For years we have heard how important defense is at catcher. When some of us Astros fans complained about the lack of hitting from the catching position, we were belittled and smugly told "don't you know catcher is a defensive position?"
So, today in a shocking role reversal I am going to agree with everyone that has told me that for years. I am going to push for the BEST defensive catcher to start a majority of the games for the rest of the year.
Can we ALL agree that the best defensive catcher should be starting a majority of the games for the rest of the season?
It is what I have been told by this fan base almost as long as this website has existed.
Well, Baseball Savant does a great job of laying out four catcher defensive categories, so it seems only fair to use THAT site as the arbiter of who is the best defensive catcher.
The first category listed is catcher blocking. Maldonado is credited with 1 "Blocks above average" and Diaz is credited with 2.
This category was initially in favor of Maldy. In less than 40% of the blocking opportunities, Diaz scores better than Maldonado. Maldy being below average on easy blocks is embarrassing. Folks, at worst this is a tie, and it screams out that Yainer should be challenged to catch Framber immediately because frankly Korey Lee is not the greatest in this area. We need to know for next year if Yainer can do it.
Oh, just in case you wondered, Maldonado was very average at this last year too.
Blocking: Advantage Diaz
Second on the list is catcher framing. Surely Maldy has this category based on everything I am told.
Actually, NO. Maldonado is 58th out of 60 on the Savant framing score. Yainer, while not great is 42nd. Neither of these catchers is a great framer. One is bad- Maldonado. Oh, and yes Vazquez was a better framer last year too.
Framing: Advantage Diaz
Catcher Pop Time
Maldy Fans have been calling him machete for years. Surely his pop time is the best in the MLB. Wait, what exactly IS Pop Time?
Per the Statcast Glossary:
How quickly, in seconds, a catcher can get the ball out of his glove and to the base on a stolen base or pickoff attempt.
How do our two catchers match up?
Remember how proud Maldy fans were to tell you how incredible his arm is when this metrics first rolled out? He is twelfth on the list of MLB catchers. Diaz is seventh.
I will repeat that. The guy that people were/are saying was/is not a good defensive catcher is seventh best at getting the ball out and to second base.
Folks, you can listen to pundits talk. I would suggest always verify what they are saying with data. If you need help with that. Become a member on the site or better yet a Patreon member and ask me for help.
Pop Time: Advantage Diaz
This year MLB announced this new metric- Catcher's CS Above Average. Maldy fans went crazy and pointed to his high ranking and that he was second last year. Surely Maldonado has this category!
Maybe you should take a minute and watch THIS video.
Folks, Diaz is just better at controlling the running game in 2023. He is 24. Maldy is 36. I know the tone of this is snarky. Please excuse me for pushing back due to ALL of the crap I have endured on the Maldy subject.
In this category, Diaz is sixth and Maldonado is eleventh.
Let's enjoy the fact that it appears that Diaz is incredibly talented at gunning runners out. One of my Twitter followers said his nickname should be bazooka. I like that.
Throwing: Advantage Diaz
Well, that is how Statcast sees it. Let's look at some other more traditional metrics.
Passed Balls- Maldy 5 (worst in the league), Diaz 0
Caught Stealing- Maldy 22%, Diaz 39%, MLB 21%
Defensive Runs Saved- Maldy -5, Diaz +2
Defensive WAR- Maldy -2.1, Diaz +2.1
Catcher ERA- Maldy 3.43, Diaz 3.51 (See more detail about this here)
Traditional Metrics: Advantage Diaz
I know you all. This is the point you where you will say, but the pitchers LOVE Maldy. I have addressed that narrative before, and I am not going to again.
You AGREED to have the best defensive catcher catch. I ran a Twitter poll to confirm that is what people thought was most important.
Clearly Diaz is the better defensive catcher in 2023. The pitchers will love having the better defensive catcher with time.
Based on this it is time to let DIAZ be the primary catcher. We need to see if he struggles with the challenge of catching Framber's pitches. If so, we need to know.
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