It’s been a tough few games for Dodger catchers, but then again, it’s been a tough season for Dodger catchers. Tim Federowicz not only went 0-5 in the loss to Arizona, he let the go-ahead run score when he couldn’t handle Chris Withrow‘s wild intentional walk throw (which, to be fair, is largely on Withrow as well), let another Withrow pitch get past him — his second Withrow passed ball in four days — and then ended his night by taking a ball off the groin after committing catcher’s interference against Paul Goldschmidt.
I’m not writing an entire post about Federowicz’ night, because Eric Stephen already did that, and he did it well. But what it does make me need to do is point out just how ineffective the Dodger backstops have been over the first few weeks of the season. Here’s how the three catchers have performed at the plate:
A.J. Ellis: 29 PA, .167/.310/.167 53 wRC+
Federowicz: 29 PA, .074/.107/.111 –42 wRC+ (not a typo!)
Drew Butera: 11 PA, .200/.273/.200 40 wRC+
Immediately, this is unfair, and I know that. Ellis more than likely was affected by his knee before he actually had surgery, and judging the second and third catchers against the first and second catchers of other clubs isn’t really fair, in addition to these being minuscule sample sizes.
MLB catching stats by team:
1) Reds — .375.438/.643 187 wRC+
2) Brewers — .350/.435/.500 161 wRC+
MLB AVG — .248/.316/.396 99 wRC+
29) Nationals — .161/.224/.258 29 wRC+
30) Dodgers — .131/.221/.148 11 wRC+
Right there, you can see how much losing your starting catcher hurts, because Washington lost Wilson Ramos on Opening Day, forcing them to go with Jose Lobaton and Sandy Leon. And we knew that Butera was never going to hit, and we were pretty certain that Federowicz wouldn’t either. They haven’t, and this team wasn’t built around requiring offense from behind the plate, so it’s just a disappointment, not a surprise.
But what is disappointing is what’s happening on defense. Butera has built an entire career around being a superb defensive catcher, but pitch framing just hates him. Federowicz is here almost entirely because he’s supposedly a solid defensive catcher, but we’ve seen several times in the last week alone where he’s cost the team back there — and framing doesn’t love him either. As catchers across the sport are hitting better than ever, the black hole from behind the plate in Los Angeles looks even worse, and the seeming lack of defensive value isn’t helping.
The good news? Ellis is progressing well in his return from surgery, participating in all baseball activities other than running, and it seems like he may be back on the low end of the original four-to-six week estimate. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it can’t happen soon enough.