The Catching Situation

April 4, 2010 at 4:40 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As every Mariner insider has posted, the team has released their 25-man roster to start the season. They’re starting the season with Rob Johnson, and Adam Moore. Since Josh Bard and Guillermo Quiroz didn’t impress during Spring Training, and they’ll be starting in the minors.

So what do Rob Johnson and Adam Moore bring to this team? With the exception of Jose Lopez at third, this is the only starting position that the Mariners are going with that came from homegrown talent. Rather than going out and signing or trading for proven or undervalued talent, Jack Zduriencik decided to stay in-house with his catching options.

Rob Johnson has just above 300 Major League plate appearances in his career. So far,  he’s failed to impress in any sort of fashion. So far he’s batted a .205/.274/.315 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line in his time in the majors, with the majority of those coming from last season as he became the primary catcher after Kenji Johjima started to get injured and have issues with the pitching staff.  Statistically, Kenji was better than him in every single way (though after Kenji’s terrible 2008 campaign, not by much), yet Johnson got the call behind the plate. Why? The Mariner pitching staff loved the way he called a game. He worked well with the pitchers. Felix loves him. Stats be damned (unless you think Catcher ERA is relevant, which, no, it isn’t).  Regardless of what people think the value of a catcher calling a game is, the Mariners have put stock in it, and they’re sticking with the story.

Defense wise, Johnson isn’t anything to write home about either. He’s been often criticized for his lack of holding on to the ball, his inability to throw runners out, and his weakness blocking the plate. Bear in mind, this is the same organization that kept Jeff Clement in the minors because his catching game needed improvement defensively (makes you wonder how terrible Clement was at defending, it’s a moot point now since the Pirates have him pegged as a first basemen). However, this brings me to my next point about Johnson. Over the off-season, he was the recipient of four surgeries, two on his hips, one on his throwing wrist, and LASIK to his eyes. Johnson believes the hip surgery should help his swing, and the wrist surgery help him throw out runners at second. LASIK can go either way, but there’s been studies showing that there’s no statistically significant changes of getting LASIK and athletic performance.

This isn’t to say that Johnson won’t show improvement in the future. He’s only had just above 300 plate appearances. He claims he can hit .260 this upcoming season, and while I remain skeptical of this, it’s entirely possible. Due to the nature of him being a catcher, he can get away with being a mediocre hitter, and still put up a positive Wins Above Replacement.

Let’s talk about Adam Moore. He’s opened a lot of eyes with the way he hit the ball in AAA, posting a .294/.346/.429 line in 368 PAs despite starting the 2009 season in AA. He’s only had 24 plate appearances in the bigs, with 5 hits and no walks, but it’s a small sample size, and there’s still a lot of potential. It’s probably going to take a season or two for Adam Moore to reach his true potential as a hitter. I don’t expect him to be at the level of Matt Wieters, but if he can become a player in the future that hits for a .330 wOBA at a premium position, he’ll be one of the most valuable pieces that the team can build around going forward.

Defensively, he’s probably at the same point as Rob Johnson. He’s shown improvement in his defensive game in his time in Tacoma. His Spring Training was good enough that he outperformed Josh Bard, who everyone expected to get the job as the reserve catcher, to be named to the opening day roster. In short, he’s generating a lot of hype. There’s a lot of upside with Moore, but at the same time, it’s going to take him to get into full potential. It’s hard to tell if the pitchers will like calling to Adam Moore, but I think the problem with last season was that Kenji Johjima comes from a different baseball culture – In Japan, pitchers don’t shake off catchers, and Johjima found himself at odds adjusting for that. I don’t think the starters will have any issues pitching to Moore compared to if they were pitching to Johnson.

At this point, I like Adam Moore a lot more than Rob Johnson, if that wasn’t obvious. I think at this point, the team knows what to expect with Rob Johnson. ZiPS projects Johnson to have a .299 wOBA for the season, and a .294 for Adam Moore, so there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two.

Why not give Moore his chance and make him the starter? He’s clearly the catcher of the future, two years younger than Johnson, and has grown at a much faster rate. He’ll be a player to watch this season, and barring serious injury, will most likely be the starting catcher for the 2011 campaign.


The First Post

April 4, 2010 at 2:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I love the Mariners. I love reading blogs about the Mariners. Some people told me that I have decent writing, so I thought, “Hey, why not start writing about the Mariners?”

There’s a lot that I could cover. I’ve spent a lot of time learning sabermetrics, understanding why Franklin Gutierrez owns, and that Ichiro simply doesn’t regress. I’m not hardcore about stats (yet, this is becoming an addiction), so I’ll try to use laymen’s reasoning and a mixture of statistical analysis.

For those wondering, the name “Tickles Above Replacement” comes from the stat “Wins Above Replacement” and Griffey’s insatiable desire to tickle Ichiro at each point of the season.

So begins a fun journey of writing and hopefully staying true to the readers. I hope I don’t destroy my life in the process.

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