I wrote the following on May 18th, 2006:
Player A: .346 batting average, five home runs, five doubles, 13 RBIs, a .393 on-base percentage and a .731 slugging percentage.
Player B: .291 batting average, four homers, four doubles, 12 RBIs, a .321 on-base percentage and a .447 slugging percentage.
Obviously Player A has the statistical edge. Not an overwhelming one, but an edge nonetheless. Both players are catchers, with Player A having nabbed three out of 11 would-be base stealers (27.3 per cent), while Player B nailed three out of 21 (16.7 percent).
The pitching staff has an ERA of 4.62 when Player A is behind the plate, compared to 4.88 with Player B back there.
You would likely conclude that Player A is having the better statistical season both at the plate and behind it. Surprisingly, the AB’s shake down like this:
Player A: 52 plate appearances
Player B: 103 plate appearances
In other words, Player A has piled up his stats edge despite being given roughly half the playing time as Player B. Just for fun, let’s look at one last set of numbers.
Player A: $1 million salary
Player B: $5 million salary
Welcome to the world of Jays catcher Gregg Zaun, a.k.a. Player A. Wonder how much money the Jays will have to shell out to keep Zaun around should Player B, that being fellow catcher Bengie Molina, leave as a free-agent next winter?
Here’s an educated guess: a lot closer to $5 million per year than $1 million.
Since then, times have changed. A few weeks ago, Zaun more or less took over the starter’s role from Bengie Molina causing Bengie to whine to the Toronto sports media. Not long after, Bengie resumed the lion’s share of the Jays catching load, but mostly due to Gregg Zaun’s miserable slump that he has only recently begun to emerge from.
Today, Zaun stands at .261 batting average, 8 home runs, 13 doubles, 26 RBIs, a .361 on-base percentage and a .436 slugging percentage.
Today Molina is sporting a .282 batting average, 13 homers, 14 doubles, 1 triple (!!!) 38 RBIs, a .317 on-base percentage and a .447 slugging percentage.
Zaun has 211 AB’s whereas Bengie has a gaudy 333. Zaun’s CS% is 28.6, Molina’s is 18.9%.
To me, Zaun is still the bigger stud of the two. Although his average is dipping, he makes up for it in OBP which is all you can ask for from a catcher not named Mauer. Zaun’s power numbers are still respectable (probably due to the 25 lbs. of lean mass he acquired in the offseason – shout out to Biotest supplements). Defensively Zaun is a super stud compared to the slow as molasses (and perhaps on the decline due to his CS#’s) Molina. However, it is my belief that the Jays are strongest having a 2 headed monster at catcher. We saw how Zaun faded with his exorbitant workload last year and Bengie is the kind of athlete who you know needs to be spelled every once and a while. You put the two players stats together and you have 21HR’s and 64RBI’s – pretty solid numbers coming from the catching position.
So, a team like the Jays working with a 75-80mil payroll, what do they do next season? Keep Zaun who will likely command the 4-5 mil range as well as pick up Molina’s $7.5 option? Not likely. Buy Bengie out at 500,000 and hope he signs for the same as Zaun 4-5mil? Also unlikely. Keep Molina and send Zaun packing? I don’t think that sends the right message to a clubhouse that seems to be somewhat fragmented. (Zaun by the way would win any fight in the clubhouse tunnel) Those who know me know that I have a soft spot for gamers like Zaun. A gamer is a player who gives it his all night in and night out, respects the game by playing it hard and the right way, doesn’t complain when hurt (or go running to the media about playing time – he conducts himself as a professional) and sacrifices himself for the team. /cliche.I see these qualities in spades in Gregg Zaun. I place less importance on stats than sabermatricians JP and his mentor Billy Beane, and to a lesser a degree my distinguished colleague on this website, Kman. Players are human beings and as such, cannot be accurately predicted by numbers. There are no stats to measure a catcher’s handling of a pitching staff/the calling of a game. That’s why I say the Jays go ahead and resign Zaun if he will have them for 4-5mil and send Molina on his merry way. Zaun more than deserves it. Thoughts?