Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Baseball Debates: A new series of posts that raise debatable questions about the wide world of baseball. Each post will pose a question, argue both sides of the debate and then let you, the reader, have the final say. You can find the previous installments here: Fences, Saves, and Coaches. Let’s get to it!
Welcome back to another installment of Baseball Debates. Up this week is a question that hits closer to home for any Minnesota Twins fan. Kurt Suzuki was brought in this offseason for a one year deal, presumably to provide veteran leadership and experience as a backup/split-time catcher. The man who he would be backing up, Josmil Pinto, proved he could hit during his September call-up, though he could use some addition seasoning playing less than fulltime to help his defensive abilities. But last week Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reported that Terry Ryan essentially named Suzuki the starting catcher, with who knows what happening to Pinto at the start of next season. So now Puckett’s Pond is asking, Should Kurt Suzuki Be the Starting Catcher for the Minnesota Twins?
- The Twins finally have some legitimate starting pitchers after signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and they need a legitimate catcher who can call a good game and do the little things that pitchers need to be successful. Kurt Suzuki has caught 804 major league games so he has the experience to match up with our pitchers. Meanwhile, Pinto has caught 20 “garbage time” September MLB games and spent 2013 in the minors DHing almost as much as he caught (52 DH, 74 C).
- Suzuki hasn’t been much of a hitter since 2011 but his defense will balance out his skill set into a productive player. Suzuki hasn’t posted a negative defensive WAR since his rookie season in 2007 and in just the 20 games that Pinto played, he posted a -0.2 dWAR (a number that likely would have gone up with more playing time).
- If Suzuki starts the season as the main catcher option, it gives time for Pinto to develop the nuances of catching while watching a veteran guy. Or it even gives the Twins the chance to start Pinto in Triple A so he can really work on his defense, without the glaring spotlight of fan pressure that comes with playing in the Majors. Only 14 of Pinto’s 74 minors games played as catcher in 2013 were in Triple A, so Pinto would essentially be skipping the AAA level if he started with the Twins in 2014. Nobody needs a reminder of how well Aaron Hicks adjusted to the Majors after skipping Rochester in 2013. If Pinto is going to be a successful, long-term catcher for the Twins, he needs to have more time to develop before being the starting option.
- The Minnesota Twins added some great pieces this offseason to help the starting rotation but that isn’t going to turn the team into a playoff team. Just getting to .500 would be considered a pretty big success so why should the Twins rush Josmil Pinto into the Majors when it might mess with his long-term development? Suzuki starting probably won’t help or hurt the team all that much and he is already a developed player. Let him take on the colder, hard to heat up April and May baseball. Then Pinto can take over fulltime as a knight in shining armor later in the season.
- Pinto should start the season as catcher precisely because the Minnesota Twins are still rebuilding. Since there isn’t much pressure to play for a playoff spot, the Twins can afford to give at bats to an inexperienced Pinto in the catcher slot because his offense will outweigh his defensive gaps. Pinto will be an extremely important player when the Twins start competing again so the team should make sure he is an experienced player once the turnaround happens.
- Look at this Joe Mauer-like batting line! .342/.398/.566 (Avg./OBP/SLG). Josmil Pinto can flat out hit so he should be the catcher who plays the most in 2014. To be fair, that batting line came in only 83 plate appearances so you can expect a drop-off over the course of a full season, but the Twins won’t know what they can expect from Pinto in the future until they give him a full season in the majors. That should be an easy call when Pinto is going up against Suzuki’s 2013 line of .232/.290/.337.
- Suzuki shouldn’t be the main starting catcher because his defense isn’t actually all that great and actually makes pitchers stats go the wrong way when he is behind the plate. Take a look at this report of the stats of his pitchers when Suzuki has been behind the plate versus other catchers on his team. In stats that the catcher should have a big impact on, his pitchers’ K/BB and K% goes down and BB% goes up when Suzuki has been behind the plate. Certainly not a great reflection of defensive skills.
- Minnesota Twins fans need some excitement in 2014 since the last three years have been mostly ho-hum. Hands down, Josmil Pinto would give the fans something more to cheer for than Kurt Suzuki since he is young, provides offensive potential and makes the Twins a better overall team.
Now it’s your turn to vote! Leave a comment to support your decision or to let me know if I missed any important supporting or opposing points!