12.16.2004

More on the Yorvit love-fest...

I found some stats on hitting from last season on the three catchers in question.

With runners on:
  • AJ averaged 30.5% RBI/AB, hitting .288/.332/.432/.764;
  • Matheny average 26.9% RBI/AB, hitting .246/.305/.322/.627;
  • Yorvit averaged 25.6% RBI/AB, hitting .205/.308/.397/.705.

With RISP:

  • AJ had 44.4% RBI/AB, hitting .307/.359/.484/.842;
  • Matheny had 37.4% RBI/AB, hitting .226/.308/.313/.621;
  • Yorvit had 38.0% RBI/AB, hitting .200/.317/.420/.737.

So offensively, Matheny and Yorvit drive in about the same, though obviously we don't know how many baserunners each had in total opportunities, but Yorvit obviously hit better overall because of his ability to get the walk and to hit for extra-bases. Pierzynski was obviously much better than either in driving in runs when men were on base, though part of that is a result of hitting somewhere close behind Bonds (5,6,7) and encountering, most probably, many more situations with multiple runners on base than Yorvit or Matheny would batting in the 8th spot.

Yorvit's better hitting shows in projecting overall play too. Matheny hit .247/.292/.348/.640 in 385 AB with 5 homers. Taking the total proportion of plate appearances against LHP and RHP for Giants catchers last year and proportionally applying that against Yorvit's career numbers, I got .256/.316/.402/.718 in 617 AB with 14 homers. Of course, he won't play all 162 games, but I wanted to get a look at how his career numbers would look if they were not weighted towards LHP. Even with this adjustment, he hit slightly better than what Matheny would.

So from a number of different angles, Yorvit appears to be a much better hitter. The question therefore becomes: is Matheny's defense that much better?

According to many Giants fans, Yorvit is not that far behind Matheny in defense if not possibly ahead. Some websites note that Matheny's catcher ERA is not much better than the players backing him up. A problem with that is the backup will now start for St. Louis, so perhaps he is not much better than his backup but is better than Yorvit. Most sabermetrians agree that comparing catcher's ERA between teams is very problematic because of the difference in personnel, for example, teams with great pitching obviously will have catchers with low catcher's ERA.

The problem I have is that most fans don't really know defense well enough to judge who is best and defensive stats are still searching in the dark for the right metric for comparison. People in and following baseball should be much more qualified. And perhaps it is just the press repeating something until it becomes a fact, but Matheny has been acknowledge to be a gold glove multiple times. I don't see articles talking about how great Yorvit's defense is and thus why isn't he playing. And it is not like there aren't other defensive catchers in the league. Charles Johnson is one acknowledged to be one of the greats of all time but you don't see him winning over Matheny.

So while Yorvit definitely rocks vs. LHP and probably should draw most of his starts against them, I think he and Matheny would be in a good platoon over the life of Matheny's contract. It is not like Matheny will be starting the vast majority of games, like Pierzynski would have, so Yorvit will get his chances.

And there's no guarantee that Yorvit would be that good as a starter, his biggest question coming up from the minors was his offense and it has been acknowledged in the press that he has done much better in the majors than his numbers in the minors would have suggested. And if either should go down for whatever reason, the other will be capable of carrying the load at about the same rate, which wouldn't be true if we just picked up some catcher off the scrap heap.

Now about the money, again, that goes to what the Giants think they are getting in defense and leadership of the pitching staff from Matheny versus Yorvit. Obviously, they think that it is worth a lot. I think I can see some of the logic of that, which I touched on in a prior post. Obviously, there is a youth movement going along in the Giants pitching staff, with Williams and Lowry already in the rotation, Hennessey, Aardsma, and Correia in the wings, and Cain and Valdez charging up fast. They will need to be guided and "controlled".

Would Yorvit be able to do that? I don't know either way, but I do know that he has been mainly catching veteran pitchers during his career with the Giants and hasn't been charged with doing something like that. As Sabean said about another prospect, I don't know if we want to find out that he can't in the line of fire and be forced to trade from weakness and lose prospects versus spending money, perhaps extra money, on a free agent.

Some fans abhor "In Sabean We Trust" but really, he hasn't really had many misses during his career about talent, especially trading it away. Now salary level is another question, he has been challenged there but from what I know, he doesn't do much with salary level computations, all that is handled by Ned Colletti. So for now I will trust in Sabean and see what happens (and keep my fingers crossed).


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