It’s that time…you know, the time when I get to start burying myself in the numbers from the 2011 season and trying to figure out exactly what went wrong. I’m a science geek, after all, and one of the things that keeps me addicted to baseball is the stats. In my crazy noggin’ it seems there just HAS to be a statistic to explain it all. There’s a magic number that once I find it, will explain the horrid season.
I know, I know…this season was a long time coming and made over the course of a lot of bad decisions and then bad playing and then more bad decisions and then the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball jacking around with a potential new owner. I know all of this, intellectually, but my head has a hard time convincing my broken heart.
So we’ll blame the stat analysis on the heart and a little less on the head this year.
What’s below is a graphic representation of the Battery Combinations from the 2011 season. For those unfamiliar with the term, Battery simply put is the pitcher and catcher together. I looked up why they call it that (again, GEEK!) and according to Wikipedia:
The use of the word ‘battery’ in baseball was first coined by Henry Chadwick in the 1860s in reference to the firepower of a team’s pitching staff and inspired by the artillery batteries then in use in the American Civil War. Later, the term evolved to indicate the combined effectiveness of pitcher and catcher.
Who knew? Back to the graphic below. It shows pitching appearances and which catcher caught each pitcher. You will find trends in the season and can start to see how Brad Mills makes catcher decisions in the lineup.
So what I notice right off the bat is that Brett Myers and JA Happ were caught almost exclusively by Humberto Quintero. Q was the senior catcher on the team this year and has a penchant for catching base stealers, so it’s not surprising we’d see him used more often. He’s also a better hitter than the other choices available. The only time we see other combinations with those pitchers is essentially the time that Q was out on the DL with that high ankle sprain – which I should mention that he got because he’s an awesome catcher that wouldn’t back down.
Now, you can’t expect Q to catch everyone all the time, so you see Wandy Rodriguez caught almost exclusively by the “non-Q” all season, whether that was JR Towles or Carlos Corporan at the time. Quintero is thrown in from time to time, and my guess would be that was Mills making decisions based on the opponent sometimes, not the pitcher.
We also see that Bud Norris’ time on the mound is split pretty closely between Q and the “non-Q” catcher. It made sense that Aneury Rodriguez and Jordan Lyles were caught by Corporan more than Quintero as that’s who they threw to in the minors. If you’re going to start a 20 year old kid, it’s probably a good idea to have him pitch initially into a glove and toward a guy he’s comfortable with already. But you notice that as the season progresses, Lyles is caught by Q. My guess? Lyles got to know him. Comfort didn’t play as big a role in the decision at this point, rather putting in the best catcher that night was more important.
What I find interesting about this is that if I had to name the Astros two most vulnerable positions in terms of lack of depth this season, I’d say pitching and catching. We all know this starting rotation had about 2 1/2 actual starting rotation guys on it. And with Jason Castro out for the whole season this year, the catcher position was thin and our catchers took an incredible beating. Were there combinations and timing of combinations that would have been better? Oh how I wish I could say yes, but frankly, the team was just thin in these pivotal spots this year. No way around that.
There’s nothing magical about any of this information, it’s more fascinating than awe-inspiring. It’s interesting to see. If you watch a lot of games these are trends that you probably already picked up on, but it’s nice to have a graphic representation of it if nothing else.
I promise not to shove things like this down your throat all season, but I will admit that I like it. I can’t help it, it’s the geek in me.
*Thanks to Tara Franey, the lead writer for C-ing Red, the Aerys Sports home of the Cincinnati Reds, for the great chart!
Terri Schlather (AGirlintheSouth) is the Senior Houston Astros Writer for Aerys Sports. You can read her Astros blog at www.talesfromthejuicebox.com, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on twitter @agirlinthesouth.