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Evaluating the Defensive Abilities of the Catchers


After watching a decent offensive catcher (Estrada) hurt the pitching staff last year, it is so easy to admire the little things Kendall does for this club. It is no surprise that he comes from a great baseball upbringing and the type of experience and knowledge set that can really help the pitching staff. Just to hear how much confidence the staff has in his calls, and watch his ability to get out of his stance and make a play with his feet or awareness is a refreshing change.


I know the Crew has a lot of young catchers with pop, which is nice considering the Moeller years, but I guess I'm more concerned about their defensive assets and knowledge of the game. Any chance of a feature article on that? What is the likelihood they make it to the bigs as a catcher?

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Salome does have an absolute cannon. That is just about the only good thing about his defensive game at this point however, and his throws are not always on target. If Salome contnues to hit like he has though he wont need to be Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate.
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You bring up some good points uwisfan. It really is impossible to quantify the effect a catcher has on the game, as it is the one position that more intangible qualities are tossed out in discussions as evidenced by your point about Estrada vs. Kendall.


One thing I do often hear about good catchers is how much the pitching staff enjoys working with them. I have heard quotes from various sources and have heard comments made directly to me about how pitchers like throwing to both Lou Palmisano and Jonathan Lucroy. Actually I have heard the same about Andy Bouchie, although I don't think many consider him to be much of a long-term prospect behind the plate. What makes them good to throw to is hard to define, and one pitcher to the next probably has a different answer, but the catcher really is an extension of the pitcher, which is why you see a lot of former catchers become bullpen and pitching coaches (this is also a reason as to why it's hard to find a good hitting catcher, since they do spend so much time focusing on their defensive craft in ways that no other player on the field does).


A lot of it has to do with confidence and the catcher's familiarity and overall rapport with the pitcher. This is where you often hear the cliches about a "take-charge attitude" and overall leadership skills. The pitcher for the most part calls the game, but the catcher calls the pitches. The more a catcher understands what his pitcher wants to the throw the more comfort there will be between the two, which breeds (in theory) confidence.


Other catching skills are somewhat tied to this, but not necessarily. You may have a catcher that does handle a pitching staff well, as they often say, but may not be particularly good at blocking balls in the dirt and/or throwing out runners. Obviously both of those traits have a more immediate and obvious impact on any given game, but being good on those things conversely doesn't necessarily mean you work well with the pitchers.


I haven't heard anyone say that Salome is a good catcher to pitch to. That doesn't mean he's not, we just haven't heard it (or at least I haven't). He has a strong arm but IIRC didn't do as good of a job throwing out runners last year, and he's had some problems with blocking balls and with passed balls. The passed balls concern me, because those often show a player that may not have soft hands, and by soft hands you're usually talking about how naturally any player receives a ball in their glove. Some players this comes naturally to, and some have to work on this really hard (Prince Fielder for instance is a player that I would say does not have soft hands, something he has worked very hard to improve).


Salome definitely is the most exciting prospect of the catchers in the system, but I'm a little concerned with his ability to stick behind the plate. I have no concern with either Palmisano or Lucroy doing so, but Palmisano is probably never going to be more than a MLB average catcher (arguably at best), and Lucroy is 3-5 years away from contributing.

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