Can Statcast, at Baseball Savant, tell us the "what" and the "why" the catchers are causing such turmoil within the Cardinal Organization?
It seems the one-week-big brouhaha over whether Wilson Contreras is capable enough to be Yadier Molina's successor, is over. What started out with Contreras being removed as the primary catcher and assigned the primary DH role, which was never clearly explained, has now evolved into Contreras being returned to the primary catching role.
All is now well in Cardinal land. Order has been restored.
But what pushed the Cardinal front office and Manager Oli Marmol to make this controversial move in the first place? With the starting rotation struggling to get into the sixth inning and having high ERAs across the board, the blame could fairly be pointed in several directions.
However, when the Cardinals announced Contreras was being moved from the primary catching role and being replaced by Andrew Knizner, the fingers seemed to be pointing squarely at the former Cub. Were the Cardinals just looking for a scapegoat? Or did the analytical-driven Cardinals have other reasons for this move?
Let's look at Statcast and the possible analytical reasons.
Statcast is the primary analytical tool used by all 30 MLB teams to "analyze player movements and athletic abilities in Major League Baseball." It's a "high-speed, high-accuracy, automated tool" which has been in use since 2015.
There are four analytical tools developed by Statcast to measure the effectiveness of today's catchers.
1. Catcher Blocking
2. Catcher Framing
3. Catcher Poptime
4. Catcher Throwing
Using Statcast, I'm going to compare Contreras, Knizner, and the catcher, who I believe the Cardinals really wanted, Sean Murphy. Also, for comparison, I will look at Yadier Molina's 2021 Statcast metrics. It was the last full year Molina was with the Cardinals and a better measurement of his value to the club than in 2022.
Keep in mind, Molina's metrics from 2021 are based on a full year, where Contreras, Knizner's, and Murphy's are based on 2023 to date. Not a full year. This slightly warps Molina's numbers a bit.
Additionally keep in mind a 0 rating, with the exception of poptime, in any, of these measurements is considered league average. A + rating is above league average, and a - rating is below league average.