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RandBall: How good of a defensive catcher is Suzuki?

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • December 20, 2013 - 12:01 PM

Kurt Suzuki, who has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Twins, has a reputation for being a good defensive catcher. That would seem to make him a great fit on a team with a raw young catcher (Josmil Pinto) who is a better hitter than fielder at this point, particularly now that Joe Mauer is moving to first base and the defensively challenged Ryan Doumit has been traded to Atlanta.

But sometimes we simply say things enough times and accept them is true without actually stopping to examine the facts. So we want to ask: Do the facts suggest Suzuki really is a good defensive catcher? Well, yes and no.

*He has had three very nice seasons in terms of defensive runs saved, posting totals of 10, 6 and 8 in successive seasons. That's a metric measuring the number of runs he saved in a season above the average catcher. Five is considered above average, while 10 is great. The downside is those years were 2008-10. In his last three seasons, he is a -1 combined. So about average. Doumit was a -16 in that same three-year span from 2011-13, so it's certainly an upgrade.

*In terms of framing pitches, Suzuki traditionally ranks toward the bottom in MLB. In 2011, his last full season with one team, he was 10th from the bottom.

*That said, he has a .993 career fielding percentage and his 26 percent career mark for throwing out base stealers is right around the league average.

*Perhaps the best news is that pitchers throwing to Suzuki have a 3.88 ERA in his career. The MLB average during that time is a full quarter-run higher. Now, we're not entirely sure if that's a function of him or some good pitching staffs he's worked with primarily in Oakland, but we imagine a lot of Suzuki's reputation for being a good defensive catcher comes from that intangible area of "calling a good game" and "working well with pitchers." If that's the case, he'll do just fine here. And regardless, he'll be a defensive upgrade over what Doumit had to offer.

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