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The Athletics and Blocking Pitches

March 2, 2012

This post is a complete rip-off of Jeff Sullivan’s post on the very good Lookout Landing but I liked the use of the very new and exciting metrics from noted A’s fan Bojan Koprivica that look at catchers’ ability to block pitches in the dirt. FanGraphs now allows you to sort by two new options they are: CPP and RPP. CPP is the expected number of passed pitches and the more important RPP which is the number of runs above/below average a catcher is at blocking pitches telling us just how good a catcher is at helping his pitcher avoid wild pitches and advanced runners and the like.

As with most defensive metrics they aren’t perfect as both Sullivan and Koprivica attest, but it does provide some sort of better understanding of catcher’s defense just as UZR/150 can help us better understand just how good a shortstop or right fielder may be. So let’s see how good the A’s catchers are. I decided to follow Sullivan’s lead and turn the RPP into an RPP per 1,000 innings we he said to me via Twitter was an arbitrary big round number.

Only two make the cutoff of 500 innings from 2008-2011 that Sullivan used and that I chose to use as well and they are unshockingly Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell. Suzuki fared pretty well, his 2.0 RPP/1,000 ranked him tied for 23rd out of 84 with Yorvit Torrealba. Yet interestingly the highly lauded for his defense and pitcher handling Powell came in lower in a tie for 41st place with Ronny Paulino at 0.1 RPP/1,000. So on the whole the A’s catchers fared quite well. For what it is worth four other A’s catchers logged time behind the plate between 2008-2011 and they and what their RPP/1,000 stands at are: Rob Bowen (-5.0), Josh Donaldson (-2.1), Jake Fox (-3.4) and Anthony Recker (0.0).

I have long questioned whether or not the wear on Kurt Suzuki from playing so often and frequently behind the plate has led to his declining offensive numbers, but one has to wonder if it takes a toll on his defensive numbers too. In 2008 and 2009 he was at 3.6 and 3.5 RPP/1,000  respectively though those numbers fell to 0.3 in 2010 before a slight uptick to 0.4 last year. For what it is worth, those seasons have marked the 3rd (2008), 7th (2009), 18th (2011) and and 29th (2010) heaviest workloads of any catcher in any given year during that period, so it shouldn’t be surprising that since 2008 no one has seen more time behind the plate than Zuk who has 4,579 innings in the crouch to the next best (or most taxing perhaps?) Yadier Molina coming in at 4,466 2/3 a difference that is the equivalent of about 12 1/2 games.

I love reading great posts that I find really interesting and insightful and making them relevant to A’s fans. Absolutely click on the link above to check out what Sullivan did with the Mariners on Lookout Landing.

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