Catching Unit Preview, Sans Realmuto

As it sits, there’s no J.T. Realmuto coming. It doesn’t mean we don’t have the pieces to easily acquire him that we are probably actively looking to trade. But alas, he’s still a Marlin.

So with 25 days left until pitchers and catchers report, our catching unit is Brian McCann and Tyler Flowers. What can we expect, and how would that stack up against the rest of the league?

Brian McCann

He’s back, but not better than ever. After starting his career with Atlanta, he hit .277/.350/473 in those 9 seasons. But he’s 35 now, and Heap’s coming off a horrible season with Houston: .212/.301/.339 in only 63 games. He also has graded out worse defensively as the years have gone along, as you might expect. And after stealing 23 bases in 31 chances in those 9 seasons with Atlanta, he has only attempted 3 stolen bases in the 5 seasons since. So he’s been hurt, he’s even slower, and he’s declined physically.

But I don’t think Atlanta is signing him thinking he’s hurt, and they’re also signing him for his leadership ability. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s going to be a little better, but not quite who he was the three seasons previous. So I think he’ll be about league average: .725 OPS, average defense, average speed for a catcher. Not exactly jaw-dropping.

Tyler Flowers

We know a little bit more about Flowers as he’s been around for 3 years now. But after a .366 BABIP in 2016 and .342 BABIP in 2017, the BABIP gods struck him down below his career norms to .292 this past year. As a result, he went from being around a 115 wRC+ guy in the first two years to a slightly below league average 95 this past year. If he can get back to his career level of .321 on balls in play, he probably gets a bump and gets closer to being the 2 fWAR, solid regular he was. His ISO didn’t dip much, and his walk rate did increase last year, something that’s not uncommon for a catcher. But his walk rate may have increased because his bat has slowed down so significantly (he’s a 32-year old catcher, after all) that he’s decided to change the profile of his game. I guess we’ll see.

How Would They Rank?

Well, not well, but not as bad as you might think. If Fun Police got the bulk of the ABs, you’d be looking at about a .700 to .725 OPS catcher with about average defense. That isn’t Realmuto territory, but after ranking 6th in catching fWAR last year with Flowzuki, you’d probably only take about a 4 or 5 team dive into the 10-12 range. Remember, catching is terrible across the league. There were only 5 teams last year with above league average weighted runs created from their catching units. With Realmuto? Well, you know the answer to that. A McMuto tandem (Realcann?) would probably be a 6 fWAR duo, far and away beating the Pirates’ unit last year and be the best in baseball by a significant margin. Can you live without having an elite catching duo? Sure. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series last year, and their catchers performed to a -2.1 fWAR clip, by far the worst in baseball.

I’d rather have good catchers though.

111 thoughts on “Catching Unit Preview, Sans Realmuto”

  1. The people have spoken.

    The problem is, the next option to improve the functionality of multimedia in the comments is to change themes. But that won’t change *how* we comment, which will be more popular. It’ll be aesthetically different, improve functionality, but it won’t change how people can register and comment. Win, win, win.

  2. Thanks, Rob. There were some things to like about the new format after giving it a chance, but this is just so much more aesthetically pleasing and makes for a better flow of conversation.

    I do appreciate you trying to enhance the experience here.

  3. The projection on McCann seems o.k. EXCEPT the speed.

    McCann was about the slowest major league player when he previously played in Atlanta. He is certainly slower now.

    One year I remember running across something a professional commentator said to the effect that McCann had been on first base 58 times when a player hit a single and he had scored about 13 of those times.

  4. McFlowers is not good. I’d have rather them just signed a league minimum good receiver, good arm guy that can still hit .220 than hope that McCann sells an equivalent in tickets and maybe lowers our staff’s FIP by .050. I’m bad about this, but in sports I’m unlike most in that I care zero about these ‘feel good’ ‘bring Player X home’ stories.

  5. Thanks, Rob, for bringing back the old comments! This is so much nicer. I applaud you trying some things, however.

    I like McFlow. They’re not flashy, but they’re solid. Plus, as you said, the Red Sox just won a WS, with a catching unit that posted a -2.1 fWAR, and I know McFlow will be better than that.

    It’s cheaper, and easier, to chase wins elsewhere on the diamond. You pretty much just need your catchers not to be awful, for them to be decent.

  6. You just simply have to lower your expectations for catcher offensive production. A catcher with a .725 OPS is about top 10 in the league. The same production from a right fielder puts him in the bottom 20% of the league. That’s why Alex Jackson is on the 40-man; it’s really, really hard to find good catchers.

    There were only 9 catchers who amassed over 2 fWAR last year. There were 12 1B who did that, 19 2B, 17 SS 19 3B, 19 RF, 21 CF, and 18 LF. Simply put, Mama ain’t letting her babies grow up to be catchers. Obviously a lot of that is based on how little playing time a catcher has vs. those other positions, but even if you look at them as a unit, there are only 11 2+ fWAR catching units in baseball. It’s hard to find enough decent catchers to fill a season.

  7. @9 Looking at speed for a catcher is somewhat like judging a NL SP on how well he hits, isn’t it?

    Sure, it’s going to come into play in the game some times, but that’s not really what they’re there for.

    Unless Snit starts hitting McCann lead-off, in which case something has gone horribly, horribly wrong in Atlanta in 2019. Lol.

  8. McCann had some value stealing 23 bases in 31 changes in 9 years. The point was to highlight that he is definitely even slower than he was before. But yes, it’s a not a real big problem.

  9. Btw, Braves have checked in on Joc Pederson. I love the potential here, if the price isn’t totally nuts, which I can’t imagine it’d be. That’d give Atlanta power from the right side, with Acuna and JD; and power from the left side, with Freeman and Pederson. Make this happen, Alex!

  10. When your outfield produces ~22 WAR, you can get by with the worst catching unit in baseball.

    So if we want to roll with McFlowers, then sign Bryce Harper.

  11. @16 I stated in the original post regarding Pederson that he bats about .210 in odd years while hitting about .240 in even. Basically, set your expectations to about .210 and ~0.8 WAR.

  12. @13 I was just providing information, not weighing in on the importance of speed at catcher. Having said that, McCann is so slow even compared to his cohort, that it probably does matter a small bit.

  13. Pederson’s K% has actually been improving (~19%) but his BB% is also in decline. I probably critiqued him too harshly with the ~0.8 WAR estimate, but he had a negative bWAR in 2017, which to me indicated that if he’s not getting good contact his worth evaporates. Last season was a rebound for him as he got better contact (and better realized up to his .253 BABIP).

  14. If you add Kluber, Realmuto, and Pederson, that’s fine. If you add just Pederson, that’s not fine.

  15. So who’s going to sign Evan Gattis? He’d make a great PH and 3rd catcher and backup 1B and RF (5th OF).

  16. The thing on Pederson though is a lot of his negative value at the plate comes comes from his struggles against LHP. He hit .260 against RHP last year, and has hit RHP at .252 for his career. He’s also slugging .521 in his career vs. RHP, and isn’t an awful fielder.

    If you just play him as the strong side of a platoon, and use “Player X” (Duvall, Camargo, whomever you like…) against LHP, I think that’s a good bet. Plus, deeper bench.

    @22 I do agree, Pederson alone doesn’t scream print the WS tickets now. I’d like Kluber too, or another pen piece. I see value in Realmuto, but not at the current price. So I’m still not on the JT train.

  17. @19 Sorry, I misunderstood your comment a bit, Chief. I took it as meaning you were bothered by his lack of speed.

  18. I don’t think anyone can or can’t be on the JT train until you see what he’s traded for. I mean, who doesn’t want a 5 WAR catcher? I’m pretty confident every team’s fans that doesn’t trade for Realmuto will end up looking at what he was traded for and will say, “That was it?”

  19. This provides a defense for Pederson. His wRC+ against righties would have been tops on the team. And he’s another guy capable of playing CF if need be.

    Bryce Harper is also an acceptable alternative.

  20. @29 But how am I supposed to upvote @30 to let him know I thought that was funny??

    Ah well…

  21. This may be something some of you have known for a long time, but without looking it up, who was the youngest person ever to play in a major league baseball game? For bonus points, how old and what year?

    This is one of my all-time favorite trivia questions.

  22. I also appreciate the return of ye olde comments format.

    I don’t mind the catching tandem or the pitching situation, but that missing outfielder concerns me.

  23. @27 Fair point. I’m going under the assumption it’s going to be close to what’s been asked. However, if the trade was like Gohara & Pache for Realmuto, I could be aboard that train.

  24. Even though I registered an account, I am glad it switched back. I am tired of Disqus’s current omnipresence on the Internet.

  25. I think the Reds had a 15 year old pitch some time back around the WW2 era. Joe Nuxhall, maybe?

  26. I can now retire my JonathanF Disqus ID, but the comment streams around here keep changing. I’ll hold onto it for 5 or 6 years to see if Disqus returns…

  27. @38 – You are correct. It was 1944 and many of the good players were serving their country, but they felt the game must go on. At age 15 Nuxhall pitched 2/3 of an inning for the Reds and gave up 5 runs in an 18 to 0 loss. His next appearance came 8 years later when he was 23 . He went on to win 135 games over 15 years and was a Reds broadcaster for almost 40 years.

  28. I always thought McCann’s defense was overrated. The pitch calling when he was behind the plate was not good. And his bat always died in August. Maybe limited playing time can give him new life.

  29. I think Boras is actually right. Ownership is killing MLB. 3-5 teams are trying to win and the other 25+ are trying to be just good enough not to completely piss their fans off. Which is really what I think the Braves are doing. They’re doing just enough to keep “Braves Country” folks engaged.

  30. I would say no on Molina for the Hall. The only reason he’s even in the conversation is because of his defense, but offensively he just hasn’t done enough. I have to admit that I’m ambivalent towards Andruw to the HOF, but he has a much better case considering offense and defense than Molina.

  31. I don’t think AJ belongs in the HOF, but he is a stronger candidate than Molina, to me as well. I do believe though that Molina is going in. And I think its diminishing.

  32. Further to his comments on the Braves team value, it is interesting to note that a recent Barron’s article of 2019 investment picks included Braves tracking stock. Mario Gabelli made the recommendation. His take appears to be tied to increased sports wagering revenue.

  33. O glory be, the old Rectangle
    this time there’s no need to finangle’
    Disqus and the Social Media
    we worried we might have to cede them t’ya
    but all is well, the past returns
    the game, the posts- and no more squirms.

    Thank you Rob. It takes a big man….

  34. We’ve seen far too many dollar numbers this winter. All over the place, can’t escape them, every player.

    And yet. why has no one insisted that the FO answer the one number we really want to know…

    How much does the Grecian Urn?

  35. Dis Qus
    Interrogation, then they’d frisk us.
    our lovely empty space demands nowt
    we access and paint it, our way, our untrammeled shout.

  36. If that article was written on March 20th, I’d say that I agree. But on January 20th, I’d just say he’s making some good points.

  37. With Rivera, Halladay, Martinez, and Mussina tracking to get into the Hall, Curt Schilling is proving that things you do off the baseball field can impact your candidacy. That’s the extent I think this should be discussed unless a baseball argument can be made for his lack of enshrinement.

  38. While I agree with Rob as far as the Braves are concerned, one cannot deny that over half the league is pretending to try to be competitive but have basically mailed it in. Just thinking about it makes me question whether I should continue to root for the laundry, and it certainly doesn’t make me want to attend games (or visit the Battery).

    Spend on the team, then I will fork over my dollars.

  39. It would be nice if MLB had a relegation system in place with AAA, rather than simply owning those systems.

  40. I don’t know about entitled, but I do think Cobb county might have some entitlement to a much bigger payroll.

  41. If the only thing I get out of the 2010’s-20’s era Braves is Cobb County taxpayers getting the shaft, I’m calling it a win.

  42. OT but it looks like Roy Halladay is going in as a 1st ballot HOF.

    I may be the only person that thinks this way, but I don’t see him certainly as a 1st ballot HOF, and maybe not even a HOF at all.

    Too many guys like this are going into the HOF.

  43. @63 Why is that a win for you? Is it for a personal reason, or do you genuinely believe that some tax payers deserve to be taken advantage of by a huge multi-billion dollar corporation?

  44. Halladay coached at, was heavily involved in, and his kids played ball at the school I also used to coach at. As a result, we had a few mutual friends, and by all accounts, he is a genuinely good and generous man who just went a little too wide open with his plane.

    With that said, it’s clear to me that Halladay is getting a bump because he passed away, and Schilling is being “punished” for at least being a jerk, if not more. I’m considering compiling a list of Hall of Famers who were also jerks to see if maybe there are is an inconsistent application of the character clause of the Hall of Fame. My hypothesis is that there is.

  45. @65 I think he’s just doing some Fulton vs. Cobb ribbing. I would think that most people living outside of Fulton County don’t care too much about which county the stadium is in, though there are obviously plenty of Cobbians who didn’t like picking up the check. And considering people from Dekalb, Douglas, Gwinnett, and Paulding counties can get to a game much easier nowadays, I would really think that’s the case. I’ve never lived in north Georgia for longer than a month so I’m speaking slightly out of ignorance.

  46. There’s more than just being a jerk keeping Schilling from the HOF. It’s not a really common thing to have your career peak from age 34 to 37.

  47. @Donny

    First, as a decades-long resident of Fulton County, I appreciate someone ELSE finally picking up the tab for vaguely cool or needed “big city” type things in the metro area. We’ve paid the bills for sports stadiums for Cobb/Gwinnett/Dekalb/etc for as long as Atlanta has had sports teams. I’m giddy that the folks up on the top end are finally not stiffing their share of the metro-goodies check.

    Second, for reasons we can not delve deeply into here, because of site etiquette and verboten topics and such, I find the historic demographic populations of Cobb County to be amoral at best, immoral and evil at worst, and I take joy in their pain.

  48. On the “join in their pain” category, add Schilling to my list as well.

    Roy Halladay is clearly a HOF pitcher. Then again, so was Kevin Brown.

  49. As much as I *abhor* Schilling, I think he has a stronger or at least as strong HOF candidacy as Halladay, maybe even moreso if you consider he was lights out in the postseason 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.

    Schilling’s closest BREF comp is Kevin Brown (also a surly ass IIRC)…

  50. While we’re on this subject, is 200 wins going to become the new 300 wins? Because Halladay had 203.


    And frankly, it’s usually the one pointing the finger and raising the outrage about something who is the guiltiest one of all.

    Schilling always struck me as the guy who was potentially really good and then one day in his 30s he became dominant. That to me looks like someone who probably used PEDs.

  52. The Hall of Fame should be about stats. That’s it. They can’t put Halladay in, and not put Schilling in. If they do, it’s wrong. Statistically speaking, Schilling was the slightly better player.

    That said, I don’t believe either of them belong in the HoF. As talented as they were, it’s not the “Hall of Good”.

    I find it ridiculous, however, that some of these baseball writers vote based on whom they like/liked. **Any** writer who votes for one, and not the other, should be forced to publicly justify their vote.

  53. How else does one go to Arizona and immediately improve K/BB to over 5? His K/BB in the years immediately following were 7.51, 9.58, and 6.06. You could say, well he stopped walking people and started striking them out, but that to me is just too much of a coincidence.

    There must’ve been something in the water in Arizona because Luis Gonzalez also found himself there, too. Hmm…

  54. @77 & @79 I know this won’t be a popular opinion, but does it matter if he did take PEDs? He didn’t break any rules at the time, because there wasn’t a rule against it.

    Selig, and the owners, let steroids run rampant for years, because it made them money. They created a culture, which now players who played during that era are being punished for, while Selig and those owners largely get a pass. How is it fair to punish these guys for breaking, at the time, a non-existent rule?

  55. I’m no longer on that wagon of virtue signalers. I just think that it’s basically what the voters are seeing when they look at the names on the ballot and look at the career numbers.

    I’ve lost interest in the HOF. As much as I didn’t like Bonds and Clemens, I miss the good stats, the complete games, and the home runs.

    And I do blame the owners and the commissioner. I blame them more than anyone else now.

  56. OVER/UNDER NL team wins for the 2019 MLB season (BetOnline):WAS 87.5NYM 84.5PHI 84.5ATL 83.5MIA 65.5STL 88.5CHC 88.5MIL 84.5CIN 77.5PIT 77.5LAD 94.5COL 82.5SD 78.5ARI 77.5SF 73.5— OddsShark (@OddsShark) January 22, 2019

    This makes good internet fodder for every team’s fans because they’re always going to be low, but at 83.5 for us… yeah, I want that action.

  57. @79 How has John Burkett, Chris Hammond, Jaret Wright, Anibal Sanchez, etc. reinvigorated their careers in the right environment?

  58. I, too, prefer the old school comments. I had to refresh this page multiple times in order for the button to work to log me in to comment.

  59. I don’t think John Burkett used PEDs to squeeze out his one good season with the Braves.

    Jaret wright OTOH…. I would believe it if I heard he did. We already know the Braves had some PED users. You could tell me Andres Galarraga was using, and I wouldn’t bat an eye. He was very, very muscular.

    But if you look at the numbers for Schilling, and also for Gonzalez, you will find that these guys dominated upon arriving in Arizona… their domination overlaps, and that’s when the DBacks were World Champions, so…

  60. I’m also an “I don’t care about steroids guy” fwiw. Bonds and Clemens would have been great if they had been given a drug to DIMINISH their performance.

    Of course I’m also a Pete Rose should 100% be in the HOF guy too. I think its a travesty that that man is going to die and then a year or two after they’re going to put him in, which I fully believe is what will happen.

    As far as 83.5 wins, I doubt we win as many as last year’s team, but don’t see a collapse. If Acuna, Albies and Donaldson (big if) stay healthy that’s a good line up.

  61. Seriously doubt that’s the last OF move of the offseason. If it is, I’ll be bummed, but my patience will extend until Spring Training, at least.

  62. I see it more as a 2 year, 10 million contract. The way things are going, they will stick with him in 2020 as well unless he absolutely craters this season.

  63. My 2017 Series to Remember. Yours? Some gold in the dross. (by blazon)

    Comments on the Kemp salary dump and its implications for this offseason begin at # 273. They’re kind of amazing to read in retrospect, and that’s not intended to call *anyone* out. But SO FAR there is a pretty big disconnect with what we (mostly) all understood the plan to be and what the team is actually doing. (I mean, unless the point of the whole thing was to sign Donaldson to a 1 yr make-good deal.)

  64. Waiting for the other shoe to fall. AA moves tend to come in pairs, meaning Markakis signing announced ahead of the deal that probably sent us down the path to retaining Markakis.

  65. 94—Why? He’s getting $4 million. That’s not exactly guaranteed-a-starting-role money.

    Right now, it’s more like platoons-with-Adam-Duvall money, and both of those guys are making won’t-have-trouble-benching-or-waiving-if-we-find-an-upgrade money.

  66. This deal sucks out loud.

    At some point, you have to stop being so freaking obsessed with value and actually pay the asking price for somebody worthwhile, otherwise you’re gonna go nowhere…and that’s exactly where this team is headed this year if AA doesn’t do something very quickly.

    I can’t wait to see DOB defend this BS.

    (Disclaimer: Everything I just said is completely worthless if the point of this signing was to have Markakis fill a bench role, but to say that I’m skeptical of that is an understatement.)

  67. Yeah, it’s probably going to be Markakis as the usual RF with Duvall and Camargo spelling him or going with the hot hand.

  68. Ugh. Resigning Markakis feels like going to Applebee’s because nobody in your group could agree on a better restaurant. Yeah, it’s food, and it probably won’t kill you, but life is too short this noise.

  69. @99: Completely agree. You can be the kind of team that cares about value because it enables you to assemble a super-talented roster with low revenue, or you can be the kind of the team that cares about value because you want to increase your parent corporation’s stock dividends by three cents. Increasingly looks like Braves are the latter.

    There is something wrong with a league in which a surprise contender with a bunch of young talent and plenty of payroll room sees its best path forward as making a bunch of weird small moves that barely move the needle. MLB needs to seriously examine the economic incentives it’s creating for owners and front offices.

  70. I don’t have an issue with them re-signing Markakis, **if** the idea is they’re saving money in the OF to pay for an elite closer (Kimbrel?) or an ace to front the rotation this season. That’s also another year to evaluate Waters and Pache, and see if Riley can play OF. Next year’s FA OF class is also better.

    However, if they just re-signed Markakis to hit 4th in the order again because he’s a great “value”, this move is worse than garbage, it’s like the puddle of dumpster juice that sits in the bottom of the container from all the trash. When you’re clean up hitter might not hit 15 HR, it’s a problem. You can make up for that in areas, but you need to be willing to do so.

    Time will tell, I guess.

  71. Wow the hot takes…

    Here’s mine, this is a no-brainer move. Kakes is not keeping you from doing something else (and at $4 million you could just release Duvall and his $2.9 salary). He gets on base and if used appropriately (not every day) should easily be worth this deal.

  72. I’m just going to wait patiently for the next day or so and see if there was another move that nudged this one into happening.

    If what ultimately occurs is signing Kimbrel, I won’t be that excited. I don’t believe there’s any TOR Ace to be had, so that brings us back to Realmuto. Or, perhaps, some deal that no one even knows is possible.

    But I’ve had this nauseating feeling all offseason, and this didn’t cure it but only made it worse.

  73. I agree you can’t be too upset about a $4mil commitment for a useful contact hitter. I think a Duval/ Pederson platoon would be better than Markasis every day but who knows the end game here. AA could be working on a Kluber trade involving Inciarte. This doesn’t prevent us from making bigger moves. I can’t believe the plan is for Markakis to hit cleanup everyday. 5th behind Realmuto with plenty of rest days, maybe.

  74. The part of this that truly mystifies me though is, unless he’s really not available, the perfect answer to the OF vacancy was out there, in Pederson. He crushes right-handers, and fits perfectly with what the Braves have as platoon options on the roster.

    He has to be cheaper than Realmuto. Has to.

    If you’re Anthopolous, you have a relationship with the LA front office. They’ve done plenty of business.

    This **should** be so easy. Why do they make it look so hard?

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