Joe Mauer (MIN) – 99.3 runs created
Mauer wasn’t 100%, but he’s still amazing. Defensively, he has few peers and offensively he’s a solid #3 hitter. His power was off – just nine homers – and his batting average fell with the league, but he remained a threat to win the batting title. Backup Drew Butera was solid, too – cutting down 43% of would be base stealers. Of course, Butera hits like Sal Butera – which isn’t very good.
Victor Martinez (BOS) – 83.4 runs created
Martinez and Jason Varitek remained solid as a team behind the plate, being way below average against the run (80% success rate and 169 stolen bases allowed) and not necessarily being that mobile – though who really bunts against the Sox, anyway. Martinez hit well here, batting .302 with 20 homers, and Varitek had surprisingly good power in limited plate appearances. Martinez is gone now, leaving Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek as top options, which will hurt the Sox offensively in 2011. Saltalamacchia has never hit that well – and Varitek isn’t going to hit .275 anytime soon. Let’s hope that Salty has beaten his phobia of throwing back to the pitcher…
Mike Napoli (LAA) 73.1 runs created
Jeff Mathis is supposedly the stronger defensive catcher – but Napoli was actually better against the run and made slightly fewer mistakes. Mathis is definitely a cleaner catcher – far more mobile, but not a world beater with the bat. Bobby Wilson got 29 starts and wasn’t awful, didn’t impress me with either his mobility or arm, but he might be able to hit a little. As a group, they were well below average and partly to blame for not winning the division in 2010. Offensively, Mike Napoli has power and produces runs, and held down first base when Kendry Morales went down to that freak broken leg. Mathis hit like Lou Marson (see below) in fewer at bats. Will Hank Conger win the job in spring training?
John Buck (TOR) – 61.7 runs created
Now a Marlin, John Buck was dependable, decent against the run, didn’t make too many errors, and generally mobile. The pitching was surprisingly good and Toronto had a winning record. Defensively, for this position, it was a lot of positives. Backup Jose Molina was awesome against the run (44% caught stealing), and Buck was pretty good. Rookie J.P. Arencibia gets the nod for 2011, and he didn’t look so bad either. By the way, Buck had his best offensive season, too – hitting .281 and slugging 20 homers. His weakness? He doesn’t walk at all.
Jorge Posada/Francisco Cervelli (NYY) – 57.9 runs created
Innings split nearly down the middle, Posada is aging (he doesn’t LOOK old, but he’s playing old), but Cervelli isn’t the answer either. Neither can stop the run, though Cervelli is younger and, therefore, more mobile. The pitching isn’t happy with the catching either. As a hitter, Cervelli is learning, and marginally below average, but not awful; he also isn’t seen as the next Yogi Berra either. Posada did what we would have expected to do – which is lose a little in his batting average, though he still gets on base and hits for some power. Jesus Montero will have this job as soon as he is ready.
Kurt Suzuki (OAK) – 57.1 runs created
Suzuki remains a decent catcher, though he’s not very good against the run anymore. Backup Landon Powell is better against the run, but needs to remove some of his mistakes – which will come with time. As a duo, they weren’t very good – not very mobile, and slightly above average in terms of making mistakes. Suzuki still hits a little, but it’s a little less and he’s now below average. He’s still better than Landon Powell.
John Jaso (TB) – 54.2 runs created
Jaso is young and gets on base – much like his Florida Marlins counterpart, John Baker. In fact, he got on base enough that Joe Maddon let him bat leadoff from time to time. Dioner Navarro is the best catcher of this group, but his weight is problematic and he isn’t hitting. Kelly Shoppach doesn’t look like he’ll be in the league very long and should start brushing up on his coaching skills instead.
A.J. Pierzynski (CHISOX) – 52.4 runs created
Pierzynski is starting to get old, but he’s a good kind of old – just good enough against the run, few mistakes, and keeping the pitching staff on point – though he has a good set of pitchers to work with. His offense fell off to where his power slipped and his OBP is woeful (.301). Backup Ramon Castro isn’t half bad, and the man can hit (.278/.504/.331). He could easily be a DH if the Sox wanted, and I’d be tempted to let him play more.
Matt Wieters (BAL) – 51.4 runs created
The Orioles future is now with Matt Wieters assuming the starting role full time. As a team, Oriole catching rates as slightly above average, with the young Wieters being mobile, and making few errors or passed balls. The TEAM was below average in terms of the stolen base percentage, but Wieters wasn’t the problem, nabbing 24 of 77 runners. Craig Tatum was horrible here, allowing 25 of 27 runners to reach the next base. Offensively, Wieters didn’t amaze as we had been led to believe, but there were a few positives, including 11 homers in 446 at bats. I think he’s going to be better. Tatum had a nice batting average (.281), but he didn’t do much with those singles.
Jason Kendall (KC) – 43.6 runs created
You want to know why the Royals are never going to win? Who was responsible for letting John Buck go to Toronto (where Toronto suddenly had the best overall catching in the league), and replacing him with the ancient, impotent, and immobile Jason Kendall? Kendall can still throw a little, but the rest of his game is lacking. Brayan Pena should have been given this job from the outset. Pena is a better hitter, a better athlete, and has upside.
Alex Avila/Gerald Laird (DET) – 32.3 runs created
Laird is a really good catcher with solid skills, good with pitchers, good against the run, relatively mistake free. Avila is nearly his equal and played 86 more innings. Neither hit – but Avila was closer to league average than Laird, who seems to have lost his bat altogether – explaining why Avila got more time behind the plate. If Avila can step up a bit – maybe .260 and slugging .400 – this would be a positive. He’ll be a backup, though, as Victor Martinez will take on a load of catching in 2011.
Lou Marson (CLE) – 22.4 runs created
As a team, Indian catchers were average – but the young guys were good in terms of avoiding mistakes and making the throws. The veteran backup, Mike Redmond, struggled against baserunners (see Craig Tatum, BAL, above). I’ve always been a Marson fan, but if his bat doesn’t improve soon (.195 with no power), he’ll become the new Paul Bako. You think the Indians miss Victor Martinez?
Matt Treanor/Bengie Molina (TEX) – 20.5 runs created
A few years ago, it looked like Texas had all the good young catchers. Saltalamacchia is gone, Taylor Teagarden has been disappointing, Max Ramirez isn’t the answer yet, leaving veteran Matt Treanor as the best of the lot. It was so bad, the Rangers imported Bengie Molina from the Giants down the stretch, and he wasn’t much better than Treanor – though he was more mobile. Nobody hit here, so the addition of Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba will help immensely.
Adam Moore/Rob Johnson (SEA) – 14.9 runs created
Josh Bard got 300 innings, too – nobody had more than 515 innings at the position in 2010. Moore wasn’t very good against the run and he isn’t very mobile. If he has room to grow, that’s news to me. Rob Johnson was good against the run and more mobile, but his health record looks like Medicare’s worst nightmare. Bard can catch, but that’s about it. As a team, among the worst catching in the league. Only Bard hit above .200, and he hit .214. Not good at all…