Jane Lee on the A's catchers

Posted by Jason Wojciechowski on December 26, 2016 at 4:40 PM

Jane Lee has a look at the A's catching situation as we head into a new season. MLB.com isn't big on criticism, so she declines to mention that Stephen Vogt's last good pitch-framing performance, by Baseball Prospectus' numbers, was at Triple-A in 2013. She does mention the praise Bruce Maxwell gets back there, and his Triple-A numbers (+31 in just over 10,000 pitches received; Vogt received 6,700 pitches last year, to give you a sense of what a full season looks like) back up the reputation. Let's say Maxwell is a +10 framer in the majors and that their differences on blocking and throwing don't amount to anything at all, and that Vogt's last two years represent something like his full-season ability, then starting Maxwell over Vogt this year is going to net the A's 20 runs right off the top.

It gets a little more complicated from there, though, because Vogt in 2014 and '15 was a good enough hitter to start, not just a good enough hitter to start at catcher, which means the A's are going to find him at-bats, and that means you have to play the games of dominoes in putting him in the field. "Luckily," the A's corner outfielders aren't much with the leather, either, but even more luckily, Billy Butler isn't on clogging up the DH position anymore, so there's a natural place for Vogt to play without having to shift a lot of players around and worry about defense.

What seems to me that you want to do is platoon Maxwell and Josh Phegley, with Maxwell naturally taking the long side of the platoon, thereby also creating a defensive boon because Phegley has been pretty poor by the framing numbers himself, DHing Vogt (and having him play the corners when Bob Melvin wants to semi-rest someone else at DH for a day), and having Vogt serve simultaneously as the injury-replacement catcher. When Phegley gets hurt again, the A's can call up Renato Nunez or Max Muncy or whoever they like instead of replacing him with a catcher, and let Vogt take over as backup catcher, playing in the field or DHing as often as Melvin is comfortable having him do so when he's not catching.

If two catchers get hurt, then you're looking at calling up Ryan Lavarnway or Matt McBride, which is painful, but name me a team for whom it would not be painful to have two catchers hurt.