After this weekend, all three of the Rays catchers have caught at least 20 games. So we thought it would be a good time to take a closer look at how the catchers have performed defensively.
First, let’s take a look at some standard defensive metrics (stats do not include Sunday’s game)…
Dioner Navarro has been slightly better than John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach, having thrown out 38% of would-be base stealers. Navi also did not have a single passed ball in nearly 300 innings of work. Still, based on these numbers, we wouldn’t say Navi has been so much better that it would make up for his lack of hitting.
Now let’s look at how the pitchers have performed based on who was behind the plate…
Now we start to see some clear statistical distinctions. Pitchers have an ERA a full run less with Navi than with Jaso and 2 runs better with Navi compared to Shoppach. But does that mean the pitching staff was better when Navarro was catching? Yes. But it may not have been because of Navarro.
Opponents batted only .215 with Navarro behind the plate. That is about 40 points lower than both Jaso and Shoppach. That difference is almost entirely explained by the lower batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Considering the pitching staff has changed little, a significantly lower BABIP with Navarro suggests that the pitchers were luckier earlier in the season when Navarro was doing the majority of the catching.
Nobody was more concerned about Jaso’s defensive abilities than we were. But the numbers so far suggest that Jaso is holding his own. And the Rays have not lost a step defensively by demoting Navarro. The pitching staff just isn’t as lucky as they were early on.