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Diamondbacks Game Preview #81: 7/5 vs. Giants

Joe Mantiply talks about his stellar season, and we ask, is 2022 the death of the offensive catcher?

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Austin Slater - CF Jordan Luplow - RF
Wilmer Flores - 1B Cooper Hummel - LF
Darin Ruf - LF Ketel Marte - DH
Evan Longoria - 3B Christian Walker - 1B
Joc Pederson - RF Buddy Kennedy - 2B
Yermin Mercedes - DH Carson Kelly - C
David Villar - 2B Alek Thomas - CF
Brandon Crawford - SS Geraldo Perdomo - SS
Austin Wynns - C Jake Hager - 3B
Alex Wood - LHP Tyler Gilbert - LHP

Roster moves

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the following roster moves:

  • Recalled LHP Tyler Gilbert (No. 49) from Triple-A Reno.
  • Claimed INF Sergio Alcántara from the Padres
  • Designated RHP J.B. Wendelken for assignment.

O HAI, Sergio. Welcome back to the Diamondbacks organization. He played 23 games for the team at the start of the year, though hardly hit his weight, batting .189. He was DFA’d, picked up by San Diego, where he failed to hit my mother’s weight (and she died in February), with a .114 average and no extra-base hits, over 22 games and 38 PA. I guess he’s going to be roster depth for now. Or maybe it was just to stop the Giants, who are currently looking for infielders down the back of the sofa, in their trouser turn-ups, and on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Gilbert, of course, is back to start tonight’s game. We’ll see how well that works out.

The slump in catcher offense

This kicked off with me looking at yesterday’s starting catcher, Jose Herrera, who went into the game with an OPS of .450. I began looking to see how that ranked among all D-backs position players, only to find he wasn’t the lowest on the current roster, or even the worst-hitting catcher. For Carson Kelly’s OPS this year was .403. Both men did improve their figure fractionally yesterday, but I then wondered how badly Arizona’s collective catcher figures ranked. It’s below the Uecker Line at .199/.257/.288m a .545 OPS, mostly due to the efforts of Daulton Varsho. That’s the worst in team history, forty-five points below the previous low in 2018, with the triple-headed suck beast of Alex Avila, Jeff Mathis and John Ryan Murphy.

So I started looking as to where that figure for catchers ranked in major-league history, only to find it’s not even the worst in baseball this season. In fact, there are no less than FIVE teams who come into play today with a lower OPS from their catchers than Arizona. What’s especially interesting is, all five have winning records, and most would be in the playoffs if they started today. In descending order, they are: the Rays (.531 OPS by their catchers), Cardinals (.499), Mets (.493), Guardians (.493) and Astros (.487). Of the six lowest catcher OPS’s by team in the divisional era, i.e. since 1969, four are this season. Collectively, AL catchers have their worst OPS since that point too; the NL are at a 30-year low.

Part of that is simply that offense generally is down. Despite the arrival of the DH in the National League, MLB OPS is 21 points lower than in 2021. That’s the second-lowest figure since 1992, ahead just of 2014’s figure of .700. The batting average across baseball of .242 is, similarly, the lowest for the majors in the Divisional Era (or, if you prefer, since the mound was lowered after the 1968 season). But it seems to have affected catchers more: the MLB OPS is down by more than twice the overall figure, dropping 43 points, from .697 to .654. The last time the figure was lower than that, was 1976 (.648). Here’s a chart showing how catcher OPS and overall OPS compare since 2000.

Obviously, catchers mirror the overall trends. Yet you have to go back more than twenty years to find as big a gap, the 53-point difference tying the figure back in 2001 - arguably the peak of the steroid era. I don’t have any particular reason for this, but just found it an interesting rabbit-hole to go down, simply after seeing Jose Herrera’s batting line.

Joe Mantiply audio

Finally, and completely unrelated, here’s Joe Mantiply talking before yesterday’s game to Jack Sommers. So far, he has likely been the unsung hero on the 2022 Diamondbacks, and has been arguably the best left-handed relievers in baseball. While he acknowledges getting to the All-Star Game would be great, he’s focused simply on the day-to-day business of getting people out. He feels it’s a combination of factors that have got him to this point, especially simply being in a place where he’d get opportunities. Check out the full audio above.