see what was up.

    First game we were paired up, I got knocked around some in the first. After a couple of hits and a walk, he came running up and asked, rather bluntly, “where the fuck is that forkball?” I told him I’d had issues with it getting past the old guy. He smacked me upside the head and told me to throw it anyways, if he missed it it’d be his fault, not mine. So I started throwing the forkball, and got through the next couple of innings with only a walk, then started throwing my slider and struck out all but two of the remaining batters.

    The rest of that season was like that (didn’t play my senior year because I blew up my shoulder playing football), and with the work that the new catcher did with me and our other pitchers, we wound up winning our conference and making State. That catcher, and the confidence he helped instill in our pitching staff, was the #1 thing that put us there.

    On a side note…

    Yes, but your opinion is not automatically irrefutable simply because you hold it.

    God, I used to mod an NFL board and we just about had to fly to Detroit to beat that concept into a guy’s head a few years back…

  65. BiC on April 23rd, 2009 3:17 pm

    Wow Bill Wixey wants more fastballs from Felix. I hate FSN.

  66. Graham on April 23rd, 2009 3:40 pm

    As an example of how well advanced statistical analysis predicts team performance…

    We called the Rays being great last year and the Mariners being bad when every traditional talking head had the teams flipped.

    There are more hits I could mention, and plenty of misses, too, but generally we’re better at predictions (sometimes significantly more so) than traditionalists. You can actually do better than most of the ESPN analysts’ picks by predicting that every team will play .500 ball for the season.

  67. Graham on April 23rd, 2009 3:45 pm

    As a former pitcher, I’d say that there is definitely some effect in this regard. I primarily just pitched to two catchers.

    I accept that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from pitchers of all levels that catcher defence has a large impact on the way that they pitch. I also accept that this makes sense.

    What’s confusing about this though is that we haven’t found evidence of a positive/negative effect of catchers on pitchers at the major league level. If it’s important, shouldn’t it have shown up by now?

  68. et_blankenship on April 23rd, 2009 3:50 pm

    Definitely. But to what extent does this base of knowledge predict team performance?

    Another example to add to Graham’s post: Modern statistical analysis has radically changed the philosophy and structure of almost every organization – not because it’s a fad, but because it is a better indicator of future performance than traditional statistical analysis.

  69. Paul B on April 23rd, 2009 3:52 pm

    My question, once more: has any brand of statistical analysis connected performance in any particular statistic to team results?

    Yes.

    Want an example? OPS+ correlates much better with team win loss than BA.

    Want more examples? Do some research. Lots of great web sites and books out there. You could start with some of the links in the reference material section to the left.

    As a statistician, I really liked Curve Ball: Baseball, Statistics and the Role of Chance in the Game, by Jim Albert and Jay Bennett. But that is just one of many fine books on the topic.

    You might also check the web site Fangraphs for some wonderful articles, quite a few of which were written by Dave.

  70. hub on April 23rd, 2009 6:00 pm

    Listed below are two sabermetric sources that forever changed my life as a ‘traditionlist’ baseball fan.

    1) The Book: Playing The Percentages In Baseball (great for beginners to follow)
    2) http://www.fangraphs.com

    I found out about both of them from visiting USSMariner. Careful though. Reading these works may cause one to never again view WINS, SV, ERA, AVG, RBI, or ‘Clutch’ in the same way.

  71. Mike Snow on April 23rd, 2009 7:45 pm

    Vaguely related, Rob did pick up his first career walk today, so congratulations to him on that.

  72. catcherwatcher on April 23rd, 2009 8:16 pm

    [and you are......... outta here]

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