Phillies Catchers Need Defensive Improvement

Going into last night’s game against the New York Mets, Phillies catchers had not been punishing opposing base-stealers. With Carlos Ruiz (58 percent of defensive innings at catcher), Brian Schneider (26 percent), and Dane Sardinha (16 percent) behind the dish, the Phillies had thrown out just 23 percent of base runners. The average National League team has stolen 33 bases in 45 attempts, a 73 percent success rate (or, conversely, a 27 percent failure rate) . The Phillies’ catching trio entered the night with 24 percent, 18 percent, and 29 percent caught-stealing rates.

The Mets ran wild on Ruiz on Saturday night. Four different Mets stole a base, including Jose Reyes with two. The only runner caught stealing was Angel Pagan on a pick-off move by Cole Hamels. The Mets entered the night third in the league in total stolen bases at 44. As they are slightly below-average offensively, base running is tantamount to their scoring runs. Both Mets runs last night were directly attributable to stolen bases:

  • Bottom 1st: Jose Reyes doubled to lead off the inning, stole third, then scored in the same at-bat on a Justin Turner single.
  • Bottom 3rd: Jose Reyes singled to lead off the inning, stole second, advanced on a Carlos Beltran fly ball to right field, then scored on a one-out Jason Bay single.

Ruiz is known as a decent defensive backstop with a great ability to block pitches in the dirt, call games, and handle a pitching staff. However, he received poor grades in terms of throwing out runners in Matt Klaassen’s Catcher Defense Ratings as of May 10. At the time, Ruiz was 70th out of 76 eligible catchers with 1.1 CSRuns below average.

Player PA Tm CSRuns
Josh Thole 925 NYM -2.4
A.J. Pierzynski 1035 CHW -1.8
Ryan Hanigan 689 CIN -1.7
Jonathan Lucroy 653 MIL -1.5
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 759 BOS -1.2
Carlos Ruiz 676 PHI -1.1

Although the Phillies’ offense has picked up since Chase Utley’s return, averaging 6.5 runs per game in his six games, they still figure to be an average to slightly above-average offense with great pitching. With so many games expected to be close and low-scoring, preventing base running efficiency for opposing offenses becomes more important.

In other news, Mike Pelfrey balked yesterday and it was hilarious.