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Astros: Is Maldonado the Pitcher Whisperer?

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Whenever you engage a hard-core Maldonado fan on social media after you give them the actual data that proves Yainer Diaz is a better catcher in 2023 than Martin Maldonado their last point is almost ALWAYS the same false narrative.


The Pitchers like to throw to Maldonado. He helps them pitch better.


Is this true? Is Maldonado the Astros pitcher whisperer?


To be honest, I have addressed this so many times. Today, I am going to go a different direction- I DON'T CARE. Well, actually I do, but I think you will get what I mean shortly.

Let me ask you fans something. When was the last time a baseball team intentionally played a FAR worse player over a much better player because the players WANTED that? Every MLB team I know plays their BEST players because, at the end of the day, they want to WIN.


Right now, there are fans reading this that don't agree that Diaz is the more talented catcher in 2023 than Maldonado. Let's pause here and share some FACTS. I am going to repeat some information I shared on social media yesterday.


Yainer Diaz currently has the SECOND HIGHEST OPS (0.801) among ALL American League catchers with >150 PA.


The OTHER Astros catcher?

The one the Manager insists on playing at catcher 70% of the time?

Maldonado is LAST of all of the American League catchers with >150PA. (0.530 OPS)

18 of 18 and it is not even close.


Diaz 114 wRC+

Maldy 50 wRC+


Since 5/31

Diaz 27G (9GS @ C- 26%) 108 PA 152 wRC+ 0.934 OPS

Maldonado 24G (24GS @ C- 71%) 84 PA 13 wRC+ 0.422 OPS

This does not include 7/6/23 games, but it would just make the massive gap bigger.


In 54 career games, Yainer Diaz has delivered TWICE as much WAR (0.7) than Martin Maldonado has delivered since the beginning of the 2020 season (348 games- 0.3 WAR).


Diaz is better in almost all defensive metrics too.

Diaz is better at controlling the running game.

The time for excuses is over. Make Diaz the starting catcher.


7/8/23 Note- I found this additional fact tonight and I have to add it.

Since 6/16- 16 games for Maldy- 19 SB, 1CS- The "Machete"


These are all facts. How one responds to those facts says more about you than it does me in presenting these facts.


Before going forward can we agree that Diaz is the more talented catcher in every measurable way possible? If not, go through the items in red until you are ready to move on.


Like I said, when you bring these sorts of facts to the table, there is a portion of the Astros fan base that responds almost in a demon possessed manner to a cross. They are vicious and everything I have heard in these exorcism-like episodes is almost EXACTLY the same thing. I started calling this behavior cult-like because I don't know how else to describe it. I am sorry if that is offensive. I guess I would say don't respond to the facts like a cult protecting their false god if you don't want the label.


If they are willing to listen to the facts, they usually won't, the discussion 90% percent of the time settles down to one point that THEY think is their trump card.


The Pitchers like to throw to Maldonado. He helps them pitch better.


The claim is then "you have to ask them and you can't measure that."


We have addressed this false narrative before.


Which pitchers on the Astros would you even POSSIBLY give this option to?

  • No rookie pitcher is allowed to dictate to whom they throw. They have no idea what a good MLB catcher even looks like.

  • No relief pitcher gets to dictate who the STARTING catcher is.

  • Pitchers that have been out injured since May or before have no standing in knowing the current state of how Diaz is calling games.

  • That leaves you only two pitchers for whom you MIGHT even be open to listening to their opinion who should be the starting catcher on a daily basis- Valdez and Javier- except

    • Valdez has NEVER pitched to Diaz this year. He has no idea how well Diaz can call a game today. As documented many times Valdez also said he was more than open to letting Lee catch him on 3/24/23 when it was believed Lee would be the backup catcher. He DOES NOT demand Maldy as his catcher. He said this himself.

    • Javier has ONE start with Diaz - May 28th. Javier does not have enough data to have a strong opinion that must be heeded.

  • Therefore, there are ZERO Astros pitchers who COULD make an informed opinion of who should catch them- Maldy or Diaz- ZERO.

Today, we are simply going to state that the players do not get to decide who is going to play and who is even on the roster.


YES, We KNOW DUSTY GETS TO DECIDE WHO PLAYS. The question is is he making the RIGHT decision.


As a reminder, Dusty DOES NOT get to dictate who is on the roster. That is a point for a later date that if this gets even worse.


The claim that one CANNOT measure the effectiveness of how well a pitcher throws to a catcher is simply FALSE. Now one CAN get into a real discussion about sample size.


My counter point to the statement in blue above is simply this. I do not care who they WANT to throw to.


I want the primary catcher to be the one that the pitchers throw the BEST to regardless of who they like throwing to.


I left off one other point I made in social media yesterday.


The pitchers perform better pitching to Diaz.


It is a simple statement and directly answers the point some try to make. I guess I would say it this way too. You have had to make choices to do certain things you did not want to do because you knew it would make you better. This is one of those times for the Astros.


Given the massive gap offensively of Diaz over Maldonado, if the pitching performance gap were close, it should mean that Diaz is the answer for the primary catcher.


It is close, but it favors DIAZ.


One can measure the ERA a pitcher gives up when throwing to their catchers. There is some debate about how one should apply this between different teams. However, on the same team (IF the manager let both catchers catch the entire staff), this metric would be able to show which catcher is ACTUALLY better at helping those pitchers perform better.


2023 Catcher ERA

Unfortunately, Dusty Baker does not let all of his catchers catch all of his pitchers. We will address that next. Even without that, how do Diaz and Maldonado compare? The pitchers perform better when pitching to DIAZ.

2022 Catcher ERA

This is not a one-year phenomena either. In 2022, the pitchers did better when not pitching to Maldonado than when pitching to Maldonado.



2021 Catcher ERA

Even in 2021, the pitchers performed the same. So, if over a three-year period the pitchers did their main job (preventing runs) worse when pitching to Maldonado than when pitching to someone else, HOW is Maldonado the pitcher whisperer? He is not.


My main point is that players want to do their best and they want to win. So how do each of the 2023 Astros pitchers do pitching to Maldy and Diaz?

Astros Pitchers Catcher ERAs

One thing to notice is that Diaz has not been tasked with catching Valdez or Garcia in 2023. This artificially suppresses Maldonado's ERA. Of the pitchers who have pitched to both catchers, Diaz has a 3.50 ERA and Maldonado has a 3.89 ERA.


This is not a big gap, but it is a bigger gap favoring Diaz.


When one dives down to the individual pitcher level the sample sizes are too small for definitive statements, Some interesting comparisons:

  • Montero seems to really struggle throwing to Diaz.

  • Neris and Abreu seem to be marginally better to Maldonado.

  • Brown, Blanco, and Stanek seem to pitch better to Diaz.

  • Pressly, Javier, and Urquidy have all pitched in very small sample sizes better to Diaz.

What does all of this mean to me?


I believe this data proves the narrative that Maldonado is some Astros pitcher whisperer is false. In the very least I would say, there is no actual evidence that Maldonado helps the pitchers pitch better when he is catching. I am not dismissing that Maldonado does a lot of great studying and scouting. I am arguing that the value of that work has not proven to be isolated to only times he is behind the plate.


We can revisit this data later in the year when hopefully Diaz will be given more of a chance to catch.


The media tells you about the catcher Maldy WAS in 2017-2019. It is 2023 and he is not that catcher anymore.


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