Friday, February 24, 2006

Who are These Guys? - Catcher

Now that Spring Training is in full swing, I thought I'd bring back one of the more popular features from last year.

I'll be listing the 2005 batting line for each player (AVG/OBP/SLG) along with their OPS+, followed by some brief commentary.

Please check the Note About Stats for information about these numbers.

We’ll start with the men behind the plate.

John Buck
OPS+ 79

The good news is that Johnny boy increased his on-base percentage a whopping seven percentage points last year. The bad news is that this ranked 26th in the American League for catchers (you don’t want to know how he did for MLB).

Once Buck finagled his way onto the base paths, he proved to be of little threat, going two for four in stolen bases.

While Buck managed to cut down on his strikeout rate from the year before – whiffing 22% of the time versus 31% in 2004 – when he did hit the ball, it wasn’t very hard. His line-drive percentage (courtesy of The Hardball Times) for ’05 was a paltry 16.9%, ranking 20th among AL catchers.

The Positive Spin: If Buck can continue to cut down on his strikeouts and guess right on a few more fastballs this year, he may get that slugging percentage back into the .400 stratosphere those other catchers in the league are always bragging about.

Paul Bako
OPS+ 81

Behind Buck is a guy named Paul Bako, who has a career 239/313/330 line over eight seasons with seven teams. In 2000 alone, Bako played for Houston, Florida and Atlanta.

The Royals’ MLB site cites Bako’s game-calling abilities and possession of “tricks of the trade.” That’s code speak for what the numbers above already tell us: light-hitting career backup.

Royals Connection: Bako hit a two run homer for Atlanta in the third and deciding game of the 2001 Division Series against the Houston Astros. The runner on base ahead of him? Former Royals shorstop Rey Sanchez!

Paul Phillips
OPS+ 77

Phillips has looked like a useful part in the Royals’ system for a while now. Injuries forced him out for all of the 2001, ‘02 and almost all of ’03 seasons, killing what had been steady progress, and he’s now spent the last two years waiting in Omaha for the September call-ups.

Phillips numbers at AAA dropped from 312/358/431 in 2004 to 268/317/401 last year, which is the wrong direction for a prospect who will turn 29 years old this year.

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