Bullish on Backstops

I was listening to Chad's interview of Mark Sheldon yesterday, and they brought up the excellence of our catchers as a key (one of many!) part of the Reds success this year.  After Ramon Hernandez hit another homer last night, I thought I'd pull up the data to showcase them a bit.

First, some baseline info: prior to the season, based on CHONE and ZiPS, I came up with this projection for our catchers:

Name %PA OBP SLG wOBA
Hernandez 54% 0.328 0.395 0.317
Hanigan 42% 0.348 0.364 0.318
Tatum 4% 0.280 0.348 0.274

And here's what they've actually done (prior to last night's game):

Name %PA OBP SLG wOBA
Hernandez 52% 0.362 0.420 0.346
Hanigan 33% 0.390 0.423 0.357
Miller 16% 0.290 0.354 0.287

Clearly both of our frontline catchers have hit far better than projected so far this year.  That's been hampered a bit by increased PT by the 3rd catcher in the depth chart, but even so, this has been awesome production from our backstops so far.

Here's how they rate against the other teams.  I'm reporting wins above average here, adjusted for park, including both offense and fielding.  Update: I'm not including a position adjustment, so the "average" catching team gets a negative number.  This was done for simplicity, but might have caused more confusing than I expected.

Mlbcatcher-080910_medium

So there's Brian McCann at the top (he also homered last night).  But the Reds catchers have clearly been in the second-tier of MLB catchers, along with the likes of Joe Mauer's Twins and Geovanny Soto's Cubs.    I was surprised to see the Padres' catchers there, but they've been excellent behind the plate and their park deflates their offense.  Similarly, Miguel Olivo's performance in Colorado is inflated by park, and we're adjusting for that.  I also had no idea that Carlos Ruiz is having the kind of season he is having, so that was another surprise.

How important is production from catcher to a team's success?  The Yankees, Rays, and Rangers have had below-average catching, but all other teams at or near the tops of their divisions have had at least average catching thus far.  So, maybe it's not essential, but it's pretty helpful.  You can see a table with all of the datums behind that graph below the jump.

Team OBP SLG wOBA* RAA Fielding WAA Starter(s)
ATL 0.384 0.46 0.361 14 4 1.8 McCann
PHI 0.368 0.44 0.338 4 5 0.9 Ruiz
SDP 0.347 0.395 0.327 0 8 0.8 Hundley/Torrealba
MIN 0.355 0.441 0.336 3 4 0.7 Mauer
CHC 0.36 0.448 0.344 6 1 0.7 Soto
TOR 0.322 0.492 0.338 4 3 0.7 Buck/J-Molina
CIN 0.363 0.415 0.331 1 5 0.6 Hernandez/Hanigan
COL 0.343 0.472 0.329 0 -1 -0.1 Olivo
SFG 0.345 0.414 0.323 -2 -3 -0.5 B-Molina/Posey
NYM 0.295 0.403 0.299 -11 5 -0.6 Barajas
STL 0.316 0.321 0.285 -17 10 -0.7 Y-Molina
BOS 0.326 0.457 0.324 -1 -7 -0.8 V-Martinez
CHW 0.302 0.407 0.293 -13 4 -0.9 Pierzynski
OAK 0.302 0.381 0.298 -12 2 -1.0 Suzuki
BAL 0.322 0.34 0.296 -12 1 -1.1 Wieters
LAD 0.333 0.318 0.297 -13 1 -1.2 Martin
CLE 0.316 0.338 0.301 -10 -2 -1.2 Santana/Marson
FLA 0.311 0.347 0.292 -14 1 -1.3 Paulino
NYY 0.343 0.392 0.320 -3 -10 -1.3 Cervelli/Posada*
LAA 0.298 0.439 0.314 -5 -10 -1.5 Napoli*/Mathis
ARI 0.351 0.422 0.318 -4 -12 -1.6 Snyder/Montero
MIL 0.318 0.397 0.309 -8 -8 -1.6 Kottaras/Lucroy/Zaun
TBR 0.326 0.295 0.285 -17 0 -1.7 Jaso/Navarro
TEX 0.292 0.342 0.273 -20 0 -2.1 Treanor/B-Molina
WSN 0.271 0.328 0.255 -28 6 -2.2 I-Rodriguez
HOU 0.261 0.31 0.249 -28 5 -2.3 Quintero/Castro
KCR 0.324 0.305 0.271 -23 -1 -2.4 Kendall
PIT 0.299 0.348 0.283 -17 -6 -2.4 Doumit/Jaramillo/Snyder
SEA 0.277 0.31 0.258 -25 -4 -2.9 Johnson
DET 0.274 0.289 0.249 -29 -1 -3.1 Laird/Avila

wOBA, RAA, and WAA are all park-adjusted. OBP & SLG are not. Fielding is the catcher fielding stat used in my power rankings, and is based on SB/CS/WP/PB/E rates.  Catcher offense splits are from baseball-reference.
* Has played significant time at position other than catcher.

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