The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:
 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just how offensive is Montero’s defense?

Reports of Montero’s defense this year, as always, have been overwhelmingly negative.  He leads the International League in passed balls, still has trouble throwing out runners, and is a poor receiver.  The reports aren’t surprising, but still a bit disappointing.  Still, I wanted to see if there is a Montero effect, so I decided to look at Scranton’s gamelogs to see how Scranton pitchers fared with Montero behind the plate versus the other four that have caught. 

First, I want to make it clear there is a serious sample size issue.  It’s not even quite one year of data and Montero has caught all but 300 innings this year.  Second, while I didn’t see any pattern of Montero being rested for a specific pitcher, it’s still possible he caught a higher percentage of worse pitchers’ innings.  I don’t think that’s the case – or if so, it’s an insignificant difference – but it’s worth mentioning.  Finally, as far as I am aware, nobody has found a significant difference between major league catchers impact on pitching staffs.  Of course the key point there is major league catchers, and I do believe the reason there’s not a big difference in major league catchers is because MLB teams simply don’t mess around with catchers that have insufficient receiving, game calling, and blocking skills.  Assuming that’s the case, there should be a noticeable difference between major league caliber catchers and guys that aren’t.

In this case, Montero is being compared to three guys that have caught at least 50 major league games and a career minor leaguer. 

 Catching  IP STRK%  PA BA  OBP SLG  OPS ERA  RA FIP  SBR SBAR  CS%
 Montero 754  62.5%   3220  .263  .329  .392  .722   3.96  4.27  3.91  0.104  0.137   23.9% 
 Not Montero 300   64.2%  1249  .251  .298  .395   .693  3.42  3.78  3.51  0.138   0.156  11.9% 
 IL 14742   NA 63600  .262  .331   .410  .741  4.18  4.65  4.09   0.083  0.114  27.2% 


 Catching  SO/9 BB/9  SO/BB H/9  HR/9 WP/9  PB/9 PIT/9  BABIP P/PA
 Montero 7.27  3.19   2.28  9.04  0.8  0.51  0.17   145  .310  3.78 
 Not Montero 7.83   2.25  3.48  8.73  0.87  0.3   0.06  142  .299  3.78 
 IL 7.22  3.16   2.29  9.06  0.91  0.38  0.09   NA .305  NA

To state the obvious, Montero does an awful job blocking balls in the dirt.  His PB rate is nearly three times that of his teammates, and Scranton pitchers are charged with more WP when he’s the catcher, too.  Over 130 games, Montero would be expected to give up 14 PB and 28 more WP than his teammates, which would be about 11 runs (7.5 runs below IL average rates). 

Montero’s arm, however, has not been quite as poor as expected/advertised.  His CS% is a bit below average, but far better than his teammates’ – runners have also run more often on his teammates, though they do run against Montero at a rate far higher than the league average.  I don’t doubt that he has a poor arm, but I suspect Scranton pitchers aren’t doing a very good job with baserunners either. 

I think I could live with the passed balls and stolen bases assuming Montero improves even a tiny bit, but the biggest concern I have after collecting this data is Montero’s receiving.  Pitchers simply don’t throw as many strikes with him catching, and their BB/9 is 0.94 higher while their SO/9 is 0.56 lower.  Scranton pitchers have an ERA over half a run worse with Montero behind the dish (and the FIP difference is 0.40 runs, or about 52 runs over 130 games).  However bad Montero may be, I don’t believe he’s truly responsible for the whole difference, but the difference is far greater than I expected when I started the process.

I hope to be able to do this for previous years as well, although I’m having some trouble finding boxscores for previous years.  If Montero really affects his pitchers anywhere near this much, I don’t think he has any chance of ever being more than an emergency catcher in the majors (nor would I want him to catch any more often).  He is young, but I think his size makes it less likely he improves significantly, and if previous years’ data is similar to this year’s, he’ll have to. 

MonthIPSTRK%P/PAP/9PABAOBPSLGOPSERARAFIP
April15761.5%3.74146680.255.331.384.7154.304.413.93
May16461.8%3.76146706.272.338.381.7184.124.613.58
June18662.2%3.75142786.256.326.361.6873.683.773.74
July16863.7%3.82146713.269.327.417.7443.964.454.35
August7964.4%3.89148335.262.322.452.7753.654.104.07
MonthIPSO/9BB/9SO/BBHR/9H/9BABIPWP/9PB/9SBRSBARCS%
April1577.683.732.060.758.71.3050.750.17.108.12513.6%
May1646.863.132.190.499.49.3240.490.16.132.18528.6%
June1866.733.242.070.588.56.3000.440.24.108.13821.4%
July1687.072.792.541.189.38.3070.430.16.082.12131.8%
August799.002.963.041.259.11.3180.460.00.066.07916.7%

 

--Posted at 12:17 am by Kyle / 17 Comments | - (0)

Comments

Page 1 of 1 pages:

Presumably catching ML pitchers would reduce some of the issue with WP etc.  Also I think I’ve seen it claimed that Montero has done better in the latter part of the season, and I have a sense that some people have said he’s been looking more like he might catch.

Also, how does catcher (etc) defense compare from MiL to ML?  If there are a lot of no-hit but pretty-good-glove catchers at SWB, the comparison to e.g. Posada might be more interesting.

I see that the PB total of non-Montero SWB catchers is 2, consistent with say 4, or a rate of 0.12/9, while 14 is consistent with 10, or ditto (though not the most likely scenario of course), so I would try to find another way to get at this.

“Pitchers simply don’t throw as many strikes with him catching”

I wonder if they don’t get as many strikes called with him catching…

I wonder if they don’t get as many strikes called with him catching…

Montero is being compared to three guys that have caught at least 50 major league games and a career minor leaguer.

Do veterans get the benefit of the doubt more often?  Is it possible for Jesus to learn to frame pitches better?  Hmm.

Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Nice work, Kyle.

Do veterans get the benefit of the doubt more often?

In the minors?

Is it possible for Jesus to learn to frame pitches better?

I would imagine it almost certainly is.

Also, the margins are farked up.

It would be interesting to look at how Montero compares defensively to someone like Mike Piazza at a similar stage of development.

Just saw the condensed game from lst night’s win.

Hughes wasn’t able to put anyone away with K’s and were hitting rockets off him all night. Texeiria alone saved several hits. Hughes was very, very lucky against a crappy team

Awesome, awesome post SG, thanks for doing this.

Normally, I would be a bit skeptical of what 300 innings of catcher data could tell us, but coupled with the scouting report, I think there’s reason to believe this is a fairly accurate representation of his ability.

Montero is still on his PB hot streak, so I think it’s possible that he has made some improvements defensively in that area.

I’d love to take credit for this one, but thank Kyle, not me.

Ah, my bad, thank you Kyle! Awesome work.

FWW (perhaps not much), in an article in The Record about the Yankees’ farm system, there this quote:

After a slow start, Montero entered the weekend batting .373 (41-for-110) with eight homers and 21 RBI since July 1. Plus, “he’s improving every day. He’s a lot more consistent defensively,” Newman said.

[11] I’m cautiously optimistic Montero can be an acceptably below average defensive catcher at the MLB level.

I’m not sure a quote from a Yankee executive praising Montero’s defensive improvement tells us anything aside from them trying to keep his value up.

Thanks to Kyle for a very interesting analysis. I’d like to see this extended to other catchers. But that brings up another question for you and SG—if he isn’t going to be a good catcher at the major league level, what other position would work for him?

You’d have to assume the skill positions are out of the question (SS, 2B, CF), so then the options are 3B, RF, LF, 1B, DH.

I don’t know know if he has the reaction time or footwork to be passable at third, but if he can’t catch and can’t play the skill positions, he’d be most valuable at 3B, then RF, then LF, then 1B, then DH.  Again, I have no idea about how he’d play in the OF.  I’d have to assume he could handle 1B, although the Yankees have a 1B already and Mike Piazza couldn’t make the transition, although Montero’s got youth on his side.

If they can get him to the point of being a passable enough catcher to play 50 games a year there while spending the rest of his time at DH, that’s probably the best case scenario (if being a full-time catcher doesn’t work).

If they can get him to the point of being a passable enough catcher to play 50 games a year there while spending the rest of his time at DH, that’s probably the best case scenario (if being a full-time catcher doesn’t work).

IF he could handle manning first base for around 30-40 or so games a year in addition to catching, he could fill two roles really.  Spelling Teixeira and Posada(hopefully) when he’s not DHing while they rest or DH.  It would be a huge improvement over the BUC options they have now, as well as their planned DH/1B option for this season who very well may be on a respirator at the moment.

Presumably catching ML pitchers would reduce some of the issue with WP etc.  Also I think I’ve seen it claimed that Montero has done better in the latter part of the season, and I have a sense that some people have said he’s been looking more like he might catch.

Also, how does catcher (etc) defense compare from MiL to ML?  If there are a lot of no-hit but pretty-good-glove catchers at SWB, the comparison to e.g. Posada might be more interesting.

I added in the month by month splits for him.  The good: obviously more strikes and fewer walks and fewer PB/WP.  Of course the pitchers have done worse, so the change could have been calling for more FB, which hitters are sitting on.  That’s just a wild ass guess on my part, though.

Major league averages this year: 0.34 WP/9, 0.06 PB/9, .066 SBR, .092 SBAR, 28.2 CS%.  I would guess a combination of better pitching and catching leads to the lower WP and PB rates.

As for other positions, 1B is the only likely option.  If he absolutely can’t catch—and I expect Yankees scouts and FO know far better than any of us—I would like to see him tried in the OF even if his speed makes it unlikely he can play there.

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