Scouting the catchers

added 10/20/2006 by Scott Barzilla

As promised, we are starting our off-season journey by taking a look at catchers. Certainly, catcher is a difficult position to evaluate because their defense is so difficult to evaluate, but Baseball Prospectus has given it a stab with their wins above replacement player statistic. First we will show you where Brad Ausmus stands with his standing in games played.

                Games    Rank    WARP3   Rank
Brad Ausmus      133       9      2.8     23

It sounds easy enough. Ausmus is one of the more durable catchers in the game, but he is not one of the more valuable. However, we probably should take a quick look at how many games the seven catchers played below Ausmus. Was he actually legitimately better than any of those catchers?

                Games     WARP3
Dioner Navarro    80       1.7
John Buck        113       2.7
Rod Barajas       95       2.7
Jose Molina       75       2.7
Javier Valentin   91       1.7
Mike Matheny      46       0.8
Yorvit Torrealba  64       2.5

So, only one of them played in 100 or more games and none of them played in as many games as Ausmus. 20 catchers played in 110 or more games, so I took the WARP3 per 120 games as a benchmark for the typical regular catcher (17 catchers caught 120 games or more). So, let's see where Ausmus ranks in this category.

                 WARP3/120    Rank
Brad Ausmus         2.5        28

Gee, thank god for Javier Valentin and Mike Matheny. Of course, neither player played in 100 games, so it is very likely that the Giants and Reds had better overall catcher production than the Astros. It's funny that Tim Purpura talked about how difficult it would be to replace Ausmus. Doesn't seem all that difficult to me. Let's take a look who might be available and where they ranked a year ago.

Bengie Molina        3.2
Rod Barajas          3.4
Jason Kendall        5.0
Damian Miller        3.7
Johnny Estrada       3.5
Mike Piazza          3.0

It's obvious to me which guy we should get on this list. Two and a half games may not seem like much, but it meant a lot to the Astros this season. Even improving by a game would make a pretty big difference. We also have to consider the fact that Ausmus would be a vast improvement over whatever backup catcher the Astros could muster.

Of course, other catchers could come available in the trade market and some backup catchers are actually better than Ausmus. Either way, the Astros should look to improve this position as they have the worst catching production in all of baseball.