Sox fans, who is the catcher you miss most? Carlton Fisk? A.J. Pierzynski? Ron Karkovice? Charles Johnson (small sample size)? No matter, we aren’t living in the past. We are planning our 2020 World Series Champion parties.
Catchers and DH
C Kevan Smith: It seems like the White Sox ‘got by’ this past season in the catching department, doesn’t it? Not too many people clamoring for Geovany Soto or Tyler Flowers. Well, Soto is very near the couch and remote stage of his life, and aside from pitch framing, Tyler Flowers isn’t going to do much to excite anyone.
The A.J. dropped third strike against Anaheim just flashed in my mind spontaneously! How can any catcher in the world compete with that moment?
Anyway, before we spend this entire time together talking about the relative insignificance of White Sox catchers at the major league level, quick, name a MLB catcher. And, oh ya, it can’t be Contreras, Posey, Lucroy, Molina, Gary Sanchez, or Wieters. Tough, huh? I know. Big name catchers are hard to find, like considerate highway drivers or cashiers that aren’t openly disgruntled during the holidays.
I know, I know, we haven’t talked about Mr. Smith yet. He batted .283 and that’s not bad, but let’s juxtapose his batting average with some rather troubling numbers. He hit only 4 home runs in 276 at bats, in a year when 6 ½ million home runs were hit. You might say that’s ok if my catcher is a rock behind the plate. Well, he threw out 13% of the base stealers that ran on him in 2017, 8 caught, 56 safe and sound. Not good.
The cherry on top is he struck out more than five times as often as he walked.
Was it a serviceable year? Arguable. Should he get another approximately 300 at bats? Why not? We are all waiting for Zack Collins…or maybe Evan Skoug…or maybe Seby Zavala. We’ll talk about those guys down the road.
C Omar Narvaez: I don’t know how many at bats Renteria and Hahn intend for Narvaez this year. It was almost a 50/50 split with Smith in 2017. My eye tests and biases tip the scales for Narvaez over Smith, but I don’t make those big money decisions.
Omar is a left handed hitting catcher. I like lefty catchers. Omar has a discerning eye-rarely does he give away at bats. He walked almost as much as he struck out in 2017, 38 bb, 45 k. His on base percentage was .373, well above the league average. He caught 24% of the base stealers that challenged him this past season, a modest percentage, but it looks pretty good next to Smith’s 13%.
The bad? According to the website Stat Corner (serious numbers crunchers over there-like Jonah Hill’s fictional character in Moneyball), Narvaez was one of the worst pitch framers in baseball, way, way down the list at -21.5. Smith was in the bottom half of the league for sure, but his -8.8 rating shined in comparison to Narvaez’s. And power wasn’t Narvaez’s strong suit either. He hit just 2 home runs in 253 at bats last season.
Silver lining? If Collins can cut down on his strikeouts and continue to improve defensively, he may be around in 2018. He had 19 home runs last year, he walks a ton, and he caught 39% of the base stealers that challenged him last year. Patience is hard Sox fans, I know.
DH Matt Davidson (Leury Garcia, Nicky Delmonico, occasionally Jose Abreu):
Despite his power, 26 home runs in 414 at bats, Davidson’s strikeout to walk rate and OBP were abysmal, 165 k to 19 bb and a .260 OBP (compare that with Avi’s .380 and Abreu’s .354). He played 3B in the minors for the Diamondbacks and White Sox, but by mid season Renteria had decided that he was a better fit for a DH role, and Sanchez got the lion’s share of starts at third.
Davidson is not a long term piece for the Chicago White Sox.
If they don’t find a DH for the long haul, I suppose they’ll work with a DH by committee system. The ‘old’ White Sox would have to employ a lefty power bat in that spot, ala Jim Thome, Adam Dunn (excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit), and Adam LaRoche (hahahahahaha!). However, I don’t know if the new White Sox feel that way. I bet we don’t know who the DH on the next contending White Sox team is going to be until 2019 at the earliest.
So in 2018 Matt Davidson will get a chance to improve on his strike out to walk rate and on base percentage. If he stumbles or against tough righties you may see Leury Garcia or Nicky Delmonico (we’ll talk about him when we get to outfielders). Jose may get 10 to 15 games in the DH spot to rest his legs.
Next: Starting Outfield
Random niceness: Happy Thanksgiving!
Random observation: Why doesn’t Ozzie Guillen have a job with a major league team?