Does Brian Schneider Stink?
Earlier this offseason — before Omar Minaya went into hibernation — there were rumblings that the Mets might be looking to upgrade their catching situation. Various rumors swirled involving Jason Varitek, Ivan Rodriguez, and Bengie Molina, among others. According to “sources with knowledge of the Mets’ thinking”, the team was hoping to get more offensive production from their backstops. The lefty-righty tandem of Brian Schneider and Ramon Castro combined for 16 HR, 62 RBI, 45 runs scored, and a .253 average. Not bad, but not great either. It’s about the same output as Varitek’s 2008.
Most recently, statistics published on Adam Rubin’s “Surfing the Mets” blog suggest that Schneider could be more the scapegoat of the Mets’ failure — but because of his defense, rather than his offense. The numbers reported in Rubin’s column, by way of “RayRubin Sports Analytics“, are as follows:
SANCHEZ caught by CASTRO 65 ABs, allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=292
SCHNEIDER 108 ABs, allows 6 HRs and OPP SLUG%=454
HEILMAN caught by CASTRO 50 ABs , allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=340
SCHNEIDER 195 ABs, allows 9 HRs and OPP SLUG%=456
FELICIANO caught by CASTRO 36 ABs, allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=306
SCHNEIDER 134 ABs, allows 6 HRs and OPP SLUG%=455
WAGNER caught by CASTRO 49 ABs, allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=204
SCHNEIDER 99 ABs, allows 3 HRs and OPP SLUG%=313
SANTANA caught by CASTRO 333 ABs, allows 6 HRs and OPP SLUG%=297
SCHNEIDER 524 ABs, allows 15 HRs and OP SLUG%=401
PEDRO M caught by CASTRO 138 ABs, allows 2 HRs and OPP SLUG%=377
SCHNEIDER 185 ABs, allows 15 HRs and OPP SLUG%=600!!!!!
Same phenomena holds with John Maine, Claudio Vargas and Nelson Figueroa. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Huh … those stats are worrisome, particularly since Schneider’s value as a ballplayer is tied directly to his defensive performance. If he can’t hit, AND can’t catch, how can the Mets move forward with him behind the plate?
Before we go piling on Brian and blaming him for all the Mets’ woes, let’s take a better look at what these numbers mean.
First of all, I don’t see the actual stats for Maine, Vargas, and Figueroa, so I’m taking for granted the source is telling the truth. Further, I don’t see any stats for Pelfrey, Perez, Smith, Schoeneweis, Stokes, Muniz, Sosa, Ayala, Wise, Rincon, Parnell, Knight, Niese, Armas, nor Kunz. Maybe the guys at RayRubin found similar trends, but didn’t deem it necessary to continue belaboring the point. Or, perhaps the split performances of the other pitchers don’t fit RayRubin’s argument, and thus were conveniently left out.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to say which is the case, because I can’t for the life of me find these individualized stats anywhere (if someone can, please send us the link!). All I can find is the “Catcher’s ERA” (CERA), which has Schneider at 4.11 and Castro at 3.68. Before we judge Castro the big winner there, consider that most statheads find CERA to be an unreliable indicator of a catcher’s performance.
But put all that aside for a moment, and let’s look at RayRubin’s reported numbers specifically. What could be the explanation for such a dire contrast in performance from Schneider to Castro? Right off the bat I’m seeing an issue with the sample sizes. Other than in the cases of Martinez and Santana, Schneider caught about double the ABs for each of the pitchers in question (with Heilman and Feliciano, it was nearly FOUR TIMES as many at-bats). Is it possible that Castro simply caught those pitchers on “lucky” days? What if the appearances were reversed — if Castro was the one to catch Heilman for almost 200 batters, for instance? Would Heilman have pitched extraordinarily better? No one knows for sure. These numbers suggest that Schneider looks bad simply because he was the guy that was usually behind the plate, rather than any negative impact he had on the pitching staff.
Which brings up another point — even if Castro was that much better as a receiver, it matters little since he couldn’t stay healthy enough to remain on the roster.
Looking at the rest of the defensive stats, Schneider has a fairly solid advantage over Castro (other than passed balls). Schneider threw out 21 of 63 (33%) runners attempting to steal, while Castro nailed 5 of 23 (21.7%). Passed balls — Schneider , Castro 1. Errors — Schneider 4, Castro 4. That last number is a bit scary, since Schneider caught 109 games and Castro only 47. If Castro caught, say, 120 games, he might have committed 10 errors or more. Another stat I can’t find anywhere is the number of wild pitches allowed per catcher. Though wild pitches aren’t necessarily a catcher’s fault, the better catchers minimize their occurrences. My eyes tell me that Schneider is much more nimble behind the plate than Castro, and my guess is that Schneider does a better job of keeping balls from getting past him.
As many of you know, I’m a catcher myself and so you may want to know my personal thoughts on this idea that Schneider is a prominent scapegoat. I have to say no — at least, I wouldn’t blame the Mets failures on Schneider’s defense or game-calling abilities. I do believe it’s possible that the pitchers who were with the Mets in previous years were probably more comfortable throwing to Castro, and I can tell you firsthand that it takes a while for a catcher to learn how to get the most out of a pitcher. When Schneider was swatting at balls early in the season, many wondered how a defensive specialist could commit so many passed balls. Anyone who’s caught at a fairly high level can tell you instantly — it’s hard as heck to catch a guy who (a) you haven’t caught before, or very often; (b) is throwing 90+; and/or (c) is wild. Since Schneider missed nearly all of spring training last year, he didn’t get a chance to catch the Mets pitchers as much as he should have. You can read the rest of my explanation on his passed balls here and here.
In other words, it probably took a while — probably half the season — for Schneider to both get comfortable with, and begin to learn how to extract the most from, the Mets’ pitching staff. A good catcher has to manage the pitcher’s emotions as well as his pitching repertoire, and also needs to know when and how to push / motivate a guy — and when to stroke his ego to build his confidence. In addition, the catcher needs to gain the pitcher’s confidence. When I look at those big slugging numbers, I wonder if the extra-base hits were due to Schneider calling a bad pitch, or the pitcher shaking off a pitch? We all remember that fateful NLCS game, when Guillermo Mota continually shook off Paul LoDuca; sometimes the catcher has the right idea, but the pitcher either doesn’t have confidence in the call, or doesn’t have confidence in himself to throw the pitch. Who is to blame in such a situation?
Assuming that Schneider returns to catch in 2009 — and all signs seem to point that way — I believe that the numbers cited above by RayRubin will improve, based on the fact that Schneider will have a better “feel” for his pitchers, and in turn, the pitchers will be more comfortable, and have more faith, in him. In short, NO — Brian Schneider does NOT stink — and the pitching staff can only improve with the continuity of Schneider behind the plate in 2009.
(Schneider has at least one more thing going for him — as of today, Martinez, Heilman, Wagner, and Vargas are not on the 2009 roster … so those terrible numbers can’t get any worse!)
******** Shout out to “isuzudude” for suggesting this subject *******
Funny, I wonder what type of stats RayRubin would discover if instead of focusing on the catcher they focused on the manager in terms of number of times going to a reliever in a) a circumstance where that pitcher had already appeared in consecutive days, b) the pitcher is entering the game with runners already on base, or c) entering the game in a situation that does not bode well for success (i.e. righty-vs-lefty, etc). I bet Willie and Jerry would look like complete clowns in comparison to Schneider if those numbers were tabulated, but farbeit for the media to make Jerry Manuel look like he has pie in his eye. I’m sure they’d jump at the chance to dance on Willie’s gravestone, but if that meant throwing Jerry under the bus too, then that’s an argument too unpopular to divulge.
By the way, pitcher’s stats when throwing to individual catchers can be found on the pitcher’s splits page on baseball-reference.com. For example, for Oliver Perez go to http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/psplit.cgi?n1=perezol01&year=2008 and scroll all the way to the bottom. And just as you speculate, indeed Schneider’s splits for Perez were better than Castro’s pretty much across the board. Way to reveal only one side of the story, Adam Rubin.
Our pitchers threw way too many pitches and I blame this on the catchers. Schneider is a bust and Castro is the happy hippo, never in shape, never able to stay in the line up because he’s always hurt. We need a catcher and not Pudge.
ID, thanks for taking the time to expose the one-sided approach. It would also be helpful to see how the stats of the RayRubin program distributed themselves throughout the season–did a lot of those hits and HRs happen at the end of the season, or were they clustered at the beginning (before Willie was fired)? It’s one thing to say, “Look at this stat pack. Schneider stinks,” when the facts actually bear out that most of the runs allowed were when the team sucked, at the beginning of the year.
Joe, it’s also possible that what you suggested–that Castro caught on “lucky” days–is plausable. As I see it, that’s about as valid an explanation as any.
One more thing, Julie–if the pitchers threw way too many pitches, maybe it’s because they weren’t throwing strikes! That’s not the catcher’s fault.
2. On Metsblog its being reported that a 3yr-30M deal was out on Ollie. Hmmm who said that here……………………..
3. The Mets are keeping tabs on Dennys Reyes and Wags could be back in August………………………………………….
4. And MLB rumors is hot on Michael Young.
Julie – welcome back! I missed you!
Happy Hippo … ha ha …
I have to sort of agree with Julie — Schneider was a bit of a bust, considering all the blah blah we heard from Minaya telling us how he and Church were going to make a tremendous impact because of their defense. While I believe Schneider was an obvious upgrade over LoDuca, I have to say he was disappointing to me. I’d remembered him as being a much better all-around receiver going back to the Montreal days. At the same time, I do think that he’ll improve somewhat after a year with the staff. I don’t think ANY catcher can look good trying to catch Oliver Perez the first time around, for example.
Mic – I’d rather see an I-Rod / Schneider platoon. Lefty-righty, both fairly strong defensively, both would benefit from sitting 2-3 times a week. Castro can’t stay healthy, Casanova is AAA filler, and Cancel was lucky as heck to be in the right place at the right time. Cancel is “ok” behind the plate but he’s too ditzy to consider for anything other than AAA depth. He was like Herb Washington or Roger Cedeno on the bases, except without the speed.
Reyes was addressed elsewhere on the blog. Are you sure he isn’t really Rich Garces?
Michael Young would be great, but only if the Rangers accepted Castillo’s salary as part of the deal. They’re not paying A-Rod any more so there should be some room in the budget for that. But then, 50% of Mets fans wouldn’t include Dan Murphy in a trade for Young. I can’t believe there was enough Kool-Aid for that many people.
I liked how you said it’s hard to catch a pitcher whom you’ve never caught before. Funny I don’t remember Mike Piazza or Gary Carter having those troubles when catching the likes of Al Leiter or Dwight Gooden. I’m sure you will agree as a catcher that REAL catchers will learn to adjust and as you mentioned, we didn’t see Schneider at ALL during Spring Training (I wrote about that over at MSF after we visited last year). What’s the excuse going to be this year? You know, when all our good pitchers will be at the WBC and Schneider who can’t even make his own country’s team is catching scrub AA pitchers? More passed balls, wild pitches and stolen bases. Schneider can’t go fast enough. I’d rather get Piazza out of retirement at this point.
I’m bewildered by all the people who are bashing Brian Schneider. Obviously RayRubin’s stats are skewed to make him look bad as they left out all the pitchers (which was about half the staff) in which he encouraged better production out of over Castro. I wouldn’t put it past Rubin that the article is a powerful fan’s ploy to give Omar a little shove to get Schneider out the door and bring in Pudge or Varitek or whoever Rubin prefers behind the dish. Seriously, were any of us thinking that Schneider was going to hit .290 with 20 homers and 100 ribbies this past season and play gold glove defense to boot? Yes, his defense left plenty to be desired, especially compared to the hype, but his offense was on par with his career averages, and his mediocre defense can be blamed on a multidude of things out of his control. So why is it that we are so surprised with Schneider’s stats? It’s always good to look at upgrading any position, so of course Schneider deserves his criticism, but to say he flat out sucks is completely ignorant and uneducated, and to blame the majority of the Mets woes on Schnieder is unjust. Remember, the Mets’ bullpen stunk just as much in 2007 and Schneider was still toiling in Washington that year, so he can’t be the eternal scapegoat we’re all so desperate to find.
Joe, the same 50% of fans who inexplicably wouldn’t deal Murphy for Young would immediately jump to the 90% of fans who want Omar fired for not trading Murphy for Young if Murphy regresses in 2009 and Young continues playing all-star caliber 2B. Too many flip-floppers in our group, I’m afraid. It’s obvious Murphy’s value is higher right now than it ever will be, but too many Met fans project him to be the next Wade Boggs based on his short reign of success in 2008, so even if you presented a Murphy-for-Peavy or Murphy-for-Carlos Lee deal, many fans would balk on the idea. There’s more kool-aid drinkers than you thought.
Schneider, on the other hand — and as you alluded to both here and in your own blog — caught no one in ST, and didn’t catch much in April, either (due to a hamstring strain and another injury that never quite got out). And his main issues were with Oliver Perez — who is tough for anyone to catch — and Aaron Heilman (at first). Ollie walked 101 unintentionally, hit 10 batters, and threw 9 wild pitches in less than 195 IP. That’s pretty wild. Further, Schneider was receiving everyone more than adequately after around mid-May / early June — which makes sense — about 6-8 weeks, or the time he could have gotten acquainted with everyone in Port St. Lucie.
I’m with you, Coop, on the “real catcher” thing. But where the heck did all the “real” catchers go? Where are Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Johnny Bench, Lance Parrish, Jim Sundberg, Darrell Porter, Carlton Fisk, Bob Boone, Gene Tenace, John Stearns, Tony Pena, and Ed Ott? Those were warriors … and all played in the same era! Oh that’s right … if a catcher can hit a little, they have to move him or the poor thing might hurt himself (see: Carlos Delgado, Raul Ibanez, Mike Jacobs, etc.). You can count the number of bad-ass, two-way catchers on one hand today … and at least a couple are in the twilight of their careers (Varitek, Pudge).
Isuzudude: Julie has been a Mets fan since the beginning. It takes a special person to remain thrilled with a team that finished in last for the first seven years of its existence, and has kept her loyalty through such frustrating heartaches such as the Nolan Ryan trade; June 15, 1977; Pete Falcone; Bobby Bonilla; etc. Negativity is a key component for at least half the Mets fan base, and a sign of passion. Without it, we may as well be St. Louis Cardinals fans. Yay! Go Redbirds! It’s OK you lost, we know you tried rrrrrrrreal hard! Go get ’em next time, boys!
But otherwise, I do agree … there’s much more wrong with this team than Schneider, and much more to fix before addressing the catching position. A number four starter, for example, would be nice. A Major League left fielder would be great, too. And then there’s second base …. and middle relief ….