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Pudge is not the guy you want developing your young pitchers

Dec 9, 2009, 10:45 AM EST

Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus is the first person I’ve seen defend the Pudge Rodriguez deal:

But it many ways, this deal isn’t about Pudge at all. If you are the
Nationals, who is the most important player on your roster? It’s
Stephen Strasburg, and it’s by a country mile. Could there really be
anything better for Strasburg’s development than giving him a veteran
catcher who understands the game as well as anyone around?

The
only problem with that is that Pudge has no real history of helping to
develop young pitchers.  I was talking to some reporters who have
covered Rodriguez in the past yesterday — guys who followed him in
Texas, Florida and Detroit. Reporters who have very high opinions of
Pudge in general and who have never slammed him in print as far as I
can tell. To a man they say that Pudge is neutral if not detrimental to
a young pitcher’s development.

The story is that he rarely if
ever takes part in the pitcher/catcher meetings before games during
which game plans and opposing hitters are discussed. He mostly just
kind of sits there and lets the backup catchers take the lead. He also
is said to care so much about his caught stealing percentages that
he’ll call fastballs when they’re not warranted by the count so he has
a better chance of killing the runner.  I suppose killing runners is
valuable and no one’s better at it than Pudge, but the runner can’t
score if you get the hitter out, right?

Granted: this is
hearsay. But it’s hearsay from people who have covered the guy in the
past and from people who don’t seem to have any axes to grind. The
story they tell:  Pudge Rodriguez: great catcher; was once a great
hitter; nice enough guy; not the best mentor for young pitchers.  If
you’re gonna defend the Nats signing him for two years and $6 million,
you’re going to have to do better than that.

  1. Mark Armour - Dec 9, 2009 at 11:08 AM

    I know that Jack McKeon creditted Pudge for the Marlins staff in 2003. It was a team filled with young pitchers with a lot of histories of injuries, and they all broke through and had good years and turned their careers around. That would be Beckett, Pavano, Penny, Willis and Redman.
    His staff all improved when he went to the Tigers in 2004 also, as he joined a team that had lost 119 games.

  2. Old Gator - Dec 9, 2009 at 11:20 AM

    Having sat in my Amplexus Corporation company box seats all throughg that glorious 2003 season and watched the entire process unfold, I can’t really disagree – and there was also the fact that Pudge was the heart and soul of the team as a whole, leading by example with his hard-nosed plate blocking, hitting, take-no-prisoners attitude all season long. I didn’t really pay all that much attention to the Tigers because they play too much hip-hop during their games and I can’t stand the stuff – I mean, a “song” (which is a really generous description) doesn’t even end with a goat sacrifice anymore. But what of that. The point is, that was then, this is now (even in a relativistic universe, assuming that we’re all moving at the same velocity in relation to the speed of light). For six million, you could have bought good, retired players as pitching coaches for the entire league. And you wouldn’t be plugging a singularity into the number six or seven spot in your batting order in the process.

  3. willmose - Dec 9, 2009 at 11:34 AM

    On the other hand, you don’t have a high opinion of Pudge. A good, steady catcher is very important to a pitching staff and team. When Casey was asked the secret to his success with the Yankees, he said he never played a game without his man. Granted Pudge isn’t Yogi, but but he is a heck of lot closer to him than any other catcher the Nats have. It sounds to me like you are bad mouthing Pudge because you think it was silly for the Nats to sign him. I think you are wrong. Catching and pitching are the most non-linear part of baseball. So, pony up some linear stats to back up that Pudge isn’t good with young pitchers. My guess is the stat is called CIOPPIMLB (Catching-Independent-Of-Pitchers-Playing-In-MLB).

  4. Bon - Dec 9, 2009 at 12:24 PM

    I can’t imagine that a guy with a giant gold statue of himself in his backyard would be the best choice for patiently nurturing young pitchers.
    IRod has been a great ballplayer for many years, and has earned respect for that. But whenever people start talking about his clubhouse presence or leadership or anything like that, I can’t help but think of what sort of individual keeps golden idols of himself in his residence, and how completely that one fact squelches any suppositions towards his positive leadership abilities.

  5. Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 9, 2009 at 12:42 PM

    You’re designer jean-wearing Bowden SLAMMED Pudge and the Goldstein report this AM. Or was it yesterday.

  6. Andrew - Dec 9, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    This is an empirical question; let’s get some empirical data (i.e., numbers) to back this up. Do young pitchers, on the statistical average, do better under Pudge than they do under other catchers?

  7. Craig Calcaterra - Dec 9, 2009 at 12:55 PM

    Andrew — I don’t even know if data will necessarily help here. One example I heard was that with the 2003 Marlins, Mike Redmond — the backup — would spend all kinds of time going over the opposing hitters with the pitching staff, utilizing a big notebook with scouting reports and tendencies and all of that. Pudge, meanwhile, did nothing. Does Pudge get credit for good pitching performances and development there, or does Redmond?

  8. Old Gator - Dec 9, 2009 at 2:49 PM

    Not exactly that it was silly to sign Pudge per se, but that it was ridiculous to pay him $6 million. It was.
    Incidentally, Pudge wasn’t the only guy with an eye-catching statue of himself along the canals. Up to a few years ago when he moved to California, Screw Magazine publisher Al Goldstein kept an enormous sculpture of a clenched fist with middle finger upraised in his back yard along the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale or Delray, whichever line you had to cross up there. It was kind of a tradition up there for boaters who saw Al louging by his pool to shoot him a bird and yell “Hey Al, f*ck you!” or moon him as they went by. He generally responded in kind. Our loss is California’s gain, I guess.

  9. SHOE INSERTS - Jan 29, 2010 at 3:43 PM

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