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Monday, January 29, 2007

Comments

CM:
"We’ve heard that we want him to improve handling the pitchers, calling the game."

JW:
"Pitcher/catcher chemistry isn’t Manuel’s field of expertise, and it seemed clear he’s getting second-hand input in that area."

That's a very kind way of putting it. The "we've" suggests more than one person leading these guys is getting that second-hand input.
Very scary.

I might be the only one of regular readers who has no problem with Barajas catching the "majority" of games.

ugh. looks like barajas and ruiz might be splitting catching half and half, unless one truly stinks up the joint in ST. Not surprised about coste, but so long as he's on the bench, fine.

I think if Ruiz is given the chance, he could produce above average catcher #'s. Not at the level of Joe Maurer, but more along the lines now-a-days Pudge.

Its interesting to note that they are specifically saying that Ruiz doesnt have "chemistry issues". I've heard (unsubstatiated) rumors to the contrary, and I have to wonder if ole Cholly is just putting a happy face on it.

If I interpret those comments right, Barajas is going to be getting a majority of the starts this year unless he really struggles/gets hurt.

Hope that Helms does get the nod at 3B because a 7-8-9 of Barajas, Nunez, and the pitcher is not going to produce much of anything.

The experience of the last two years suggests that Manuel will figure this out eventually, and by August or so Ruiz will be the starting catcher. Problem is how many games we'll lose in the meantime owing in part to the dropoff from Barajas, a proven offensive zero, and Ruiz, who's done nothing but hit at every level.

Also, what grounds are there for hailing Barajas's defense, other than the usual custom of concluding that any catcher who can't hit must be a wizard with the leather?

according to Fox Sports: "On the defensive side, he moves well behind the plate for a big guy, but he never will be a strong thrower. Last year, 42 of 58 runners (72.4 percent) were successful against him. For his career, it's a 72.8-percent success rate."

Barajas/Nunez/Pitcher is a reminiscent of Nunez/Fasano/Pitcher. Ugh!

I would far prefer Helms/(coste/ruiz)/pitcher, or even in a pinch - Coste/Ruiz/Pitcher.

I seriously don't want to see Nunez play a single out at 3b this year.

Joe- when its 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Gordon's on the DL and Alfonseca is trying to close that important game he most likely can't do on his own, I want Nunez in there for all 3 outs.

I guess that I should restate taht... Nunez is fine as a D sub for 3b, and as backup SS/2b, but should never see a start at 3b, or as an O sub there. (or a pinch hitter)

I don't want to see Sandoval come north.

If Barajas and Ruiz split time, that's ok. I Ruiz only gets 1 or 2 games a week, then that's bad. Like stated above, Ruiz has done nothing but hit at every level. Ruiz will continue to hit once he finds his "groove" in the Bigs.

Good post, Jason with some good scoop inside the Phillies Managerial Braintrust. I agree with your assessment. Barajas is a proven major leaguer and Gillick was not going to go into the season with an older part time sophomore in Coste and a green rookie in Ruiz. Cholly now has to live with it.

I see where Seattle has signed Arthur Rhodes. Now PG can do a deal with Seattle and bring him back. (Only kidding!)

I really don't see where you guys are getting the impression from Manuel that Barajas is the starter. He seemed quite limited in his compliments. He said he has "some power" and "what I call pull power". That's not exactly a ringing endorsement from a guy who trained opposite field power hitters Thome and Howard.

His comments on Ruiz seem to indicate that he just wants him to learn a few things related to game calling. It seems like Manuel plans on having him start most of the games, at least during the last few months of the season.

I wonder if in today's game of high-octane offense teams can afford to have true 'glove men' in their everyday lineup anymore, especially in the NL. Pitchers with 4.50 eras are considered quality arms today.

For example, if you assumed that Barajas was a very good defensive catcher but couldn't hit (say .240-15-48), and Ruiz was a solid hitter (say .270-18-65) but a weak defensive catcher, which guy helps you more as a regular?

I think a case could be made that you cannot afford even one such weak link in today's game. The running game has been somewhat de-emphasized, and catchers can't stop HRs. In some cases managers/pitching coaches call the pitches. Catchers are not as critical to the overall defense as they were before, when you could afford one who couldn't hit a lick but could handle the other responsibilities. That might not be so necessary today.

Just a conjecture on my part. Offense is supreme today and you need every weapon in your arsenal. That's a vote for Ruiz being the regular catcher as long as he hits.



I was hot/cold on the Barajas signing, but understand the reasoning. For them, Barajas is one less situation to think about. Who in the Phillies organization can prepare Ruiz/Coste to handle this mixed staff of pitchers? Manuel? Williams? Coste? The answer is no one. There's no one in the entire organization actually. Who's ready to catch Freddy Garcia opening day? Not Ruiz or Coste alone.

Right, signing Barajas just made sense. I feel as bad for Coste as the next guy, but it's just one of those crappy situations. You have a great year out of nowhere, at age 33, and it's a fantastic story, but a sane GM simply can't expect a repeat performance, so he goes out and basically signs a replacement. Here's hoping Coste makes the team.

JW, Not to rehash a Chris Coste thread, but why couldn't Coste catch Freddy Garcia opening day ? Coste caught Jamie Moyer, Cory Lidle, Jon Lieber, and Cole Hamels. All different styles and ages. I recall all of them complimenting Coste, and Moyer and Lidle in particular speaking about good chemistry. I see no reason why Coste or Ruiz couldn't catch Garcia come opening day -- particularly with a month to prepare in ST.

I see boths sides of it, BM, but the Phillies seemed to think of it as a loose end.

I'm guessing that if Ruiz and Coste both pan out, that we may see a mid-season trade of Barjas to a team that is lacking a "reliable
" catcher.

Joe I can see that happening too, and Lord knows I'm crossing my fingers. I also can't see the reason that Barajas can catch Garcia but Coste can't. Coste has the expierience with most of the pitching staff right now and to the best of my knowledge Barajas hasn't caught any of them. Besides can't Coste work out any kinks with Freddy in Spring Training? I guess theres no sense in arguing it now since Barajas is here and seems to be the starting catcher. If Barajas fails in ST I hope Manuel is not stubborn enough to keep him as starting catcher.

I'm glad to hear Manuel thinks Barajas should be a "good dog."

Don't know who else saw this, but Hardball Times did an article today analyzing the projections for ten hitters, and this is what they had to say about Howard (go there to see the actual numbers, it's too hard to get them in the right format in a blog comment):

Irrespective of whether or not you thought that Howard was worthy of the NL MVP last year there is little doubt that he had a historically great sophomore season. Until mid-September it looked as though he would become just the sixth player to break the 60 home run mark but he came off the boil and finished just shy with 58 yard-leavers. After batting .288/.356/.567 with 22 home runs in 2005, Howard established a new level of performance in 2006 with a line of .313/.425/.658. He was a late bloomer (2007 is his age 27 season) and as such he can be treated harshly by projection systems that frown on such players. Regression to the mean is greater as there is less hard data (he has fewer cumulative plate appearances) and a system such as PECOTA that uses similarity scores can have difficulty finding appropriate matches. Marcel bears that out and has him hitting nearly 20 fewer home runs in 2007 than in 2006. However, the projections agree that Howard is .300/.380/.600 hitter at a minimum, which is still pretty special. Were he to attain those numbers he’d win 5.5 games above a replacement hitter, making his 2007 salary of approximately $400,000 a snip.

GM-Carson: I realize you are the reigning manic-depressive on this site, where the highs are exaggerated beyond all bounds and the lows are canyon deep, depending on the Phillies fortunes, but to compare Ruiz to Pudge Rodiguez is a bit much.

I like Ruiz and hope he gets more PT than Barajas, but I cannot imagine him hitting .300 as Pudge did last year at age 34. In fact, if Ruiz ever hits .270 in his career, that's a plus. I see him as a .240-.270 hitter with good gap power, maybe even touching 20 HRs one day and providing solid defense. That makes him about league average or slightly above.

What's weird about the Phillies' catching situation is that none of the three candidates really projects either as a starter or as a backup - all three are kind of in-between, guys who could give you relatively decent production and average defense over 60-100 games. Barajas has the defensive edge, as he is proficient at throwing out base stealers, but it's not clear who might have the offensive edge, or what is going to dictate how Manuel uses these guys; further complicating things is the fact that all three are right-handed hitters.

It seems most likely that he'll assign them to certain pitchers based on what kind of feedback the pitchers give him in spring training, but also it'll be determined to some extent by who plays better at the outset of the season. I don't think the Phillies know who the no.1 catcher is any more than any of us know right now.

Obviously you can't depend on Coste repeating. But you really can't depend on him repeating if you never give him a start. The hypothetical question is, if Barajas struggles both defensively and offensively, how long till the hook comes?

I anticipate and hope quicker than the Fasano hook last year, as Manuel seems to like Coste behind the plate and is familiar with him now. Even if Werth replaces Barajas, as long as the hook comes quicker.

The phils management needs to recognize futility and remove it quickly. Obviously, you need to wait a little and determine if it is just a rut or not.

Maybe the coaching changes will help that situation, Will. I'm hoping it will be basically the other coaches making suggestions about the important stuff, with Charlie listening to them most of the time and being left to do what he does best, namely, getting the players to like him and play for him. Charlie did seem to be listening to Rich Dubee for all of his pitching decisions last year; so you can't say he's not open to suggestion. Maybe he just needs the right suggestions.

"...Ruiz, who's done nothing but hit at every level."

That is a somewhat ridiculous statement.

Hey if Barajas could get Padilla/Millwood/Tejeda to pitch well for him in a hitter's park last year I think he is more than ok.

RSB: While the sample size is small for Cose & Ruiz I think you can make a solid case that they are both better offensively than Barajas, whose lifetime numbers are .240, .282 OB and .692 OPS. Those are poor numbers.

Will: The Phillies have invested $2.5M in Barajas. He will be given at least a half season of regular play even if he's worse than Fasano. Call it the Nunez factor.

One of my co-workers is friend's with a Phillies scout. She talked to him today. Expect an annoucement in the next few days. Supposedly the Phillies signed a 36 year old relief pitcher that has plenty of big league experience but is recovering from knee surgery. He wouldn't give the name but a quick online research I came up with Rick Helling. I don't know for sure but supposedly the Phils were quite happy to get someone like him this close to spring training. If I hear anything else, I'll keep you posted.

Barajas has a lower average but more power than the other other two. At least in Manuel's mind, that balances him out.

Barajas' catcher ERA last year was 4.71. Gerald Laird, who he split time at catcher last season with Texas, cERA was 4.39. Barajas threw out .333 of the baserunners. Laird threw out .457.

RSB: Maybe in Cholly's mind but not in the real world. Barajas lifetime SLG is .410. Ruiz is at .435 and Coste at .505.

RSB brought up a good point about Barajas, Coste, and Ruiz. Not a single one of these guys is the type of player who you want catching 110-120 games for the Phils this year.

I hope that Manuel tends to go with the hot hand to maximize the production of the C position. Manuel swifted to this approach during the 2nd half of the season and the Phils got pretty good production out of the C spot in August and Sept. With RF, CF, and 3B being offensive question marks, the Phils can't afford to throw away production at the C spot.

MG, I wouldn't say Manuel went with the hot hand, but rather had certain pitcher/catcher matchups. It was a fairly set lineup down the stretch when all were healthy. Coste caught Lieber, Moyer, and Hamels and Lieby caught Wolf and Myers. He worked in Ruiz with an occasional spot start (typically double headers or when they had day game following a night game). I agree it worked out well.

Beerleaguer, he didn't say "a good dog for us", he said "a good dog fight in Spring Training". I'm listening to the audio right now. Just so you know.

Thanks, I'll take your word for it. I'm sure he'll be a good dog, too!

Anybody in favor of pulling a Northern Colorado on this one? That is, is anybody in favor of seriously injuring Barajas so that Coste and Ruiz can split the catching duties?

George: there are too many exceptions to your rule. St. Louis has had terrible hitting catchers the last several years (Matheny, Molina); so has Houston (Ausmus). Calling a game is more than just your usual defensive issue; a catcher can have everything else but if he doesn't have the smarts to call the game he has to be an offensive monster, a la Lance Parrish or Ted Simmons.

ZT writes, "If Barajas fails in ST I hope Manuel is not stubborn enough to keep him as starting catcher." Unless he goes 0-for-the spring, he's going to fill exactly the role people here are predicting. He's a veteran, and therefore is not going to lose his job over ST at-bats.

Offense is the last thing to worry about with the catcher. Can he handle a pitching staff should be the first thing out of everyone's mouth. That is the problem with NUMBERS, stat people don't understand how the game is won.

Clout typed- "GM-Carson: I realize you are the reigning manic-depressive on this site, where the highs are exaggerated beyond all bounds and the lows are canyon deep, depending on the Phillies fortunes."
That was just a quality line. I know you're making fun of me, but it's funny. In my defense, I believe I'm getting better at being more even keel, but I may be over estimating Ruiz potential...I just really like him.

Alby, not a rule, just conjecture.

I agree that there is certainly value in having a catcher than can 'handle' a staff. Aside from stats, I consider that to be things like keeping the pitcher in rhythm, making sure he doesn't lose his cool, etc. But you still have to translate that into results in some way or you can't make a judgement.

As for the exceptions, I would feel better if the Cardinals or Astros had made a conscious choice to play the poor hitting catcher and leave a much better hitter on their bench. I don't know that that's the case, or if they simply had no other options (Ausmus' backup hit .199, Molina's .223).
There aren't that many good-hitting catchers in MLB, so if you have one (not claiming Ruiz is at this point in his career), isn't it a competitive advantage to use him?

I can see the need for an experienced, steady hand back there if your staff is very young perhaps, but the Phillies' starters are the opposite (except Hamels). Eaton, Lieber, Moyer, Myers and Garcia shouldn't need hand-holding.

I guess the bottom line for me is if Barajas doesn't hit, then I think his reputed defensive skills are not enough to keep him in the lineup if you have a better offensive alternative.


George, I think we all agree with that. What I find interesting is that most of us, Fasano fresh in our minds, have pretty much decided that Barajas is going to suck -- the only question on this board seems to be how much. Strikes me as a little hasty. I don't think we're looking at someone as marginal as Fasano here, though of course time alone will tell. I think it's unfair to call Carson the reigning manic-depressive; the entire beerleaguer readership, at least the portion that posts, is bipolar.

I don't blame J. (sorry, I always forget your name) for misunderstanding what Manuel said, CSN ought to have subtitles for his postgame news conferences.

GM-Carson: I wasn't making fun of you. Just describing some of your past posts. I am also a Ruiz fan and hope he gets first shot at the job. I honestly think he'd have a better all-round year than Barajas.

alby: Your comment about Barajas is on target. Fasano was a fringe player, bouncing between AAA and the majors his whole career. Barajas is a well-established platoon/backup catcher. He's nothing special on offense but has a good rep on defense. As a vet he probably is more skilled calling a game than Ruiz, but I just think he's going to be a big dropoff on offense from last year's Coste-Leiby tandem.

John Sickels annual prospect book arrived in the mail today. No Phillie ranks among the top 50 position players (understandably). Carlos Carrasco is #31 among the pitching prospects. Gio Gonzalez is #39. He also gives high marks to Happ, Maloney and Outman.

OK. The question I have, which I do not know the answer to is this:

Which type of catcher will be more productive overall for the team?

Is it Barajas with his .252 average the last three years (.240 lifetime), with some power and ostensibly the best defensive skills (throwing and handling pitchers)?

Or is it Coste, not as good defensively, but who was tremendous offensively last year and probably due for a fall-off [IMO to .280-.300]?

Or is it Ruiz, the tweener, supposedly not as good as Barajas defensively - but better than Coste, and probably better overall offensively than Barajas - but not as good as Coste?

Who helps them win more games?

I still don't understand why they didn't keep Lieby. He was willing to take a paycut and accept a back-up role. He had better offense than Barajas and knew the staff. Bah I'll never understand GMs.

I checked all of the NL teams in 2006. In only 2 cases was the backup catcher a better hitter (BA) than the regular catcher (there were 3 cases where they were virtually even, +/- 10 BA pts). So saying that some teams will sacrifice offense for a better defensive catcher or handler of pitching staffs does not seem to hold in the NL unless the better defensive catcher is also the better hitter as well.

The 2 exceptions?

Interestingly, you might argue that the better-hitting backup catcher was also a better defensive catcher.
On the Padres, Bard batted 338 to Piazza's 283 and I don't know if Bard is a good or bad catcher defensively.
The other case was the Phillies. Coste batted 328 to Lieberthal's 273. Again, I don't think Lieberthal is necessarily a better defensive catcher than Coste.

So why were Piazza and Lieberthal starting? I don't know much about Bard, so maybe Piazza was better defensively. But I tend to think it has more to do with the size of the contracts, and in the Phillies' case, a reluctance by the manager to make changes. CM could be forgiven, though, if he had doubts about a complete unknown like Coste over an established veteran like Lieby.

Anyway, it sure looks like in the NL the teams went with the best bats at catcher in every case. There are no weak-hitting glove men in the everyday lineup in any case where the team had a better hitting alternative.

If the Phillies choose Barajas over Ruiz or Coste as starter because of perceived defensive skills, they will definitely be the exception in the NL.


Clout- I thought you were poking fun at me, which is completely acceptable because you did it in an appropriate and humorous manner. Anyway, I agree that Ruiz would most likely have a better overall year than Barajas if he were given the opportunity. I'll still root for Rod, even though his signing upset me.

That Dude, I also dont know where the Barajas bashing is coming from. Clout, you got the stats and I'll be welcome to any argument in that area. The last thing I heard about Barajas when he was in TX was that the only reason they got rid of him was that they had a young catcher that is supposed to be really good. (Cant remember his name, Baird/Laird or something??) But besides that I thought the Rangers were relatively high on him. Once again I dont know his OPS numbers or anything like that (By the way read moneyball and I have a new appreciation for Clout's stat packs), but he could be productive. I dont think he is going to be Johnny Bench or anything, but I would be happy with Joe Girardi right now (As in his catching ability, not managing).

I'd also be happy with Rod Barajas if he had Joe Girardi's managing ability, seeing as we lack in that department with Manuel.

ZT -

The last couple of years, Lieby's favorite position was the DL.

In addition, he's a West Coast Native, and one of Wolfie's better friends. I would suggest to you that they both wanted out of Philly, and back home.

Parker -

While I'm not as down on CM as some here, if Girardi was up for managing in Philly, I would take him in a heart beat.

It will be interesting to see how the Fish do this year, as it will speak to wither the Talent or Girardi making the difference.

I'm enjoying this string. I enjoy Carson's comments and clout's well written characterization of Carson was humorous, not nasty. The best one was where Alby says we're all bipolar.

Being dumb, I looked it up the word bipolar. Definition 4 was "Having two opposite or contradictory ideas or natures" and definition 6 was "Relating to a major affective disorder that is characterized by episodes of mania and depression."

I didn't realize that being a Phillies fan causes that because these winning and losing streaks do cause "episodes of mania and depression." Alby nailed it! We are all bipolar.

When your wife or girlfriend gives you grief about paying more attention to the Phillies than to her, you merely need to remind her to be nice to you because you are bipolar.

Do they carry spring training games on XM?

If so, I need to get my XM radio soon. If my wife objects, I just need to say "be nice to me because you know, as I am Phillies fan, that means I'm bipolar.

Coste, Ruiz, and Hot Rod should just pick out of hat before every game.

Lake Fred, XM carries ST games, however, the Phillies are not always on. Often times last year they were playing but were not on the radio. I called XM and they said that they only carried the games that were made available to them through some outlets, or maybe it had something to do with the team's giving them permission (I dont remember). Regardless, by middle of ST all the games were on XM and all of the regular season were broadcast.

George S- I don't think you have to know too much about Piazza's backup to know he is a better defensively. Bard had a good average but hit for less power. Pads wanted the home run potential. Everyone knows that Pat the Bat could steal on Piazza.

Parker, thanks for the scoop on Phillies ST games on XM. I'll need to start shopping.

Lake Fred- I got my XM radio ready to go. These next few weeks are going to be agonizing waiting for some action.

And yes, I am bipolar.

I could take a catcher like McCann who gives you .280 with 25 HRs over Barajas in a heartbeat, better defense or not.

Barajas is clearly better than Fasano (who surprisingly never really caught the same flack for being fat and out-of-shape as Lieber did last season) but I don't see much reason to be optimistic about what Barajas gives the Phils this year.

Slightly better defense than Lieby, Fasano, or Coste but generally a drop in offense. Probably a wash overall if Barajas posts some decent power numbers but still mediocre.

MG: I think about 24 teams would take McCann; he was good enough for the Braves to move Estrada out of town, and while Estrada is a marginal starter, he's still good enough to be a starter. I still think that what's killing Coste is the fact that without a true No. 1, they're uncomfortable going with him as a No. 2. I think Coste will be able to hook on with another team if the Phillies cut him.

Does anyone remember Kerrigan on Comcast talking about Lieberthal? I remember him talking about how he felt that Lieberthal was not good at calling a game. He didn't come out and say it but hinted at it and mentioned some stats that pointed that way.

George S - I saw a good amount of Piazza/Bard, and interestingly enough, Bard's stats are a lot like Coste's. He started off coming in during blowout wins to get some time behind the plate, or late inning PH for the pitcher when behind. At most, he'd see an inning or two, and later on worked his way to some full games down the stretch.

I see Bard cracking under the pressure and hitting around .240, hopefully the same won't and can't be said for Coste. Bowen is a lot like Ruiz, in that he shows more promise, but isn't yet ready for the bigtime.

Interesting to keep up with over the season and see if the parallels stay true.

That Dude - I also think Barajas will do well and have posted so here.

RB is a lot better than Fasano ever was and you cannot compare two individuals with entirely different skill sets - fasano did not have one outside of facial hair growth ability.

Ace - I hope that was hyperbole about wanting one of the Phils to get injured.

All - I agree the best scenario may be one where Barajas and Ruiz are assigned two pitchers and Coste the 3rd. Here's hoping Jimy Williams will have good influence and get Manuel to vary his heretofore textbook managerial style.

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