There is a glaring, obvious, hideous hole in the Cleveland Indians' offense. It's no secret. The tandem of catchers they throw out there, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, continue to prove that bad luck and a general lack of ability to make contact don't bode well for a hitter's offensive output.
One might think it would be a good idea to find a catcher that could do these things if playoff contention wanted to be solidified. But catching is that unique position where the bat is, at best, secondary to its importance. In everything save the slash line, the Indians continue to be truly excellent behind the plate.
The ability to be a truly great backstop is fleeting. Case in point, near-Indian Jonathan Lucroy, who has fallen from the top of the game to be literally the worst at it. It's a game of inches, of flinches that make a strike look like not one and non-strikes being transformed. For instance, here's Yan Gomes' non-strike transmogrifications this year:
Pretty good, right? He's able to add a solid two or three ball widths to the plate, and at the corners he has been able to seemingly pull the ball out of the ether to edge towards a strikeout. Perez is pretty good at it too:
I'm rather impressed at Perez's pulling strikes down from above the zone. That's right in the eyeline of the umpire, and he simply twists reality so the ump sees something that isn't there. Quite magical if you ask me.
It also makes sense that he catches Trevor Bauer so much, because Bauer works the top of the zone. That could be backwards reasoning (Bauer throws high pitches a lot, so Perez has more chances) but it's something he's shown a propensity for. Conversely, Yan is good at those pitches down in the zone and off the edges — places Corey Kluber works with his cutter, sinker and curve. The more you think about it, the more these respective batteries make sense. Crafty roster building by the Indians
It's been a truth for a long time that one should not runon Yan. The Indians' Twitter account has a nice collection of videos to accompany the constant pickoffs he pulls off. What this translates to, in measured terms, is his gunning down 19 runners in 41 chances. Between him and Perez, they lead the American League in caught stealing percentage with 43 percent. Perez isn't quite as good at it as Gomes, his 33 percent only three ticks above the league average, but it's still alright. But seriously — don't run on Yan.
As a group, Cleveland catchers trail only the Los Angeles Angels in throwing runs (+1.7), are fourth in baseball in Blocking Runs (+1.7), and their 8.6 fielding runs above average places them sixth in baseball and third in the AL. These guys are good at what they do. Again, they cannot hit worth a damn — especially Perez.
Combined, Tribe catchers have a .206/.294/.324 slash line, own a 67 wRC+ (Perez really drags that down with a 39 wRC+, still better than a year ago), and strike out 26 percent of the time. If they hit for more power than the six homers the two of them have combined for it would be alright, but nope. Very garden hose-y up there. Yet, despite all that, they still walk more than 10 percent of the time. They do at least one thing decently well, and one of these days one of them will have a hot streak. Right?
Unless it's absurdly cheap, there's no reason to chase a new catcher before the deadline. Whatever offensive plus they might bring would be negated by the loss of the defense Gomes andPerez provide. Perhaps Tyler Flowers, who is having a career offensive year (126 wRC+) and has been possibly the best defensive catcher in baseball this year, would be a good choice. He'd be a half-year rental and wouldn't cost anything big time probably. But one wonders about the impact that would have on the staff. Remember, Corey Kluber took a month or two to get used to throwing to Perez when Gomes was hurt. And with Mike Clevinger and Trevor Bauer starting to turn a corner, does changing the other end of the battery make sense? They're professionals, they'd get over it, but at what cost. That's about the only move I'd make, and even then there's a lot of backup catcher on the roster for several years. That's not the kind of place Cleveland can afford to dump money. Unless a killer deal comes up, this is the situation. They’ll bring winning to the team, just not in evident ways. It is the way it must be.
Until the amazing Mejia arrives, of course. It could be worse, but it's certainly not that bad.