Dodgers Catchers: Memorial Day Update

Things are going very well for the Dodgers right now. They have one of the best records in baseball (35-18) and have a 7 game lead in the National League west. They just came home after sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates and seem to be headed for an easy cakewalk to their seventh consecutive National League Western division title. But let’s talk about the catching situation again.

That was somewhat of a hot topic during the slow offseason. The Dodgers offered a qualifying offer to Yasmani Grandal who rejected it. That enabled him to become an unrestricted free agent and he signed a one-year 18.25 million dollar pact with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Dodgers decided to go with Austin Barnes and trade acquired former catcher Russell Martin. The Dodgers have been using a combination of Barnes and veteran Martin behind the dish. If either of them are injured then they call up minor league journeyman and Mendoza line batting Rocky Gale.

The Dodgers do have two unproven catching prospects developing on the farm. Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz have yet to be considered for a promotion to the majors, leaving Gale the lone catcher with any MLB experience on the 40-man roster outside of Barnes and Martin. Recently Barnes had to leave Sunday’s game due to a strained left groin. With the Memorial Day holiday marking the quarter mark into the baseball season it’s a good time to review how the Dodger catching has been. Have the Dodger backstops been productive?

Barnes is slashing .231/.345/.393 with 4 home runs, 15 runs batted in and a 17/28 walk to strikeout ratio. Barnes turned in one of the worst seasons in recent memory for a Dodger catcher in 2018. This season he seems to be doing better. He’s raised his OPS+ from 72 in 2018 to almost league average (98) in 2019. That’s certainly an improvement and considering he hit only 4 home runs all of last year, his 4 home runs this season already means that he’s doing something right. He’s still not a great hitter but he can still get on base at a decent clip.

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As for Martin, well he’s doing about as well as you could expect from a 35-year old aging veteran catcher with about a hundred thousand games on his body. He’s slashing .264/.397/.415 (14 for 53) with 2 home runs, and only 4 runs batted in. Martin has just 4 extra-base hits this season, but has walked 9 times and struck out only 14 in 68 plate appearances. That explains his sterling .397 OBP. Overall Martin has been pretty good without hitting for power or knocking in many runs. He can still give you some quality at-bats but don’t expect too much from him health-wise.

Overall the Dodger catchers (including limited time from Gale) rank tenth in MLB (in total WAR) 13th with a 98 wRC+,  have registered a .232 batting average and have hit 6 home runs. They have one of the highest walk rates (11.7%) and rank at the top of the game in OBP.

The Dodger catchers are roughly average hitters with little power but can reach base via excellent plate discipline. That’s good, but how are they defensively? One of the main complaints about Grandal was his defensive issues behind the plate.

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In defensive runs saved, the Dodgers rank eighth with 4. The Dodger catchers rank twelfth out of the 30 clubs in defensive efficiency. How are the Dodger catchers doing in the all important stat of framing? Barnes once a top-five framer has dipped to 16th this season. Russell Martin and Rocky Gale are way down on the list, but still in the top 75 or so. Meanwhile Grandal is still a top ten ranked framer. Overall the Dodger catchers are doing ok. They’re not super productive but they can get on base with superior plate patience and they’re defensive abilities and pitch framing are at least league average. I guess that’s about as good as we could have hoped for at the onset of the season. We’ll continue to keep an eye on the catchers and let’s hope for good health to all of them.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Former Co-editor of Lasorda's Lair. Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic Cheap MLB Tickets

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18 thoughts on “Dodgers Catchers: Memorial Day Update

  1. First of all, TrueBlue is reporting Will Smith was called up.

    Second of all Grandal is, by fWAR, a top 3 catcher. Of course there’s some drop off.

    1. Michael, perhaps now Dodgers realize that Rocky Gale is a career minor leaguer at best and never should see the MLB with Dodgers again. And even in the minors he’s still sub par offensively.

    2. Bluto, I believe I saw an opposing team do this 4 OF set up against Dodgers and perhaps we might see more and more of this against certain hitters but it does leave the INF wide open, so WSS.

  2. Random thing I just saw:

    Baseball Reference gives the Dodgers a 100% chance to make the playoffs, 42% chance of winning the pennant and MLB-best 26.2% chance of winning the World Series. They’re projected to win 104 games.

    They won’t hit 104, but what was the upper end of projections from the rose-colored glasses wearers here?

    1. So sad to see the Cy Young matchup between Kershaw and deGrom amount to nothing more than a “Sigh Old” battle…. both pitchers have seen better days and are sadly on the downslope of their careers. Remember that the Dodgers were at one time interested in acquiring deGrom? Dodgers would have had two bumps on a log in the rotation. I am still concerned with Kershaw’s tendency to give up the “go-fer” ball.

      Thank God for the super hot offense, and rock solid defense. Offense and Defense are so awesome, 4-11 RISP, and 11 LOB amounts to just a hiccup.

      “Kelly-flop” is no help to this team, and he set up Floro for failure by forcing him in the game with little warm up. Yes, Floro had a bad outing, but Kelly’s poor appearance did not help matters. Time for Kelly to go to the Ranch and work things out. He is a basket case. Funny thing is the Dodgers threw millions at his feet, and he is basically living up to his career numbers. He just happened to embarrass the Dodgers in the playoffs. If he was as good as the Dodgers thought he was, he’d still be in a Boston uniform…. Boston did not want him and they were glad to let him go.

      It will be interesting the see Will Smith in action, possibly today. Dodgers being overly cautious with Barnes’ tweek. Maybe for the better, but too bad it is occurring when Austin is getting into a groove. Will Smith be able to handle Rich Hill? We will see.

  3. Smith is coming up, but he won’t start with Kershaw pitching. Former Dodger Bill Buckner passed away today at age 69.

    1. Michael, perhaps now Dodgers realize that Rocky Gale is a career minor leaguer at best and never should see the MLB with Dodgers again. And even in the minors he’s still sub par offensively.

  4. Kelly comes off bereavement leave and immediately puts fans on bereavement leave. Kelly has to be sent down, his signing was insane in the first place. Leaving Kelly in the pen is a compounding of a mistake, they should have never signed Kelly in the first place, now they insist on compounding the problem by leaving him on the roster. Time for him to go. Listening to Suttcliff last night, he basically told us that Kelly hasn’t been willing to listen to Honeybuns instruction and Honeybuns is waiting for him to want to be taught pitching, until Kelly is willing to be teachable that Honeybuns isn’t going to waste his time.

    Uh yeah, Bellinger is a better RF than Puig ever thought about being. Bellinger is faster, smarter, and maybe even has a better gun too. At least he hits his cutoffs as well as gunning runners out. BTW, does the Mets 3B coach still have his job this morning? What a disaster on the basepaths for the Mets.

  5. Gale was never considered to be much more than AAA fodder in the first place. Same with Thole. That’s the way Ol Andy rolls. Bullpen has been abysmal lately and last night was almost another melt down thanks to Gas Can Kelly. Dodger fans showed their appreciation for his fanning the flames with a full blown booing. Floro again a little snake bit but Kenley and Belli bailed him out. 3 outfield assists last night tied a team record. I still do not like Muncy as a first baseman. That was a bone headed play that almost led to disaster. Puig is out of sight and out of mind, so he should not even be in the conversation. Part of deGrom’s problem is lack of support. But that guy will find it. He is too good not to. I would love to have him in the rotation every day. He just plays on a terrible team.

    1. Puig actually is a huge reason the Dodgers are now doing pretty well this season, the lack of Puig is a huge component. The use of Bellinger in RF and not wasting his skills at 1B is a huge component as well. He may be not be part of your conversation but Puig actually should be, to not see the difference, well is blindness.

      1. I care less about what Puig is doing in Cincy, just like I do not care that Kemp, Farmer or Wood are on a different team now. All I care about is wins and losses and I am in no way blind to the way Cody is playing. He is playing gold glove defense and has a cannon arm. Cool. You watch the game your way and I will watch it mine. We all know Puig has the tools to be a much better player than he is, but a 5 cent brain. Puig has nothing to do with the players on the field. If Pollock was healthy, he would be in CF, and Verdugo would most likely be in RF most of the time and Belli at first. It just doesn’t look like that will be the case though because Roberts loves Belli in RF. I understand that totally. But I still like his defense at first better than any one else they put there because he makes plays that Muncy, Beatty and Freese would never make, plus his length saves a lot of bad throws. I do not consider playing first base to be a waste of Cody’s skills. I understand a lot of pundits do not think a first baseman has to be an elite fielder, but it sure does make the infield defense stronger…..

        1. Oh now I see the problem, you think I am concerned about what Puig is doing in Cincy, newsflash, I am actually concerned with what Bellinger has been able to do in LA now that Puig has been removed. You got your focus on the wrong end of this nice switch that occurred over the off-season. Not only do I not care what Puig is doing in Cincy, I’m actually barely aware that he is in Cincy, you see, I am focused on what is happening in LA with the Dodgers and it’s players. Hope that gets your mind right on what I posted. However that will be the last time I spend that much effort on straightening out such a ridiculous item again. Just sayin. PS, I ain’t your MJ, so don’t go down that tact again please.

          1. My focus is my business, and I do not need you telling me what or how to think. I know the what and the why. I just do not care about that. I care about the teams performance on the field. Period. As for MJ, she had her ideas and she stuck to her guns. I disagreed with her a lot. Especially when I felt she was unreal in her judgement of guys like Joc. But that’s water under the bridge and a long time ago. You do not agree or like what I post, no skin off my nose….I really do not care. By the way, the only problem here is you wanting everyone’s perspective to match yours

  6. Michael you are so out to lunch. If anyone has a problem with wanting everyone’s perspective to match yours, it has been yours and yours from the get go. So don’t kid yourself. I think if anyone disagrees with you it really is skin off your nose, otherwise you wouldn’t have said it, its called projection. So check yourself old bean, you are delusional and need your meds.
    BTW, wasn’t I the one that suggested to Scott to have you write a piece once in a while, you seem to have forgotten that in your tirade and ass-hurt rants (that seems to be a constant fallback for you).

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