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July 23, 2013 posted by Josh Kay

MidSeason Rankings Positional Breakdown Hit FX Primer: Catchers Tier 3 and other notables

MidSeason Rankings Positional Breakdown Hit FX Primer: Catchers Tier 3 and other notables
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MidSeason Positional Breakdown Hit FX Primer Catchers Tier 3:

10. Jonathan Lucroy- Milwaukee Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy has been red hot since the end of May when he went 5-5 on May 31st to raise his batting average from .228 to .253.  Now hitting .285, Lucroy has added to that by hitting 13 home runs so far. Can Lucroy keep this up? Right now he has around as many home runs and a higher batting average than many catchers ahead of him (Matt Wieters, Carlos Santana, Rosario, Martinez). However, with the news that Ryan Braun will miss the rest of the season, we have some reservations about whether or not Lucroy will continue to produce at this level in a weakened lineup.

That being said, Lucroy has made impressive improvements since the end of May with specific regard to recognizing breaking pitches. For the first two months of the season, Lucroy hit .150 (6-40) against the breaking ball and .083 (1-12) against off-speed pitches. Since then, he’s hitting .263 (9-38) with a double, two triples and a homer off breaking pitches. Additionally, he’s hitting 5-15 against off-speed pitches with a double and a homer.

If Lucroy can continue to keep this up, he would catapult to our number five catcher and solidly cement himself into tier two. Lucroy hit .318, .284, .379 respectively against hard, breaking and off-speed pitches in his excellent 2012 campaign with the Brew Crew, so it seems Lucroy’s success since May 31st is legitimate. The injury concerns still exist though. With no other catcher having more upside than Lucroy, he stands alone in tier three.

14. Miguel Montero- Arizona Diamondbacks: What in the world is wrong with this guy? Montero’s swinging strike percentage is slightly up from last season when he hit .282, his contact rate (per fangraphs) is identical to last year (75.3 percent and 75.5 percent) in 2012 and 2013 respectively, and his swing percentages are all pretty much in line with each other. What is the problem? Montero’s ground ball rate is up three percentage points, but his infield fly ball rate is down by a full five percent!

The problem has been Montero’s plate coverage. In 2013 so far, he has hit 44.47 % of his batted balls on balls outside the strike zone. In 2012, that number was 47.58 %. However, in 2013 so far, Montero is hitting 23/145 (.159 batting average) on balls outside the strike zone. In 2012 he hit .229 on balls outside the strike zone (54/236).

Specifically, in 2013 he has been absolutely brutalized by pitches down and away from him. Picture a number 5×5 grid (top left corner is #1, read across horizontally to #5 and then just below #1 is #6 and so on). In grid boxes 16, 20 and 21 in 2013 he is hitting .085 (5/59). That area outside of the strike zone accounts for 40 % of the balls outside of the strike zone that Montero puts in play (this is exact for 2013 and 2013).

In 2012 Montero hit .268 in those three down and away grid spots (25/93).

More fun with math: Montero is hitting 1/38 (.026) in those three grid spots against all off-speed and breaking pitches this season. Montero’s real problem is that throughout his career, while the bottom of the strike zone has always been a hole for him (hitting .140 in his career on off-speed and breaking pitches below the zone), it’s been excruciatingly worse in the past two seasons (.091 that’s 10/110).

 

Year Batting Average vs. Off-speed/breaking balls below zone
2011 .111 (8/72)
2012 .141 (9-64)
2013 .043 (2-47)

 

Holes in swings provide for an easy exploitation of one’s entire production. That is the case with Miguel Montero.

N.R. John Buck- New York Mets:

For readers that saw the explanation of Mike Napoli’s career season, it is worth noting that during John Buck’s incredible April he had a very Napoli-like “skill change/hot streak”. Napoli’s 2011 wasn’t a fluke. It was more or less powered by what has turned out to be an unsustainable streak of improved skill. John Buck’s April 2013 couldn’t have been more similar.

Buck’s strikeout rate in April against hard stuff was just 21.13 % in 61 at-bats. His .295 batting average against hard stuff in April, which included eight home runs and two doubles for a slugging percentage of .721, was only “powered” by a .250 batting average on balls in play. So in actually, Buck’s streak wasn’t one of luck. In fact, it was a temporary skill improvement.

Unfortunately for Mets fans, it was all too temporary, as Buck since then has a 31.48 % strikeout rate against the fastball and just two home runs against the fastball. The slash line includes a putrid .194 batting average and a .269 slugging percentage. The lesson here is that Buck could’ve maintained his April throughout the whole season, a-la Mike Napoli, and we would have been wrong until we actually looked at his temporarily improved strikeout rate, but John Buck remained John Buck. Buck has hit only .214 with just five home runs since the beginning of the month.

Final Catcher Rankings thoughts: Stream hot catchers in shallow leagues and look to snag A.J Ellis in deeper leagues.

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