Mid-Season White Sox Grades - Catchers.........and Mark Kotsay too

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It's better left unsaid.

Back in the olden days where wearing your socks low the way Ramon is in the above picture was considered morally reprehensible; catchers were expected to do little but provide defense at a position that no one who didn't hate himself or wanted to be able to play with his grandkids would ever play.

You have to agree that the White Sox have gotten that from this year's crop of backstops.

Then Carlton Fisk established that being a White Sox catcher could be an avenue to getting the payday you coveted and deserved in your 20's, even if you're not still playing quite as good.

You have to agree that the White Sox have gotten that

And THEN, Ron Karkovice showed that catcher isn't a position left to the pretty boys of this sport.

And man, this year's group of White Sox catchers mount no counter-argument to that

(Btw, this interview with Karkovice left me sobbing with laughter)

In recent uh...decades I guess, players like Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez, and Joe Mauer showed that catchers could be dominant, powerful, MVP-quality hitters.

The White Sox catchers have...they've done with...uh...several, erg...fuh...uh.....hmmmrph................................On with the grades!

A.J. Pierzynski, C, .238 BA, .278 OBP, .345 SLG, .623 OPS, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 15 2B, 8 BB, 32% of potential base-stealers thrown out

Plenty of veterans get shopped around when they are on the last year of their contract.  Typically though, unloading veterans with high salaries is a move seen from teams entering re-building mode; not would-be competitors trying to remove long-time players from their order who have suddenly collapsed upon themselves like A.J. did during the first two months of the season, when he hit .211

A productive mini-A.J. season (.317 BA, .812 OPS in June) has been sandwiched in between two massive face-melting slumps; the one that began the season and threatened to never end, and the one he's probably entering into right now.  Whereas Konerko seems deadset on giving Kenny Williams an forehead-splitting migraine at the end of the season when he will try to decide whether to re-sign him or not, A.J. has preferred to enter with Kenny into some sort of bizarre game of chicken, challenging whether he can even stand to make it through this season with Pierzynski on the roster.  Perhaps Kenny was won over by the traditionally poor-throwing Pierzynski gunning out 32% of base-thieves this season ( a full 5 points above league average!  Woo!)....half the time I doubt Kenny pays attention to defense though.

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Nice try A.J., no one bought it, and you won't be traded....now go and start hitting again.

He nearly blinked before A.J.'s 10-5 no-trade clause enacted, but was then tantalized by a month of production.  If Pierzynski bottoms out again, Kenny has to try to get his approval to deal him away from the team he's been with for six years and is in currently in contention for a playoff spot.......yeah...good luck.

Grade: C- (Never forget that A.J is NOT Gerald Laird, and never stop being thankful)

Donny Lucy, C, .333 BA, .444 OBP, .733 SLG, 1.178 OPS, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 2B, 29% of potential base-stealers thrown out, 18 total plate appearances

Talking about Donny Lucy seemed a lot less ridiculous in April when 18 plate appearances didn't seem like quite so much of a ridiculously small sample size, and A.J. was swinging like he was trying to undo the goodwill of the 2005 World Series (can't be done, by the way). 

There was probably a reason that Donny was taken with a 2nd round pick back in the 2004.  If I had to guess I'd say that the Sox knew they might be shopping Miguel Olivo and reached slightly for catcher even though he ended his last college season in a slump.....oh and he had some talent I suppose....maybe....  As surprisingly productive as Lucy was, guys don't stew in the minors till their 27 unless something is wrong.  C'mon, this is the White Sox!  If a prospect is any good, he gets traded waaay before this point.

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This is the closest thing to an action shot of Lucy. Google "Donny Lucy White Sox" sometime....lots of pictures of Donny Osmond.

Grade: A (It's hard to argue that he did a single thing wrong)

Ramon Castro, C, .310 BA, .396 OBP, .476 SLG, .872 OPS, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 6 BB in 48 plate appearances, 38 % of potential base-stealers thrown out

Last season, Ramon really didn't do much of anything.  He hit .184, struck out 23 times in 76 at-bats, threw out a slightly-above average rate of baserunners, and ran very, very slowly.  The only positive was that he occasionally showed the propensity to hit the ball extremely hard.

After returning from an injury that cost him the first month of the season, Ramon looked to be pretty much the same guy that former 1st-round pick Lance Broadway was inexplicably traded for the Mets for.  He hit below .200, ran slow, and swung at things the average player wouldn't offer at.

  But then Ramon decided to start hitting the ball extremely hard; he's gone 10-23 since the beginning of June with a HR, and 5 RBI.  He's backed this up by having a pretty significant upswing in his caught-stealing rate (up to 38%).  He's only had one double all season despite the fact that he's been hitting lasers whenever he makes contact, but then again, that's easily explained by the extreme slowness.

Grade: B+ (It's no longer the equivalent of putting the pitcher in the lineup by having Castro spell A.J. for a day.  What a luxury)

Mark Kotsay, DH, 1B, RF, .226 BA, .322 OBP, .385 SLG, .707 OPS, 11 2B, 6 HR, 21 RBI, -0.3 UZR at 1st, -3.2 UZR in RF

In a way, Mark's bridge collapse of an April was a good thing for the White Sox; it dismissed the ludicrous notion of him as the everyday designated hitter, and returned him to his rightful utility role.

Except that it didn't.

I don't know what happened!  Everything seemed set-up for it!  He went 4-37 with one extra-base hit...for the month!  What happened?  If I was on the White Sox roster, and went 4-37 in a month (very much on the high end of projections), I'm pretty sure I'd be gone...but then again I'm not a 13-year vet with over 1600 career hits.  Whatever.

Ultimately, Kotsay's playing time has survived due to the fact that his only terrible month coincided with Andruw Jones' only good one.  While Andruw's been busy contemplating the deepest mysteries of the universe for the past few months (typically at moments when his bat should be passing through the hitting zone), Mark's been generally decent.  He's hit .255, had genuinely alright OBP of .353, and slugged .434 for a total post-God-awful-April OPS of .787....which is.....decent....good....certainly serviceable. 

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Alex Rios congratulates Mark on a job done to reasonable level of satisfaction

The problem is that Kotsay is a DH, a position for a run-producer, a masher, a cog in the order.  Someone who hits a HR more than once every 30 at bats.  There's never been anything wrong with Mark Kotsay all year (except for April...such a bad April), but the fact that he's a borderline everyday player is one of the most telltale signs that this is a pitching-oriented team.

Oh I almost forgot!  Mark has had exactly six completely inexcusable, "what the hell is he thinking?!?!", baserunnings gaffes this season where he has either attempted to advance on a wild pitch that wasn't that wild, tried to take an extra base on a hit, or had a delusion that he was 24 again and tried to steal 2nd, and has ended up getting thrown out by two feet or more.  It's as if some part of him knows that he's playing at a solid but nondescript level and decides "Mark Kotsay is gonna make something happen, right now!", but doesn't quite contemplate what that something should be.  It hasn't happened in any really important situations yet, but it did happen once during a nationally televised game.  The national announcers speculated that Mark must have misread a sign or something, and I felt sorrow because deep in my heart, I knew, there was never any sign.

Grade: B-...or B?....or C+?....whatever grade best represents "perfectly average" to you.

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