The bond between pitcher and catcher forms the building-block particle of baseball. These two positions initiate every play of the game with an exchange of wordless, almost telepathic signals and can pause the action on a whim for a close-talking heart-to-heart on the mound. It's no surprise they're the earliest to arrive every spring, with their own little space carved out to get ready for the season.
Also, together they are referred to as the "battery," which can be a place to set up large cannons or a way to store energy. Either way: powerful and important.
It's hard to know how much a good pitcher-catcher relationship makes a difference in the win column. There have been plenty of efforts to parse "catcher ERA" and account for the ways in which good game-calling brings out the strengths in a pitcher. But there's no doubt the pitcher-catcher dyad is greater than the sum of its parts. A pitcher and catcher, both good in their own right, have to work in harmony to be great, while the catcher is often the first line of counsel to a rattled pitcher.
For the Reds, there's a wealth of experience among the two backstops who will be sharing duties with the big league club - even if it's not all at the major league level. Ryan Hanigan is the second-longest tenured Red, having played in 10 seasons as a member of the organization and likely has something to talk about with most anyone in camp. He joined Louisville for one game in 2003, on a team whose catching duo was current bullpen catcher Mike Stefanski and current Crash Davisy, all-around dude Corky Miller. He goes back to 2006 with Homer Bailey and since 2008 has caught virtually every likely pitcher to break camp with the team (besides Latos, Madson and Marshall) at some point with the Bats or Reds.
Devin Mesoraco, while he only made 13 major league starts in 2011, is in his sixth pro season. He's been marinating in the organization since he was a teenager. He hasn't caught the Reds' starters very much, if at all, though he has caught a fair amount of Aroldis Chapman. Pitches will break harder and come in faster in the bigs, but they'll also be more on target than in the minors. The real test for Devin will be working with the pitching staff to outfox major league talent - hitters and baserunners alike. No small task.
Along with Arroyo, Bailey and Cueto, there are quite a few company men among the starters and catchers. The main thing, then, will be for everyone to figure out Latos, Madson and Marshall. And for Dusty not to rely too much on either the seniority or buddy system when picking out catchers. Hanigan and Mesoraco could be catching this staff for at least a few more seasons to come, with either of them becoming the starter at intervals, so everybody should know how to get along with everybody else. This is starting to sound like a cult, which it kind of is.
In any case, here are some catcher and pitcher combinations in honor of Pitcher and Catcher Report Day:
Most talented pairing:
Mat Latos & Devin Mesoraco: He finished in the Top 10 in Cy Young voting in 2010, while he is a Top 10 prospect and the best young talent in the Reds' system.
Most combined experience:
Bronson Arroyo (professional since 1995, almost 10 years of MLB service time) & Corky Miller (12 years of minor league service, appearances in 10 major league seasons)
Most innings together:
I'd like to say it was Corky and someone else, but I don't think that's true. Arroyo and Hanigan have appeared in 548.1 innings together.
Least likely to happen in a 2012 major league game:
Brian Esposito &Nick Christiani
Slightly more likely:
Wilson Valdez (threw four different pitches and hit 88 on the gun vs. the Reds last season) & Corky Miller
Can technically call themselves professional pitchers and/or catchers:
Paul Janish, Wilson Valdez, Joey Votto, Neftali Soto
I think it depends on where you land on Homer Bailey's resemblance to a better-fed version Christian Bale in the Machinist, though Sean Marshall has an Athletic Gary Sinise appeal. Thoughts?