Last January, we walked through a four-part series looking at how the 2014 Indians would compare to the 2013 version. This year, I undertook the same exercise, looking for signs of improvement (or not...) at each position. Instead of combining these into four giant posts, we're going to go position-by-position this year - starting today with catcher.
For each defensive position, I have pulled a list of every player who took the field in that role for the Indians last year, listed their wOBA and UZR/150 (my preferred stats for looking at overall offensive and defensive ability, respectively), and the percentage of the team's PA they took in that position. For the defensive stats, this is not a perfect reflection of playing time, since a guy could have played an inning or two or even three without getting a PA, but it is probably close enough.
For the 2015 stats, you are seeing ZiPS projections for wOBA and my projection for UZR/150 based on what the player has done in the past. I'll explain how I cam to the conclusions I did, so you can argue them (or come to your own). The 2015 playing time projections are also mine, though I have sanity checked them with others.
For wOBA, the 2014 numbers are position specific (so you will see Yan Gomes wOBA split as a C and as a DH and they will not match), while the 2015 numbers assume the player has the same wOBA regardless of where they play on the diamond. UZR/150 is always position-specific.
The Indians Total line is the pro-rated average of the guys who played (or will play) the position based on playing time; the AL average line is exactly what it sounds like - the average production for the league at the position.
With that, let's dive in.
|Player||14 wOBA||14 DRS||14 PT||15 wOBA||15 DRS||15 PT|
Immediately you will notice that I just explained my plan to use UZR/150 for defense, but instead used DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) here. That's because UZR does not exist for catchers. DRS the next best choice, from my perspective.
A couple weeks ago, talonk showed us the Indians were among the AL's best at catching in 2014, and there is no reason to think this year will be any different. The Indians used five catchers (though Gimenez barely counts) in 2014, while I project only two in 2015. This is a pattern that will repeat itself elsewhere. There will be unforeseen injuries, long games, double-headers, etc. and weird lineups will happen.
But at catcher, things should be stable. Barring an injury, Gomes was the starter and will be the starter. Similarly, Roberto Perez has established himself as the backup. Carlos Santana is probably your emergency catcher, and he may even make an appearance or two, but I am betting against him playing meaningful time behind the plate.
I am projecting Gomes defense to improve next year, falling somewhere between his 2013 and his 2014. This may be a bit aggressive (his 2014 is probably a better bet), but DRS does not account for framing, so I am willing to "risk" an over-estimate here on the basis that he'll make up for this value, anyway.
Perez's defense projection is actually down from 2014. DRS is a counting stat so 6 over ~15% of a season vs. 6 over 25% of a season is a sizable step down. But I am not ready to assume Perez is quite as good as he looked.
Even so, the Indians were excellent defensively behind the plate last year and should be again this year.
I was thrilled with Gomes 2014 batting line, but ZiPS thinks he can do even more. I think that projection is a bit optimistic, but even so, anything less than league average offense from this position would be a surprise.
Yan Gomes was the best catcher in the AL last year, and I see no reason to think he won't be the best catcher in the AL this year. As a manager, one of the great luxuries has to be knowing you can literally ignore a position. Gomes and Perez have made C just such a luxury for Terry Francona.
What do you think? Will someone else get time behind the plate? Who? Am I underestimating their defense? Is ZiPS overly optimistic about the offense?