Looking to the past to see the future for Austin Barnes

Cleaning up a few drafts today.

Austin Barnes was the best gardener the Dodgers had in 2017.  Barnes raked all year long. He raked in April, he raked in Sept, he even raked in Oct for one series.

He did not rake in the NLCS and the World Series.  Was it surprising that a catcher who had not started six games in a row since July 1st all of the sudden slumped when asked to start thirteen of fifteen postseason games? You tell me.

Austin Barnes never had a monthly OPS below .800 playing primarily as a catcher.  That is isn’t just raking, that is being THE BEST HITTING CATCHER IN BASEBALL IN 2017.

You don’t believe me?

Player               OPS+ WAR/pos  PA Year Age   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
Austin Barnes         137     2.6 262 2017  27 .289 .408 .486 .895
Kurt Suzuki           130     2.8 309 2017  33 .283 .351 .536 .887
Buster Posey          129     4.0 568 2017  30 .320 .400 .462 .861
Gary Sanchez          126     4.1 525 2017  24 .278 .345 .531 .876
Mike Zunino           123     3.3 435 2017  26 .251 .331 .509 .840
Robinson Chirinos     122     2.7 309 2017  33 .255 .360 .506 .866
Alex Avila            119     2.7 376 2017  30 .264 .387 .447 .834
Willson Contreras     119     3.9 428 2017  25 .276 .356 .499 .855
Tyler Flowers         117     2.2 370 2017  31 .281 .378 .445 .823
Welington Castillo    115     2.1 365 2017  30 .282 .323 .490 .813
Chris Iannetta        114     1.8 316 2017  34 .254 .354 .511 .865
Evan Gattis           111     1.2 325 2017  30 .263 .311 .457 .767
Brian McCann          110     1.2 399 2017  33 .241 .323 .436 .759
J.T. Realmuto         109     3.6 579 2017  26 .278 .332 .451 .783
Salvador Perez        105     2.5 499 2017  27 .268 .297 .495 .792
Yasmani Grandal       100     2.2 482 2017  28 .247 .308 .459 .767

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/11/2018.

The last time the Dodgers had a catcher lead baseball in OPS+ was HOF Mike Piazza even with cherry picking the minimum 250 Plate appearances. Todd Hundley gave it a good run in 2000 but was beaten by ….. Mike Piazza. Paul Loduca gave it a good run in 2001 but was beaten by ….. Mike Piazza.

Sure, he only had 262 plate appearances. I get the skepticism about how he will hold up if he starts over 100 games at catcher.  Still, at no point can you ask “When did Austin Barnes rake” without Dodger fans wondering what season you watched in 2017.

Will he be the best hitting catcher in 2018 if he starts 100 games? I’d certainly bet against it, but I wouldn’t bet against Austin Barnes being one of the top ten catchers in 2018.

If you throw out Mike Piazza because I think it is fair to throw out a HOF career when trying to put the season that Austin Barnes had in LAD history contest this is what you have.

Austin Barnes had the 3rd best offensive season by LAD catcher not named Mike Piazza. That is almost 60 years of seasons.

Rk            Player OPS+  PA Year Age   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
5       Todd Hundley  143 353 2000  31 .284 .375 .579 .954
6       Paul Lo Duca  142 519 2001  29 .320 .374 .543 .917
8      Austin Barnes  137 262 2017  27 .289 .408 .486 .895
9      Mike Scioscia  136 526 1985  26 .296 .407 .420 .826
10      Joe Ferguson  136 585 1973  26 .263 .369 .470 .839
11      Joe Ferguson  132 430 1974  27 .252 .380 .436 .815
12      Joe Ferguson  131 442 1979  32 .262 .380 .466 .845
13        Tom Haller  128 534 1968  31 .285 .345 .388 .733
14      Joe Ferguson  126 214 1980  33 .238 .371 .436 .807
15        Tom Haller  122 365 1970  33 .286 .351 .465 .815
16         Duke Sims  121 263 1971  30 .274 .357 .400 .757
17      Bill Sudakis  121 311 1970  24 .264 .352 .461 .813
18      Steve Yeager  119 354 1974  25 .266 .334 .437 .771
19   Yasmani Grandal  118 457 2016  27 .228 .339 .477 .816
20        A.J. Ellis  118 505 2012  31 .270 .373 .414 .786
21    Russell Martin  116 620 2007  24 .293 .374 .469 .843
22      Chad Kreuter  116 271 2000  35 .264 .416 .410 .827
23     John Roseboro  116 380 1967  34 .272 .348 .374 .723
24        A.J. Ellis  113 217 2015  34 .238 .355 .403 .758
25     John Roseboro  113 501 1966  33 .276 .343 .398 .740

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/11/2018.

I don’t know if Austin Barnes is going to be the primary catcher in 2018. Many think so because he started every game in the World Series over Yazmani Grandal who was the primary catcher in 2017. I don’t know if that means the Dodgers feel Barnes is better than Grandal or that he was simply the right choice in late October.  Given that Barnes didn’t set the world on fire with his bat in the World Series I have to think that either Grandal was not 100% or that the defensive work of Barnes made him the primary choice. Barnes had certainly wrestled a 50/50 timeshare with Grandal by Sept and if both are on the roster come April 1st in 2018 you would expect something similar.

I would be shocked if they are both on the roster on April 1st and Grandal is not catching just as much as Barnes.  By May, performance might dictate who gets more starts, but more likely it will be health that determines it.

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3 Comments

  1. 68elcamino427

    I will be shocked if both Barnes and Grandal are on the roster April 1 too.

    Grandal is getting paid for his bat, a LH power bat.
    Framing is great, but a .900 OPS is better.

    Grandal would have a better shot at better production at the plate playing on a AL team that could deploy him as a Catcher, 1B, and DH. This way he could avoid the dings that he gets behind the plate that wind up quieting his bat. Kinda like Mike Napoli.

    I haven’t ranked the MLB catchers by pay. It would be interesting to see where Grandal would appear on such a list. Aside from framing, Grandal is not a defensive wizard behind the plate.
    For instance, Grandal would not start at catcher for Mike Scioscia, a manager who places a high value on premium defense at the catcher position (I can not remember another catcher who has as many conferences with his pitcher debating pitch calling/selection during a game as Grandal does with his pitchers).

    Grandal could be moved as part of a multi-team trade.
    Don’t know what the Dodgers could get in return for Grandal in a straight up trade,
    his pay and spotty performance due to nagging injury over the years kinda put him in
    never-never land.

    The cost averaging notion, that combining Barnes and Grandal’s salary and viewing this as
    $8 mil + to cover the catcher position in 2018 just feels like a fake rationalization.
    This makes me feel that the Dodgers will try to move Grandal.

    We shall see.

    Like

    • Also have to take into account Grandal’s free agent status. If he spends his walk year on the bench or at best a platoon partner that could cost him millions. The Dodgers bent over backyard to move Juan Uribe when he asked to be traded so he could play, even though it was not the best move for the team.
      It does make sense to carry Grandal through spring just because catchers get hurt and if any contender loses a catcher early, they might pay for Grandal.

      Like

      • 68elcamino427

        Excellent point ‘re waiting for a market to develop.

        Like

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