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Catchers can set the tone for the ALDS in game one

And since the Indians have three catchers on the roster, it's obviously a strength, right? While that sounds silly...

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians announced its roster yesterday, and we still await official word from the Boston Red Sox. Nonetheless, here are the catchers that each team is likely to carry into the postseason:


Yan Gomes - 74 games, 264 PAs, 33 wRC+, 0.8 dWAR

Roberto Perez - 61 games, 184 PAs, 58 wRC+, 0.9 dWAR

Chris Gimenez - 68 games, 155 PAs, 60 wRC+, 0.0 dWAR

Red Sox:

Sandy Leon - 78 games, 283 PAs, 123 wRC+, 0.8 dWAR

Christian Vazquez - 57 games, 184 PAs, 51 wRC+, 0.3 dWAR

If you just stare at the statistics for a few seconds, it seems obvious that the Red Sox have a huge advantage over the Indians at backstop. The Indians will use some kind of blend of Perez and Gomes; I expect Perez to start game one, and then Gomes to start game two with Kluber, to be pulled partway through. For the Red Sox, Sandy Leon will be the feature player, as he produced an unexpected burst for the Red Sox at catcher.

After digging a little bit deeper at the statistics I'm not convinced that the difference is so clear. We can agree that the Indians catchers haven't hit very well no matter how you measure it, although the second half of the season was a bit more kind. I'm interested in looking at Sandy Leon's production this season, how it compares to his career up to this point, and whether or not his production is sustainable.

Up until this season, Sandy Leon logged .187/.258/.225 at the plate with a BABIP of .257 in 235 PAs. This season? .310/.369/.476 with a BABIP of .391 and 283 PAs. He's only 27 years old, so some development as a prospect is expected. The real difference is in the power. Leon inexplicably began driving the ball, posting an ISO of .167 with 31% of batted balls classified as hard hit, compared to his previous career total of (gasp) .038 and 16.2% hard hit.

Players, as they age, are capable of naturally finding additional power. Grady Sizemore is an excellent example (and may his bat rest in peace). Players are also capable of having one incredible, glorious, beautiful, dinger and double-filled summer. When considering the end of Leon's season — September 2 to October 2 — it appears that he's returned to the well below-average batter of seasons past:

A .213/.286/.253 slash, with a BABIP of .302. His ISO dwindled to .040, and only 20 percent of his batted balls are hard hit. All of this translates to a wRC+ of 44. There appears to have been some uptick of power, but with a BABIP right around league average it appears that Leon benefited from some luck throughout the middle of the season. That, and perhaps pitchers adjusted to his approach at the plate. He still doesn't have a full season of plate appearance in his career, so the sample size isn't quite where we would like it to be to make broad statements. However, I do think that a Bayesian take on this would suggest that yes, September and October Leon is about the hitter we would expect given his career and BABIP burst so far.

This is why I don't believe the gap between the Indians and the Red Sox at the position is that great. In fact, the Indians may even have the advantage due to their numbers advantage. By carrying three catchers with fourteen position players, the Indians will have a tremendous amount of flexibility to pinch hit, bringing in platoon bats like Brandon Guyer and Lonnie Chisenhall when the matchup is favorable.

I believe in the first game of the series we'll see Francona pinch-hit for the catcher once the relievers come into play. With this approach, the Indians catchers have a chance to set the tone for the rest of the series — a trio of selfless backstops willing to do whatever it takes to help an injury-laden team win.

And if Yan Gomes can keep doing this?

Well. That changes everything, doesn't it?