An Actual Post About Jesus Sucre
Used to be you didn’t know anything about Jesus Sucre. That’s fine. There wasn’t much reason to, and he was one of those catchers who’d go to spring training with the big leaguers just because the big leaguers needed catchers. I don’t know how Sucre wound up in the Mariners organization, and I know I never expected to see him in the majors. He just struck me as filler that would eventually become veteran filler. But now he’s on the team. Jesus Montero isn’t catching for the Mariners, because he’s bad at it. Mike Zunino isn’t catching for the Mariners, because he doesn’t know how to walk and not strike out. Kelly Shoppach can’t catch for the Mariners every day, because he’s old and not an everyday catcher. So Sucre could stick. He could make an impression, on the team and on you.
Based on Sucre’s numbers, I could’ve guessed he’s a defensive specialist. That’s also what I’ve heard, and that would explain why some other teams were interested in him in March. Now we’ve seen Sucre in action, as he’s started behind the plate three times. Following, a series of screenshots, showing called strikes that Sucre and the Mariners got in their favor:
All of them strikes, all of them questionable. These aren’t all of the borderline calls Sucre and the Mariners got — this is just as many as I felt like tracking down. The early evidence is that Sucre knows what he’s doing back there. The early evidence is that, with Sucre behind the plate, Mariners pitchers have a slightly bigger strike zone than they might be used to.
First, we don’t know if Jesus Sucre is a good pitch-receiver, statistically. It’s too soon. It shouldn’t take long to find out, but it’ll take more than three games. We just have a hunch.
Second, we don’t know how much good pitch-receiving really matters. It’s not as simple as just adding up the run value difference between a ball and a strike. The interaction is complicated, and people have gotten too hasty with this stuff, in the excitement of having a new field of research. Of course, it’s better to have a good receiver than a bad one. It’s just probably not as valuable as replacing a good player with a superstar.
Third, Sucre doesn’t hit. He isn’t going to hit. His minor-league OPS is .630. He’s played all of 14 games in Triple-A. He’s a specialist, and as a full-timer his numbers would be gross. Not that we haven’t put up with some gross numbers, but Sucre isn’t a prospect, and he probably isn’t a future regular. Let’s not all get too excited.
But the Mariners do not have a good recent history of pitch-receiving. Miguel Olivo was not very good at it. Jesus Montero was not very good at it. Kenji Johjima was not very good at it. John Jaso was not very good at it. Rob Johnson was not very good at it. Adam Moore was not very good at it. And so on. The Mariners haven’t had a real framer. They haven’t gotten a lot of those borderline strikes along the bottom of the zone. Ask Felix Hernandez about those. Ask Brandon League about those. Early evidence suggests that Sucre could be a change, that he could actually better allow Mariners pitchers to work around the edges. Sucre could be different, basically. Johnson was a defensive specialist who sucked at defense. Sucre seems to have game, and I assume that pitchers quite enjoy working with him. To some extent, that’s valuable, and it gives Sucre a purpose.
We’ll forget all about Jesus Sucre in time. He wasn’t supposed to be in this position in the first place. He’s temporary, and while all of us are temporary, he’s particularly so. The dreams rest on Zunino’s shoulders, and should he fail, there’s this John Hicks character right behind him. By the way, don’t look at Hicks’ numbers. Don’t make the mistake I just made. While Sucre’s around, though, try to appreciate him. Try to appreciate how he’s different from the others. The Mariners have cycled through lots of catchers who didn’t hit. This one can catch.