The Rays Obvious Catching Problem

Rays need a catcher – they needed one last year. Watching today’s game (Rays lost to the Rangers 3-0) reminded me of that. The Rangers did a double steal, and Jaso seemed to admire it. In fact, the Rangers were running all over the Rays this past series; they looked more like the Rays than the Rays did. The Rangers realized that they did not have to worry about being caught stealing since the Rangers’ catchers can’t throw a runner out. There is a better chance for the catcher to throw the ball over the 2nd baseman’s head to B.J. Upton in center field than to catch a player stealing second.

Though I do like John Jaso, he was a break out star last year (hitting .263, one of the highest on the team lat year), his catching isn’t perfect. At first, I just thought he just needed experience, guidance, a veteran catcher’s presence , someone to study… but, his defense has remained the same in the past year. At the moment, Jaso has committed one error and has allowed 3 passed balls. He seems to not even bother with catching players stealing.

Kelly Shoppach came from Cleveland and for some unknown reason, the Rays signed him for 2 years for 6 million. This means that only Johnny Damon, Upton, Ben Zobrist, and James Shields are making more than him. This means that Shoppach, with his .152 batting average, is making more than Eva longoria, David Price, and Matt Joyce. Shoppach was at his best in 2008, batting .261 with 55 RBIs, but in 2009, it was .214 with 40 RBIs. The next year, he was with the Rays. I don’t know why Rays signed him to an expensive contract after he was coming off a bad year. He has only continued to struggle; in 2010, he batted .198 with 17 RBIs. Currently,  his batting average is .152 with 7 RBIs. In Tuesday’s game in the 2nd inning, Rangers Pitcher C.J. Wilson loaded the bases. With one out, it seemed as though the Rays had a chance to win. But Shoppach came up and even though Wilson was looking horrible (he walked 3 batters, 1 intentionally, that inning). Shoppach swung at each pitch and managed to hit into a double play. Though the Rays somehow managed to win that game, Shoppach’s eagerness was too desperate; he was swinging at everything. Also, he fails at guarding home plate. The other night he practically let the Rangers score, he was about 5 feet in front of the plate. Ugh!

The two of them are the 2nd worst offensive catching duo, batting an average of .196 and throwing out less than 24% of potential base stealers.

Dioner Navarro, Rays’ former catcher, had to be better, defensively, than these two. I know for a fact that Navarro was better offensively than Kelly Shoppach. In 2008, Navarro was batting .296 with 54 RBIs, but in 2009, his batting average dropped to .218 and he only drove in 32 runs batted in. His low batting average is the reason why he lost playing time due to Jaso and Shoppach. Navarro ended up in the minors, but is currently playing for the Dodgers for 1 million this year. Though his batting average was low, Shoppach’s has remained lower.

Now to move on to Rays fans’ popular questions: 

1) With the All-Star Break being next month, will the Rays look for a catcher?

Doubt it, the Rays already have two catching prospects. In the Durham Bulls (Rays’ minor league team), there is Robinson Chirinos and Jose Lobaton. Chirinos came from the Chicago White Sox in the Matt Garza/Fernando Perez trade. In 2010, Chirinos batted .362; currently it is .254. Then there is, Lobaton who is batting .317 and has an OBP of .415. He has stolen base 16 times (caught 8 times) and bats both sides, meaning he can bat against right and LEFT handed pitchers.

2) So if we have catchers in the minors, why isn’t he playing with the Rays?

Joe Maddon is known to being loyal to the Rays players. I mean, why else was Rocco Baldelli on the playoff roster in 2010 after playing in a small number of games throughout the year? Also, remember when Gabe Kapler played in right field even though his batting average was in the .100s? Maddon used to be a catcher, meaning he may feel a connection with Shoppach. Then there’s the fact that if the Shoppach kick him off the team, they still have to pay him his salary. *Totally unfair* 

3) Can the Rays trade Shoppach?

Uh, sure, but who would want him? Any baseball organization watching the 2010 playoffs would have seen Shoppach throwing the ball over Longoria’s head in a catching-stealing attempt. This costly error resulted in the Rays losing to the Rangers and dropping out of the playoffs.

4) Is there any hope for the Rays this year?

Of course; though the Rays are going through a slump, they are only 2.5 games behind the New York Yankees and .5 games behind the Boston Red Sox. But, the Rays need to address their catching problems. Jaso needs to relearn everything about being a catcher. He has let too many players steal bases and has let too many balls pass him by. Also, the Rays need to get RID of Shoppach. He is only hurting the Rays. Pay him the rest of his salary and bring up Lobaton. Nothing could be worse than him. Nothing.


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