Note: Marcels does not project defense, so this article focuses solely on offense.
The following table lists Marcels projections for the likely starting and backup catchers of the AL East teams, sorted by wOBA. I also included Russell Martin for the sake of comparison:
|Ross, Dave||Red Sox||36||315||281||72||15||1||10||29||3||1||.256||.326||.423||.322||39||64%|
|Saltalamacchia, Jarrod||Red Sox||28||463||420||99||22||2||21||37||2||1||.236||.299||.448||.318||56||76%|
|Arencibia, J.P.||Blue Jays||27||435||399||94||19||2||20||29||3||1||.236||.290||.444||.311||51||77%|
|Thole, Josh||Blue Jays||26||416||372||97||18||1||5||37||2||1||.261||.331||.355||.295||43||77%|
Note: I did not include Austine Romine because he has only 20 MLB PAs. Marcels projections for players with so little MLB experience are merely noise.
Looking at the starters, as expected Wieters projects to be the best catcher in the division. Russell Martin would have put the Yankees in the middle of the pack - Martin's projection is similar to Saltalamacchia's and Arencibia's, and much better than the Rays' catchers.
However, backup catchers always play a significant number of games, so let's look at how the catchers project by team for the major "percentage" stats, again sorted by wOBA. The last row of the table also includes the MLB averages for catchers:
The key observations from the team perspective are that:
- David Ross' batting skills and Taylor Teagarden's lack thereof projects the Red Sox to have slightly better overall offense from their catchers than the Orioles.
- Ross sure would have been an upgrade over Chris Stewart. (The Red Sox got Ross for a modest 2-year, $6.2 million deal.)
- The Yankees' catching projects to be horrific.
Now let's focus on the Yankees. Their projected number of PAs is 512, well short of 640. It might be Cervelli or Stewart or some other catcher(s), but someone will have to fill the gap. The projections suggest Stewart will catch about 60% of the time, Cervelli about 40%. This should not be taken too literally; the way the Marcels algorithm works, it merely reflects that Cervelli had 3 MLB PAs in 2012 while Stewart had 157; which, arguably, was due to Stewart lacking minor league options.
I bring projected playing time up because when you look at Cervelli's projection, it shows some promise. He lacks power, but his on-base percentage is pretty good. Indeed, his projected wOBA is similar to Russell Martin's. This however does not mean we should equate Cervelli's and Martins's projection. Martin has proven he can put up such numbers over the course of the season, while Cervelli has been a part-timer. Marcels itself tells you this, in the Reliability column.
Let's however look at optimistic side and speculate a bit. Let's suppose the projection reflects Cervelli's true talent. Let's further suppose that he can hold up physically as a regular catcher. If we give Cervelli 490 PAs and Stewart 150, Yankee catchers move from a below-average wOBA to .307 wOBA - around league average. They also would generate about 5 more batting runs - if we follow the traditional sabermetric convention of 10 runs equating to a win, that gives the Yankees a 1/2 win.
Let's not take this 1/2 win measure too literally. On an individual basis, a player whose skills are measured as being a 1/2-game better than another player's could impact several games. It's a matter of random timing as to whether a few walks help win games or go for naught.
Cervelli himself provides a perfect example. In 2012, he only had 3 PAs, and so according to this sabermetric convention, Cervelli contributed to 0 wins. However, in the next-to-last game of the season, Cervelli drew a 2-out, 12th-inning walk, and eventually came around to score the game-winning run. This was a huge win, as it preserved a 1-game lead over the Orioles.
If Stewart had been hitting, the probability of him getting on base would have been around 4% lower than the probability of Cervelli getting on base. We'll never know whether last season's huge walk was one of those plate appearances where Cervelli's skill advantage came into play.
But for 2013, one perspective is that if Cervelli is indeed 4% more likely to get on base than Stewart, over 490 PAs Cervelli would reach base about 20 more times than Stewart. That could quite possibly flip a few games to the Yankees.