Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 12, 2009
BASEBALL: The Schneid
Adam Rubin looks at some data, in relatively small samples (we're talking 50-60 at bats in some cases, although the selected items all point the same way) suggesting that Mets relievers and some of their starters were markedly less successful with Brian Schneider catching than Ramon Castro. (I got the link from Bill James Online; James is skeptical of how dramatic the data is). The difference seems mostly to be in home runs allowed, as no homers were hit off Heilman, Wagner, Sanchez or Feliciano with Castro catching, and markedly fewer off Pedro and Santana. Of course, one has to consider alternative explanations: for example, Castro started only 4 games in September, when several key relievers were tired and wearing out, and Castro played more of his games at pitcher-friendly Shea (22 starts at home, 18 on the road). And Keith Woolner, who has studied the issue with deep math, is unconvinced that catcher effects on ERA are anything more than random chance (more here). That said, it's a question that merits further examination, since Schneider's defensive value is the main reason he has a job.
So, with that in mind, let's look at the overall numbers for ERAs with Schneider catching and not catching, based on the Hardball Times numbers for Catching ERA over the past five seasons:
Looks to me like there's not a significant effect teamwide in 2008, and even less of one over the long term, although individual seasons seem to show Schneider as a huge net positive in 2004 and a large negative one in 2006-07. Granted, the opposition-slugging data in the article may be more probative for the relievers than ERA, but even so, where are the OBPs? This suggests some cherry-picking of the data here, and honestly given that the source of the data is guys who work for agents, I have to wonder if they have an agenda in passing along the selection they are sending Rubin.