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Graphic Blandishment
2009-01-27 09:52
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Brian Cartwright ran a study on catcher basestealing prevention for Fangraphs. "The task is to seperate the catcher's ability to throw out base stealers from that of the pitchers they are teamed with," Cartwright wrote. Among his findings …

1) New Dodger backup Brad Ausmus has been trending sharply downward in effectiveness, though the low rate of stealing attempts against him implies that opponents haven't realized it.
2) Henry Blanco, signed for cheaper dollars by the Padres on the same day the Dodgers agreed to terms with Ausmus, has the best caught-stealing percentage for a catcher over the past six years. "At age 36, Blanco has shown no signs of slowing down, having a normal CS% over .500 in 3 of the past 4 seasons," Cartwright said.
3) Dodger starting catcher Russell Martin fared above-average in the study, with a normalized caught-stealing percentage of .325 that ranked sixth in the majors last season.

In the comments on the study, Dodger Thoughts reader Xeifrank questions its viability.

  • Matt Kemp makes sabermetric news again. Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts looked today at the effect of a hitter's groundball rate on his BABIP (batting average on balls in play), and he noticed that Kemp had the lowest groundball out rate in baseball in 2007 and nearly repeated the feat last season.

  • Jay Jaffe, who said his first impulse would have been to vote Jeff Kent into the Hall of Fame if given a ballot today, examined Kent's career at length for Baseball Prospectus and concluded him to be almost the definition of a borderline candidate:

    Kent was a very good player for a long time, and an often misunderstood one. His lack of charisma and his businesslike approach made him an easy target, though his humorlessness should never have been confused with a lack of passion for the game. From this vantage point, he looks to be a borderline Hall of Famer at best. Even with no particular love lost for him as a fan—one who spent years rooting against him as a Giant before settling down and appreciating his uneven virtues with the Dodgers—I'll admit that this still contradicts my gut instinct, but then that's one of the reasons for the five-year waiting period before a player reaches the ballot. Nonetheless, I strongly suspect he'll find his way into Cooperstown in due time, and if that's the case, it will hardly be the crime of the century.

  • Comments
    2009-01-27 10:21:50
    1.   D4P
    1) New Dodger backup Brad Ausmus has been trending sharply downward in effectiveness, though the low rate of stealing attempts against him implies that opponents haven't realized it

    Either that or Ausmus typically only gets put in the game at a point when opponents are unlikely to steal (i.e. when one team is way ahead).

    2009-01-27 10:24:59
    2.   Tripon
    Didn't Ausmus start 80 games last year?
    2009-01-27 10:25:22
    3.   bhsportsguy
    It has been my impression over the years that it has been as much a pitching staff problem with holding runners rather than solely on the catcher's ability to throw the runner out.

    Blanco will test that theory because Padres have given up a lot of stolen bases in the past few seasons.

    2009-01-27 10:26:42
    4.   bhsportsguy
    1 Reputation goes a long way.
    2009-01-27 10:26:44
    5.   D4P
    BTW: Is there no such thing in the MLB as a young backup catcher?
    2009-01-27 10:31:02
    6.   OhioBlues12
    5 - If there is, AJ Ellis ain't buying it.
    2009-01-27 10:34:46
    7.   bhsportsguy
    5 Generally, no, and this goes back to my longheld belief that as a rule, teams don't carry two young catchers (the Angels are one exception). Primarily because unless you are going to platoon or have a designated day off, its just hard to find that second catcher enough playing time to stay fresh.

    Finally, I think teams like the veteran backup because he usually has an idea about the hitters in the league.

    2009-01-27 10:35:27
    8.   ucladodger
    On the Kemp front, Lederer mentions that hustle does play a factor. The one thing Matt does is bust his tail down the line basically every time. Even though defenders knows about his speed, I'm sure he surprises some with how fast he gets down the line every time.
    2009-01-27 10:37:43
    9.   bhsportsguy
    Interesting article about GB BABIP, one note about Kemp, his BABIP for GB to left was 200 points lower than when he a GB to center and right fields.
    2009-01-27 10:41:23
    10.   silverwidow
    Speaking of young catchers, the Rangers are willing to trade Salty for Buchholz. Both guys are overhyped, but there's enough upside to make it a fair trade for each.
    2009-01-27 10:41:50
    11.   bhsportsguy
    9 Okay, it is only 183 points lower and even when you combine his GB to center and left, it is less than half of how many he hit to left.

    GB to Left 37/142 .261
    GB to Center 20/45 .444
    GB to Right 8/18 .444

    2009-01-27 10:42:37
    12.   Ken Noe
    At risk of a Rule 8 violation, Ausmus is here to provide Martin with PVL guidance, not to actually catch much. For whatever reason, the powers that be seems to think he needs a role model rather than a rest.
    2009-01-27 10:44:59
    13.   Kevin Lewis
    8

    Lex, use Kemp as an example for getting out of the box :)

    2009-01-27 10:54:57
    14.   bhsportsguy
    12 About how many games do you think Martin should start next year at catcher?

    No question, Martin played a lot last year but he only started 3 more games than Mauer, 6 more games than McGann and Benji Molina. Now, he did play more games at catcher than those other players but I think Martin isn't going to go down to 120-125 starts no matter who the back up is going to be. But also remember this, Martin has said this off-season that he is beginning to realize that he does need to take more days off (I believe he had at least some say in this with Torre last year) so I would not be surprised if he takes more time off, even in the early going of the season.

    2009-01-27 10:59:33
    15.   OhioBlues12
    14 - But didn't he say the same things last offseason? I seem to recall that he continually says that his body needs rest but it doesn't actually happen. I think 135-140 games caught should be his target.
    2009-01-27 10:59:49
    16.   still bevens
    Im always terrified every time Kemp gingerly comes off the bag when he runs out a grounder to first because his speed is blazing and Im convinced hes going to tweak something someday.

    Either way, hes no Milton Bradley.

    2009-01-27 11:00:43
    17.   Tripon
    5 David Ross came to the Dodgers at 25. Not 'young' but not old either. I don't think the Dodgers(or anyone else) saw him except as a backup.
    2009-01-27 11:01:13
    18.   Ken Noe
    14 Mostly I was riffing off Ned via Gurnick: "It's a big addition with [Ausmus's] knowledge and presence....He'll give us a chance to give Russell more time off, and at the same time, impart different thought and wisdom. We talked to Russell before he signed, and he said Ausmus would be a great addition for us. The combination of the two will help our pitching situation and help Russell develop into a better catcher than he already is."

    But to answer your question, I'd rather see him around 145 than 155, with more rest in the first half.

    2009-01-27 11:06:40
    19.   bhsportsguy
    18 Martin started 138 games at catcher and altogether played in 147 games behind the plate in 2008.

    He also started 8 games at 3B.

    2009-01-27 11:11:10
    20.   Ken Noe
    19 Yeah, for some reason I was thinking games played rather than games started behind the plate, which you clearly wrote. Realized it as soon as I posted. But I'll stick with the basic premise of 145 games max, including late-inning defensive appearances.
    2009-01-27 11:11:57
    21.   Jon Weisman
    NPUT
    2009-01-27 11:15:04
    22.   OhioBlues12
    I am not sure that it is as much the games he catches as the games he doesn't get off. Even on his days off he was either playing 3B or subbing into the game at catcher in the middle innings.

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