Three Flags Flying, Episode 2 and 2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Tyler Flowers

We had a great start to our podcast with a whole lot of you listening and giving us great reviews! We really appreciate it! In our 2nd episode, we discuss players to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, the Will Smith signing, Free Agent Targets, and Rob Copenhaver’s piece on Otis Nixon. Find “The Will to Spend” here! Now…on to Tyler!

Player Review, Tyler Flowers

Tyler Flowers had a couple of pretty decent offensive seasons in 2016 and 2017. They are the only 2 such of his 11 season career.

The 33 year old Flowers had a slight bounce back from the .227/.341/.359 line he posted in 2018, following it up with a .229/.319/.413, in 310 plate appearances. Tyler is re-signed for 2020, presumably in the role of The Backup Catcher We Know. He did add a respectable 11 home runs in 271 at-bats.

Depending on who you ask, Tyler’s pitch framing may add value. Fangraphs calculates his 2019 WAR at 2.1, almost entirely based on defense, and this in spite of a league leading 16 passed balls and a 19% caught stealing rate. Baseball Reference calculates his WAR as -0.1.

With the odds of any late career bounce back getting longer and longer, the Braves will need a true number 1 catcher in 2020. Flowers should make an acceptable backup, and I have noticed some older backup catchers have unpredictably good offensive seasons. Maybe catchers benefit more from extra rest than other positions, maybe it’s a random product of a backup’s sample size of at-bats, or maybe it’s just the fevered imagination of an internet rando and not really a thing, but here’s to hoping 2020 Flowers makes the best of a couple of hundred or fewer plate appearances.

Author: Rusty S.

Rusty S. is a Braves Journal reader since 2005 and an occasional innings-eater. It was my understanding that there would be no expectations.

15 thoughts on “Three Flags Flying, Episode 2 and 2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Tyler Flowers”

  1. I’d agree, Flowers will make for a fine reserve catcher next season. Can’t believe I’m saying this, but he’s probably an adequate starter. There’s so little talent at the position in the game right now. Even JTR, who’s good for the position, doesn’t really make me go “wow” with what he does. I think Philly is going to massively overpay for him because of position scarcity.

  2. Haha, I think the lack of comments is reflective of how unexciting Flowers is as a catcher. But to King’s point, the vast majority of catchers are unexciting, so Flowers will more than do.

    I would love to see someone do a solid breakdown of whether or not pitch framing has a tangible impact on the success of a staff. It’s really interesting just how much Fangraphs and Baseball Reference disagree over someone like Flowers.

    Are there more example of someone being 0 on one WAR calculation and as high as 2 on another? Even Julio, whom Fangraphs and Baseball Reference would be apt to disagree on due to his peripherals, has a smaller difference in his WAR totals.

  3. @4
    While it’s hard to weigh accurately, I think the way the Braves split catching duties to where no one catcher is assigned to one pitcher, could be telling.

    In 2019, BMac and Flowers were darn near equal in Catcher’s ERA.

    In 2018, Suzuki and Flowers were also darn near equal.

    In 2017, Suzuki was better than Flowers by 1/3 run.

    In 2016, AJ was better than Flowers by 1/2 run.

    All 4 of these years, the catching duties were essentially split and either Flowers was bested in CERA or was near the same.

    The thing about framing is that it lacks a steady target. Flowers puts the mitt down and right before release, he pulls the mitt back. I’ve never pitched, but I’d be willing to bet that is something not easy to adjust to on the fly.

  4. So will this be the year that MLB adds the 26th man? If so, I wonder if we’ll carry a 3rd catcher and reduce Flower’s playing time even more.

  5. Great new podcast. You guys have great energy together and I enjoy the topics. Thanks for making that happen. Go Braves!

  6. Basically, whenever you see a WAR split like that, it’s never hitting. It’s either pitching or defense.

    If it’s pitching, he’s probably a guy with good peripherals but a bad ERA. Think Ricky Nolasco, Javier Vazquez, etc. Julio Teheran had 1.6 fWAR but 2.7 rWAR last year, and his rWAR are about 50% higher than his fWAR over his career.

    If it’s defense, there’s usually something like catcher framing or defensive positioning that’s handled very differently in the different systems.

    Tyler Flowers has about a full season’s worth of at-bats over the last two years, over which he has a wRC+ of 91, which is 15th out of the 30 catchers who have at least 500 PA over that period. Maybe his pitch-framing really does make him the third-most valuable catcher in baseball over that period, behind only Realmuto and Grandal! Or maybe the system’s a little broken. Given how much he sucks at actually catching the pitches thrown to him, I lean toward the latter.

    I’m fine with Flowers as a backup. The one thing he must not and cannot be is a starter. He’ll be 34 in January. Backup catchers can play till they’re 40. Starting catchers break down pretty much right around now. (Javy Lopez played his last year at 35. Brian McCann played his last year at 35. Mike Lieberthal played his last year at 35. Etc.)

    Flowers needs to be someone’s caddy.

  7. The catcher position has to be about the least appealing position to play in MLB. ~$4.7M — that’s the average salary among all starting catchers. The 2 guys making ~$20M at the position don’t have a bat that would start anywhere else except maybe SS. No other position on the field gets hit by more baseball bats or baseballs, and yet it is the major league position that usually only plays back-up pay for most of its starters. And they want this guy calling the game…

  8. You only had 7 catchers last year appear in 120 games as a catcher. Is $4.7M average salary really that bad for how much time they’re spending away from the action?

    I tell ya, having a straight handedness platoon at catcher is a dream scenario. There just aren’t many LHH catchers. Of the top 30 catchers in terms of games played last year, looks like 3-4 hit from the left side. I think that helps fuel Grandal’s value. Let the RHH backup take the games where the tough lefty is on the mound.

    I’d love to get Jason Castro. He’s #1 on my list. Spend $6-7M on the catcher spot, get yourself a RHH/LHH platoon, and move on to other areas on the field. Throw your money at RF and 3B and get yourself a deep, deep lineup.

  9. Getting paid millions to play any position on the diamond is never really that bad. I would need to spend an hour looking at the average salaries for all other positions, but without that I feel there’s a bit of a disparity in average pay. Catcher has never been a very strong position at the plate, but now I wonder if it’s at a bit of a disadvantage for anyone looking to be one of those rare elite catchers who can bash. There’s not a lesser paid position on the field, which was my earlier point.

    But when you have a truly good catcher, it’s very noticeable.

    And when you have Tyler Flowers, instead, it’s also very noticeable.

  10. I bet, relative to games played, catchers really aren’t paid as bad as you think. It’s just simply a difficult position. But in some ways, the expectations are significantly less as a league average-hitting catcher is found gold for some teams.

  11. Rob, that would be quite a bit more work to determine, but, again, at a glance I feel there’s a disparity. I went down the list of top 20 paid outfielders, and a greater majority of them didn’t appear in more than 140 games. Many didn’t appear in 120.

    There are fewer flashy names at catcher, so naturally the bidding is much less on those bottom 20 catchers.

  12. I’m not pleading a humanitarian case for the position, I just think that the position is sort of dragging. I think that’s why there’s increased interest in uncovering more value at the position, because from where we’re sitting catchers are just bad hitters who take a beating and call the game. If there was to suddenly be more value at the position, and therefore more money, we might see more talent at the position coming through the minors. As is, anyone who can swing a bat is likely to move to another position so they can play longer and get paid more.

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