Going For Gold: Catchers Edition
The 2013 baseball season is right around the corner. One thing that I have been waiting to happen for 4 years is the World Baseball Classic. The 2009 United States team finished in 4th place with Japan winning the Championship Game against South Korea. The teams rosters have came out and it is looking like the United States team should be a contender for the Gold Medal, as they should every year. Their lineup should be a tough one to put together with 8 position players who usually hit either 3rd, 4th or 5th. Manager Joe Torre is known as a players manager and I’m pretty sure these guys will fall into place no matter where they are batting. It still does make me wonder how some of them will react to batting in the bottom of the order; since they have been in the heart of it for most of their careers. I also do understand that of course they are going to get the best hitters at each position but it seems that all of their starters are the prototypical 3 or 4 hitters. Their roster does have a lot of great players on it but I am still questioning a few of the decisions that were made, most notably the pitching. Over the next few days I will be going over their catchers, infielders, outfielders, pitchers and a projected lineup of what I think they should do. Since I was a catcher when I played baseball I think it is quite fair to start with the players who are wearing the “Tools of Ignorance.”
The 2009 United States teams catchers are Joe Mauer, JP Arencibia and Johnathan Lucroy. Mauer is the only left handed hitting catcher on the team and I’m sure he will get the majority of the starts. He should because he is a 3 time American League Batting Champion, 3 time Gold Glove winning catcher and a former AL Most Valuable Player. I’m not sure who will get the next amount of starts, Lucroy and Arencibia are both pretty young in their Major Leagues careers and both have concerns about their defensive abilities. They do have a mixture of talent with their catchers. Arencibia is a power hitting catcher hitting 23 home runs last year with the Blue Jays. Mauer is consistently on top of the AL batting charts and has a career .323 batting average. Lucroy hit .320 last season with the Brewers over 96 games. Mauer and Lucroy each only average about 10 home runs a year over their careers.
Defensively, Mauer has thrown out 32% of runners trying to steal over his career but last year he only threw out 14%, which is very below average. His career high is 53% of runners thrown out in 2007, which is astounding. Arencibia and Lucroy have thrown out around 27% of runners in their short careers.
In 2009, the United States had Brian McCann and Chris Iannetta as their catchers. I do think that this years is a better group of players than in 2009. It would have been nice to have Mauer and McCann both on the team but McCann had surgery on his throwing arm in October and won’t be ready until the start of the MLB season. I do think that Mauer is the best catcher in the MLB. He is a very consistent hitter and a valuable asset on any team even with a lack of power. His defensive skills were not up to par last year but I think it was a fluke, especially with the inconsistency of the Twins starting pitchers. He is a very good game manager and a very aware veteran that will be a crucial leader on this years team. This is a solid start for the US team on their way to the Gold Medal.