FanPost

Mathis vs. Napoli revisited (again)

I realize this subject has been beaten to death the last few seasons, but it continues to be relevant today. Mike Napoli without a doubt is one of the better hitters on this team and Jeff Mathis is one of the worst. If you believe in defensive stats for catchers, new-school or old, they really aren’t that different from each other behind the dish.

 

Except in Catcher ERA, which Mike Scioscia happens to be fond of. Stat heads have had a field day pointing out the flaws in this metric, and Sam Miller did a terrific job breathing some context into the subject a couple years ago.

He pointed out how in 2008 Napoli caught most of the disaster starts from Moseley and Garland, as well as Adenhart’s rough cups of coffee. Meanwhile Mathis was guiding Santana through his breakthrough season and catching a good share of Weaver, Saunders and Lackey.

 This season has given us a decent sample of both guys behind the dish, so I decided to check in and see how they tally up so far this year.

 I’ll start with Santana, who has always had Mathis as his personal catcher until this season, when Mathis’ broken wrist forced Ervin to throw the ball to Nap. In 8 games in which Mike caught Santana, here was his average performance:

 

Record

IP/game

k/9

bb/9

hr/9

ERA

4-4

6.1

8.3

2.3

1.7

4.50

 By comparison, his buddy Mathis helped him to this line in ten games:

 

Record

IP/game

k/9

bb/9

hr/9

ERA

4-4

6.1

7.2

2.9

1.2

4.76

 Almost no difference at all. Like his home/road splits a few years ago, I think we can finally dismiss this random performance split and feel comfortable with Santana on the mound no matter who he pitches to.

Weaver is our ace and the same rule should apply to him. He basically has had the same catching time share as Santana so far. In 8 games with Napoli:

 

Record

IP/game

k/9

bb/9

hr/9

ERA

3-2

6

10.7

2.0

0.6

4.30

 Still pitches like a dominant ace with Napoli, but the ERA seems high considering he season mark currently sits at 2.87.  In 11 games with Mathis, including yesterday’s gem against Greinke, Weave looks just as dominant:

 

Record

IP/game

k/9

bb/9

hr/9

ERA

4-4

6.2

9.8

1.7

1.4

3.08

 A slightly lower K rate, slightly higher HR rate, and yet Mathis still seems to pull out by a full run per nine innings. I think its safe to write that off to sample size issues and random fluctuation. Weaver could throw to anyone and keep his ERA under 4.00.

Things get a little more interesting when you get to Joel Pineiro. In 10 games with Napoli catching him:

 

Record

IP/game

k/9

bb/9

hr/9

ERA

3-5

6.2

5.9

2.6

1.2

5.79

 

Not pretty. This line includes Joel’s two worst starts of the season, a three inning, 9 earned-run spanking in Detroit, and his welcome home party in St. Louis, another 3 inning, nine earned-run affair. If we are going to blame Napoli for those two embarrassing starts, we should give him his due credit for being behind the dish for Pineiro’s two best starts, complete game victories over Oakland and the Dodgers.

 Here’s how Joel looked with Mathis:

 

Record

IP/game

k/9

bb/9

hr/9

ERA

3-5

6.2

5.2

1.9

0.6

2.48

 Pretty similar. The home run split is completely attributed to those same two blowouts. Otherwise Joel has been essentially the same pitcher regardless of who is catching him. If someone wants to take the time to figure which catcher helps him induce the most ground outs, be my guest.

 Napoli has seen the bulk of the time with Saunders (15 games) and Ka zmir (10 games), while Mathis has had the luxury of avoiding these two all but 5 times total this year. For the record, Mathis wasn’t exactly a savior for either of these guys when he did catch them, sporting a 6.51 ERA with Saunders and a 6.85 ERA with Kaz. Napoli, meanwhile, didn’t stand in the way of Saunders posting a 4.15 ERA in games he started behind the dish.

 I understand that at this point in the season, Napoli is mostly our first baseman (when he’s not riding the bench) and Mathis has been sat in favor of Bobby Wilson more frequently. I could point out Wilson's 3.43 CERA, but his sporadic playing time doesn't make it very relevant, other than to say our pitchers do fine with him, too.

This is about Mathis and Napoli because I think we all sense that the organization will finally pick between these two this off-season. Napoli’s numbers and Mathis’ usage will likely ensure both these guys are well compensated in arbitration. The team will look towards Wilson and Conger and realize the next tandem is right under their noses and devoting millions to two catchers probably won’t be worth it. With Morales returning and Abreu headed for the DH spot, Napoli either catches or he sits. Will the team finally admit once and for all that he doesn’t actually handicap the pitching staff when he’s behind the dish, or will the blind faith in the great Mathis continue?

 

 

This Fan-Post is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.

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