(Don’t forget to check out the 2009 Review of Catchers.)
In an attempt to analyze the direction the position is heading, I decided to take a look at the last three years of averages for catchers to see if I could find any trends that can help you come draft day. So what are we looking at?
- Players for each season were divided into three categories depending on where they finished the regular season in terms of fantasy ranking: 1 to 5, 6 to 10, and 11 to 20. This lets us look at the elite starters, the average starters, and the first group of replacements, showing the depth of the position so you can decide if you want to jump on an elite starter or wait for one of the platoon-type players.
- After dividing the top 20 players into groups, each group was compared from season to season. By doing this, we can see how each individual statistic is progressing over the years. For example, the average number of runs for the elite starters, average starters, and first replacements is extremely stable each season. Conversely, we see great fluctuation among the HR numbers of the elite starters but good consistency among the HR numbers of the first replacements. Knowing this, we can infer that power numbers among the elite starters is rather inconsistent, therefore drafting an elite starter for his HR numbers may be a risky proposition.
So take a look at each of the graphs below to get an idea of some of the trends we see developing. Click on each graph to enlarge.
Runs – Quick Analysis: The stability among each group over the last three years is amazing. Even more amazing, look at the annual drop off from the elite starters to the first starters. The top five average approximately 75 runs per season, whereas the next five average only approximately 55 runs per season. If you don’t get one of the top five catchers, you had better make up this difference at another position.
Homeruns – Quick Analysis: While there is a good amount of annual fluctuation among the elite and average starters, the drop off from one to the next is not too severe. Since few owners scoop up two catchers in a draft, if you miss out on an elite starter, it won’t hurt your power totals too much. Just make sure you don’t get caught starting one of the first replacement players as they average approximately nine HR per season versus 15-20 HR per season for the elite and average starters.
RBI – Quick Analysis: In 2007 and 2008, drop off for RBI was rather linear, but 2009 showed a noticeable increase in the average RBI among elite starters. What caused this? The emergence of Joe Mauer and the resurgences of both Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez solidified the upper strata of the catcher position as legitimate run producers, and seeing as that trio (as well as Brian McCann and Kurt Suzuki) bat at the heart of their respective lineups, this trend is likely to continue in 2010.
Stolen Bases – Quick Analysis: If you’re drafting your catcher for his stolen base ability, it might be time to rethink your strategy. It is interesting to note, however, that the first replacements have averaged more steals than the average starters each of the last three seasons, especially in 2009. If you consider the position as a whole, this makes sense. Remember that the average HR among the elite starters and average starters was relatively even, but what makes the elite starters better than the average starters is their ability to contribute in multiple categories. This means our average starters are usually going to be moderately talented sluggers without a complete game. What kind of players are consistently falling in this average starter group? Bengie Molina, Kelly Shoppach, A.J. Pierzynski, and Chris Iannetta are just a few of the players we’ve seen here in the last few seasons. All of them (perhaps aside from Pierzynski since he hits for good AVG too) are slugging specialists without much speed. The first replacements lack this slugging ability and are thus some of the quicker, smaller catchers such as Carlos Ruiz, Jason Kendall, and Ivan Rodriguez. This analysis is almost completely useless to you, but I always like when statistical analysis truly portrays real life.
Batting Average – Quick Analysis: No surprise here. Among all standard baseball statistics, AVG is probably the single best barometer of hitting ability. Therefore, it stands to reason that as the quality of catcher drops, so do their average AVGs. From a fantasy perspective, a lower AVG tends to negatively impact both RBI (more men left on base) and R (fewer chances to score).