John Buck and the Quick Hook

marc w · July 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Fernando Rodney’s imaginary arrow had barely cleared the foul line when Ryan Divish gave us the news that changed the tenor of the evening. John Buck, seen joking with teammates a few minutes earlier, was dumped by the M’s – DFA’d, after hitting an anemic .226/.293/.286 in just shy of 100 plate appearances. Buck’s never hit for average, but figured to have a bit of power after averaging about 16 HRs over his past four seasons. A back-up catcher who didn’t make the most of his limited PAs is always at risk – ask Kelly Shoppach – but the collapse of Buck’s ISO wasn’t what the M’s pointed to in the aftermath of the move. Instead, the M’s pointed to complaints about Buck’s blocking and receiving.

The fact that Buck’s defense received poor grades from M’s pitchers, defensive stats and the eye test really shouldn’t be that shocking. As I mentioned back in the spring, Buck was the worst framer in baseball in 2010, and was 3rd from the bottom last season. What would be more interesting, if also worrying, is if they picked him up for his defense and then found it lacking in his 20-some games behind the plate. That’s not the only explanation, of course, but this is becoming something of an annual tradition. Kelly Shoppach only got until June last season, and Jesus Montero started the long walk from C to 1B last year as well. The M’s – at least under Zduriencik- haven’t found a back-up catcher they truly felt comfortable with. It’s an interesting, if not all that important on the field, problem to have.

It’s possible that Buck’s defensive shortcomings were just the final straw; that the move wouldn’t have been made absent a sub-.600 OPS. It’s also possible that the M’s *real* issue is that Buck simply wasn’t suited to this back-up role, and that it affected his offense and defense much more than they assumed. Remember, Buck got at least 100 games in each of the past four years, and eight of the past nine. From an on-the-field standpoint, the M’s may have improved. Jesus Sucre appears to be both a good framer and someone who can control the running game. He’s also hit surprisingly well this year in AAA, though his rest-of-season projection is still slightly below Buck’s. It’s close enough, however, that Sucre’s defensive advantage may make him the better player overall. Unless you put a lot of weight on Buck’s contribution to clubhouse camaraderie, it’s unlikely that the move will hurt the M’s playoff chances. But like a true baseball nerd, I’m always trying to glean the principles that underlie roster changes like this, and I have to say I’m nowhere closer to discerning them than I was in March.

Welcome, Jesus Sucre. Best of luck wherever you turn up, John Buck.


2 Responses to “John Buck and the Quick Hook”

  1. msfanmike on July 8th, 2014 1:01 pm

    Other than arguing over the timing of the DFA, there really isn’t much to argue with. Not only is Buck a bad framer of pitches, he’s a bad catcher of balls (the frying pan within his mitt was a noticeable deterrent), and a bad mover of his own feet (can’t really move quickly enough to block anything).

    Can’t frame + can’t catch + can’t move + slow bat = DFA. He made a lot of money in his career, made a lot of friends and maybe some other org will have a backup to the backup job waiting for him. Or, maybe he will pop up as a coach somehwere within a year or two. He seems like a good dude and everyone wishes him well.

    I also wonder if maybe there is a need to advance John Hicks up to AAA sometime soon. He appears to have turned a corner, offensively. By some previously written account(s), he also sounds like the most athletic catcher within the organization.

    For anybody who has ever played for or woked on a “team” – there is definitely such a thing as chemistry. It really does exist. Hard to measure, but it’s there. Hopefully, Buck’s DFA won’t hinder the M’s “chemistry.”

  2. Westside guy on July 8th, 2014 1:37 pm

    It’s just weird to me that the team apparently cut Buck loose giving the justification that he basically performed they way everyone knew he was going to perform.

    And why not wait 10-12 hours to DFA him, so you are t doing it on his birthday? Sure he’s not a kid, but odds are he had plans for after the game – likely with a few teammates. Why spoil his evening for no particular reason?

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