Well, that’s probably not fair to Devin. In any case, here’s a battery combo chart (which I started doing last year), for the 2012 Reds. (The 2011 version, with an explanation is here). This chart is very different from 2011′s, but at the same time, it’s remarkably similar. For one, we had only 6 pitchers start this season, a far cry from the 10 different starters we used in 2011. Along with that, Redmond only started one game, so having 5 starters combine for 161 starts this season is really remarkable – in 2011, we had six pitchers with at least half a season’s worth of starts, and Willis and LeCure had a few as well.
This shows us that whatever Dusty may have said back in 2009 (~), he definitely favors designated catchers, no matter the primary language of his backstops. Arroyo/Hanigan is a combination that’s been going on forever, but Cueto has been caught almost exclusively by Hernandez since getting to the big leagues. This year, all but one of his starts was caught by Hanigan, and that turned out really well for both Cueto and the Reds. Leake has expressed him preference for Mesoraco before – so it’s not surprising that Devin became his full-time catcher this year.
I think the Latos and Bailey situations are pretty interesting. I’m probably reading too much into this, but the fact that Meso caught Latos’ first three starts really caught my eye. It makes sense that Dusty would try to assign Mesoraco to Latos , both of them being new to the Reds, essentially. But Latos’ first three starts were not impressive. In his fourth start, Latos was caught by Ryan Hanigan, and his best outing thus far, and his very first Reds win – after that it was all Hanigan. Now, that, again, is probably not fair to Devin. Latos’s firth start was also not great, and Mat’s had some recurring early season woes. You hope that the switch to Hanigan was more just about a change of pace for Latos, as both him and Mesoraco figure to play big parts in Cincinnati Reds teams of the future.
On the other hand, it’s no slight to Devin that Hanigan is an excellent defensive catcher, and has a lot more experience calling games than Mesoraco does. Meso’s only 25, which gives him plenty of time to learn some veteran catching tricks. Plus, he’s got a good chance to develop into a pretty strong hitter. For now though, matching up Latos and Hanigan meant that Mesoraco needed to catch another pitcher almost full time – and that pitcher was Homer Bailey. Bailey was caught mostly by Hanigan in his MLB starts in 2o11, but he also matched up with Mesoraco a few times, and probably worked with him during his rehab time at AAA.
Homer had a pretty great season with Devin as his full time backstop. But it probably hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that it was Hanigan who caught Homer’s no-hitter – and by ERA, K and BB numbers, Bailey was better with Hanigan calling the shots. Of course, that was mostly in the last part of the season, after Mesoraco got suspended and demoted in favor of Dioner Navarro as backup – the end of the season has also been when Bailey has done some of his best pitching in the last two years – so much like with Latos, it could just be an unfortunate happenstance that puts Mesoraco’s handling in a bad light.
All this makes me wonder what the plan is for next year. The Reds definitely favored Navarro after Mesoraco’s suspension this year, but Navarro is gone now, which leaves us once again with the Hanigan/Mesoraco situation. Hanigan catching Cueto/Arroyo/Latos, with Mesoraco catching Bailey/Leake is fairly like scenario, but it’s a little hard on Bailey to say “With Hanigan, you threw a no-hitter, but Mesoraco will be catching for you for all of 2013, kthxbye!” It may be time to shake up the catching situation so that no one has a designated catcher. (Or maybe just Arroyo). I also wonder a little bit about Hanigan – Hanigan played 112 games in 2012, the most he’s ever played in the majors. Along with that came one of his worst hitting performances. Now, he’s still valuable at that level, given his on-base and defensive talents, but if we can get him down to half-time, he may be able to hit a little better, as well.
Of course, maybe we’ll just trade away Homer Bailey, and it won’t be an issue anymore. (/sadface)
Or, more likely, I’m reading too much into things.