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A Star May Not Be Born
2003-06-11 08:53
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

If you thought the combination of Paul Lo Duca's 18-game hitting streak, Mike Piazza's injury and expanded All-Star Game rosters guaranteed the Dodger catcher a spot in the Midsummer Classic after he was snubbed last year, you might be disappointed.

Here are the batting average, home runs, RBI and OPS for some National League catchers:

Javier Lopez, Atlanta .305 18 33 1.051
Mike Piazza, New York .333 7 15 1.034
Chad Moeller, Arizona .341 4 12 .910
Paul Lo Duca, Los Angeles .332 4 21 .854
Mike Lieberthal, Philadelphia .323 4 25 .852
Benito Santiago, San Francisco .300 9 36 .841
Ivan Rodriguez, Florida .251 7 29 .752
Jason Kendall, Pittsburgh .280 4 20 .746

Among the hurdles Lo Duca has to overcome: Lopez is the clear frontrunner, Rodriguez is the leading vote-getter, Santiago played for National League manager Dusty Baker last year, and Kendall may have to serve as the Pirates' lone representative if Brian Giles, who has a .999 OPS but missed 23 games with injuries, doesn't make it into the outield. Additionally, you can make a case for Lieberthal, whose statistics are almost identical to Lo Duca's. (Less so for Moeller, who has only 134 plate appearances.) And as far as tiebreakers go, Lo Duca's defensive reputation is mixed, and I don't think he'll get points for handling the Dodger pitching staff.

Isn't it amazing, though, that there could be so many catchers batting over .300, with OPS numbers higher than Shawn Green's? Right now, the catcher position is much stronger than third base, where only Scott Rolen, Mike Lowell, Aaron Boone and Chris Stynes (of Coors Field) have an OPS above .800.

A strong first half in 2002 (.842 OPS) didn't get Lo Duca into last year's game, so you have to hope he makes it this year. But right now, at best, he's competing with Lieberthal, Santiago and Kendall for the third catcher spot.

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