Quantcast

john baker cubsAfter today’s surprising George Kottaras release, Rick Renteria told the media that non-roster invitee John Baker will be the Chicago Cubs’ backup catcher heading into the season. Baker simply won the job over Kottaras and Eli Whiteside, who will stay with the organization and head to Iowa, presumably as the third catcher.

Among Renteria’s praise of Baker, he liked the “well-roundedness” of Baker’s game, per Bruce Miles. That’s probably a nod toward Baker’s defensive skills, which are believed to be quite good. And, as much as I’m disappointed by the Kottaras news, I do recognize that backup catchers are mostly kept around for their defensive value (and rightly so, given the limited starts and relatively limited offensive upside). Also, for all we know, Baker is fantastic with pitchers and fantastic with Welington Castillo. Development remains the priority this year.

That said, don’t expect too much offense from Baker, who bats lefty. His career line is actually rather nice for a backup catcher – .258/.342/.364 – but it’s been considerably down in the last four years: .219/.301/.259. The numbers haven’t been much better in the minors, either. On the Spring, Baker is hitting .292/.292/.417 over 24 plate appearances.

At least Baker takes a lot of walks – his walk rate is consistently over 10% – and he’s got a career .727 OPS against righties. The splits aren’t great in the last few years, but the sample sizes are SO small that it’s hard to glean too much from them.

In the end, Baker is probably better than Koyie Hill offensively, and he’s got a good glove. The front office and coaching staff got a long time to evaluate him this Spring, and they clearly liked what he saw. So he’s the guy.

As a second “in the end,” the Cubs are obviously looking for Welington Castillo to really step it up this year and take on the vast majority of the starts. Hopefully, with some luck and health, there won’t be many backup starts to go around anyway.

  • CubsFaninMS

    Baker Cat is watching you masturbate.

  • itzscott

    I never did get the man crush on Kottaras, not that I feel anymore reassured about the 2nd coming of Koyie Hill should (heaven forbid!) Castillo get injured.

  • Edwin

    I’m sure it will work out. I mean, when have things not worked out for the Cubs?

  • V23

    The Kottaras hype seemed tied to this board only. To me, throw all the backups in a bucket, hold your nose and grab one.
    But with $89 Mil Payroll (lower than the white sox even), can’t waste any money on a backup catcher. So just flip a fricken coin.

    The best thing coming out of spring is Mike Olt. The worst is that it seems that this is an unabashed tank season to suffer through.

  • CubFan Paul

    I like to be right.

  • Rebuilding

    I finally looked around and figured out what the Baker/Kottaras thing is about: Baker is considered a very good pitch framer and was tutored in it in the Padres system (who were at the forefront and Grandal was the top framer when he played last year). If you read Fangraphs you know that they have been beating the drum that pitch framing may be the most important thing a catcher does:

    “Analysts have looked at the issue of catcher framing and discovered dramatic and repeatable differences in framing performance among catchers, often to the extent of 20 runs per season. The best framing catchers (like Jose Molina) extend the strike zone well beyond its theoretical size while the worst (like Ryan Doumit) actually shrink it. Remarkably, the run differential between Molina’s team and Doumit’s is more than 60 runs per 120 games – essentially half a run per game.”

    “Padres back-up catcher John Baker is much more succinct: “If you’re jerking your glove around, you’re basically signaling to the umpire that it wasn’t a strike.” The primary issues in “losing” a strike are missing the target, catcher glove movement and catcher head-drop.”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Pretty interesting thought there, Rebuilding.

    • CubFan Paul

      “they have been beating the drum that pitch framing may be the most important thing a catcher does”

      I was *here* before they were there. Baker will be an excellent mentor to Castillo who’s the worst at framing.

      • Cheese Chad

        “I was *here* before they were there.” Hipster Catchers?

    • C. Steadman

      Hmm interesting, thanks for this rebuilding

    • Featherstone

      Nice catch there Rebuilding. Adding pitch framing to Castillo’s already good defensive skill set will go a long way into making him a fixture behind the plate. If he can provide anything offensively he could be a top-10 catcher in baseball.

    • Isaac

      If this is truly the case, MLB umpires should be fired. The decision is made before the ball hits the glove; any umpire that does not practice this isn’t worth their weight in salt. It absolutely baffles me that fans and amateur analysts eat this up so much…perhaps it’s nothing but a negative reflection on the state of umpiring.

      • Rebuilding

        @Isaac – They are human beings. Their perception of whether a pitch is a ball or a strike is prone to mis-perception for a variety of reasons. Lighting, angle they stand, where the catcher sets up, pitcher’s reputation and yes…pitch framing. Why in the world would that surprise you? You’ve never seen a good pitch that crosses the catcher up get called a ball because the catcher looked so awkward? It happens all of the time

      • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

        “It absolutely baffles me that fans and amateur analysts eat this up so much”

        Ummm…there are many studies that show certain catchers are better at getting called strikes.

        Fact of the matter is that with 95+ MPH pitches and breaking balls, umpires aren’t going to be able to always see where the ball traveled through this imaginary box in the air perfectly and even the best of them is going to sub-consciously seek out a 2nd data point that their decision was correct.

        • ssckelley

          It makes me wonder if baseball will ever see an automatic electronic strike zone instead of having an umpire behind the catcher, which is not exactly a safe place to be.

          • Fishin Phil

            I really doubt that, and I’m not sure I would want that. My umpire voodoo doll would become obsolete.

            • ssckelley

              But I think a strike should be a strike, it should not make a difference how the catcher frames it or which umpire is working behind the plate. They have the technology, it is a shame they do not put it to use.

      • Mreverything

        I completely agree, Isaac. Why are they looking where the catcher catches the bal? The strike zone is supposed to be at the front of the plate which the ball passes before the catcher catches it. So all this nonsense about framing can’t be true can it? It’s something that some stat head made up one day.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Perhaps you don’t know, but receiving skills and the ability to frame pitches in a way to influence the umpire pre-dates “stat heads” by decades. That’s a pure “baseball” thing, through and through. The stat side of it evolved only to evaluate framing.

          That’s like saying “bunting nonsense” can’t be true, just because someone thought of ways to statistically evaluate bunting. Turns out: bunting exists whether you evaluate it or not.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Discussion about pitch framing predates the organized statistical analysis of baseball by wide margin. You could almost argue that it was one of the final areas where we had nothing but the eye test and stats were effectively useless.

          That’s changing now, fortunately.

  • D-Rock

    For those who think Spring Training doesn’t mean anything:
    “Baker really worked hard this spring and I kind of think he just earned a spot,” Renteria said after the moves.

    • C. Steadman

      ST stats don’t mean anything.

      • Coop

        Saying SP stats don’t mean anything is different than saying SP doesn’t mean anything.

        • Coop

          ST… damn the lack of an edit button!

        • C. Steadman

          I know, D-Rock and me had a discussion about this yesterday which is why I responded to the “For those who think Spring Training doesn’t mean anything” part. I know ST means something, players work on stuff and prospects get to work with big league coaches, but ST stats don’t.

      • D-Rock

        “ST stats don’t mean anything.”

        This isn’t completely true. It is true to an extent, but stats measure performance. Yes, the scouts, managers, FO, are all looking at lots of things and stats are just one piece of the pie, but to say they don’t mean “anything” would be not true. If two guys are competing for the same spot and one outplays the other, there’s a good chance his stats will be better. Again, I’m not saying in general stats decide everything, but they do reflect a player’s performance and are kept for a reason; otherwise every game would just be a scrimmage with no score-book-keeping.

        • Jason P

          Spring stats have almost zero correlation with regular season stats. That is a statistically proven fact, and because of it, spring training stats will always be useless.

          • C. Steadman

            ya beat me to it.

        • C. Steadman

          ST stats are a poor indicator of future Regular Season performance is what I meant. Just because a guy had a great Spring doesn’t mean he’ll have a great Summer. I suppose that’s what I mean by ST stats don’t mean anything.

          • D-Rock

            Agree completely that they are a poor indicator of future regular season performance. Just hate it when people say they don’t mean anything because they do show how guys are performing and jobs are won or lost in the spring. But, I completely agree that spring stats are not an indicator for the regular season.

          • MatthewP

            This whole comment thread has me sadly reminiscing about Rosey Brown; Destroyer of Minor League/Spring Training Pitchers.

  • jp3

    “In the end, Baker is probably better than Koyie Hill offensively”. So he’s going to occasionally get on base in every 200 ABs?

    • bbmoney

      ha, the ultimate kiss of death praise. Better than Koyie Hill offensively. Love.

  • ejf174

    Does anybody know the availability of Wichita State Shocker alum Koyie Hill for the 2014 season.

    • C. Steadman

      In camp with the Phils

      • ssckelley

        Who, Koyie Hill?

        • C. Steadman

          Yep

  • ssckelley

    Koyie Hill……..Koyie Hill…….

    Such a famous name, did anyone ever get his autograph?

    • ejf174

      Never got his autograph, but I did talk to him a couple of times at games in Atlanta. If there was an advanced metric to cover personality he would probably he would be a perianal league leader. Good Dude

      • DarthHater

        A perianal league leader? That isn’t a very nice thing to say about such a good dude. :-P

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Kottaras went from bad to hideous defensively. His throwing this spring was just not at a major league level. Read the quote of what baker said to Edwards coming off the field last night. That is what you want from your catchers.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    I would have sent John Baker to Iowa and kept Kottaras as the back-up more upside and could have tried to pawn him off at the deadline. John Baker could have played everyday in Iowa and been brought up later in the year. The Cubs FO just threw away a marginal asset(trade chip)

    • CubFan Paul

      “more upside”

      ?

    • C. Steadman

      I think the Cubs want Baker to mentor Castillo defensively which would be more valuable than the type of prospect that a backup catcher could fetch.

    • Noah_I

      Not many teams are willing to trade anything of significance for a backup catcher because they play so few games that it’s not worth the difference between one backup and another. Maybe if Kottaras was the sort of guy a team would trade for to slot in for a couple months if the starting catcher got hurt, but I don’t think he’s that type of player at this point in his career.

    • JadeBos

      No one wanted Kottaras for his 1 million salary, so I dunno how much of trade chips he was/is.

    • Featherstone

      Think about Dioner Navarro last year and how we couldn’t trade him last year despite the great season he was having. Back-up catchers really aren’t worth much even during great seasons.

      • ssckelley

        And I find that odd since they play every 3rd or 4th day and catchers are injury prone.

        Heck Koyie Hill keeps finding a job!

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Everybody knows the Rangers are going to pick up Kottaras now

    • ssckelley

      Gee, not sure why they would want now after reading through all of this. Evidently he is another Koyie Hill.

  • Noah_I

    This still doesn’t mean they were willing to trade for him. They may only want Kottaras at league minimum, and if they can get him that way through him being released, why not? Cubs also have no incentive to eat any money in a trade, since the contract is non-guaranteed.

  • Spoda17

    Jon Daniels to Theo…

    JD – “Theo, you raped me with the Garza thing… so to quote my mentor Dr. Evil; “…throw me a friggn bone here..!”

    TE – “…okay JD, I’ll give you my two favorite fillins; Murphy and Kattaras”

    JD – “WOOT! you are da man Theo”?

    TE – “No prob Jon; see ya in July for Shark; here is the players I want, keep their pitch counts down”

    JD – “Sure thing bro… hug?”

    TE – “I’ll pass, go hug Ron Washington…”

    • Funn Dave

      Statistically speaking, if you cross-reference the number of BN readers with the proportion of the population that has been sexually assaulted, there is at *least* one rape victim who will read your comment and feel extremely uncomfortable, and probably offended, by your flippant, distasteful use of the word “raped.” You may have even caused that person (or people) to relive some traumatic memories. So, no judgements; but next time you post something to that effect, be aware of what its effect might be on those who read it.

      • GoCubsGo
      • ssckelley

        Yes we need to be more sensitive around here, this includes native americans. That whole male hugging thing kinda bothers me too.

        • vitaminB

          So we don’t need to be sensitive to gays though?

          • ssckelley

            No, gotta be sensitive to them as well.

            • Fishin Phil

              And puppets, please be sensitive to puppets.

              • Edwin

                I’m entitled to my belief that puppets marrying puppets is a sin.

                • Fishin Phil

                  I agree with that, but puppets with hot women is just fine!

                  • Edwin

                    Puppets choose to be puppets, they’re not made that way.

                • ssckelley

                  I do not agree with it either. But I have a friend that is a puppet.

                  • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                    Oh ya. Well I have a friend who is a puppet AND made out of plastic. I’m clearly more cultured and less of a puppetist than you are.

            • CubsFaninMS

              If we were to follow the marching orders of the PC Police (as instructed above), we would all be walking like cats with tape on our feet. It is nearly to that point already.

              • mjhurdle

                that is not very sensitive to cats

                • Fishin Phil

                  Or tape for that matter.

                • ssckelley

                  But I have never heard a cat being offended, but if they are I will be in support of being more sensitive to their feelings as well.

                  • DarthHater

                    Cats are offended by the mere existence of humans.

        • BlameHendry

          can’t tell if serious or trolling. How would two guys hugging offend you?

          • ssckelley

            Wanna hug?

            • BlameHendry

              i mean I’m not opposed to it…

          • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

            I’m offended if guys don’t cross their legs properly.

      • blublud

        Funndave. Get the fuck out here, You cant be serious. If you comprehend the word in the manner that he used it, and you’re offended, then you have the problem, not him.

        This is worse than the media getting mad at Kevin Garnett for calling a basketball game a war because our country was at war. People need to get over themselves and stop looking so deep into shit.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Well, to be fair, the way he used it kind of trivializes actual rape by comparing a baseball trade a violent sexual assault, yes?

          Like I’ve said before, I don’t give a hoot about being “PC,” but I do care about being kind and thoughtful when it’s easy enough to do so. I’m not going to lose my shit on Spoda, but I would suggest that using “rape” to describe baseball trades is probably unnecessary. Lots of ways to convey the same meaning without minimizing a pretty serious subject.

          • blublud

            Brett, I sincerely agree with that. Also, I apologized for the way I came. But, if you right a post that says Javier Baez assaults a baseball, should I be offended since I have been a victim of assault before, or should i understand at you are talking about how hard he hit a ball. All I’m saying is I don’t think Spoda was speaking out in favor of rape or promoting or advocating rape, any more than the Baez title would be advocating violence and I hope anyone with a little common sense can see that. I agree, we should be sensative, but we should also use a little common sense.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Appreciate the thoughtful response. I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole, but it’s worth noting that “assault” has multiple meanings that work in the “Javy Baez assaults a baseball” sense. It doesn’t necessarily mean a crime at the expense of a person. Rape is always that.

              • vitaminB

                Not to go further down the rabbit hole, but rape also has more than one meaning. It also means to plunder, as in what we did to the Rangers on the Garza deal.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  By its xth definition, you are correct. I suppose I just meant in the most common understanding of the term. But someone else could say, from their perspective, the same thing about assault.

                  In the end … I just don’t think “rape” is a very nice word to be used out of the actual rape context.

                  • blublud

                    I agree, I don’t use the term in that manner. I just think, with a little common sense, we all knew what point he was making.

                • blublud

                  It also means to seize, take or carry off by force. So his term was actually correct. Not to get away from the larger point.

            • Funn Dave

              What is it with which you’re sincerely agreeing exactly, Blublud? Because what Brett’s saying doesn’t differ from what I said. Colloquial use of the word “rape” is (in my opinion) wrong for the same reasons it is (in my opinion) wrong to call something “retarded” or “gay.” If I were to to finish a tough test (for some reason I’m still in school in this scenario) and go into the lunchroom to gripe about it, I wouldn’t say, “that test was gay,” or, “that test was retarded,” or “that test raped me.” There may be someone in the lunchroom who is gay or retarded or a rape victim, and that person may feel uncomfortable or ashamed because of the stigmas attached to those words. However, because those words have entered the colloquial American lexicon, some people use them without even realizing that they might have such an effect. Hence, the only way to remove such words from our lexicon without impinging on anyone’s freedom of speech is to politely point out what effect such words might have, as I have done above.

  • BlameHendry

    I never understood the excitement around Kottaras. I realize he walked a ton but walks hardly ever knock in runs, and who’s he gonna walk on base for? The pitcher? Not that Baker will really be any better but I just didn’t get the excitement over acquiring him or disappoint over losing him.

  • npnovak

    I think this makes sense for the Cubs (saves money, probably better defensively), but I’ll probably keep Kottaras when I start MLB 14: The Show. I’m guessing he will be rated much higher in that game than Baker.

  • Blackhawks1963

    A backup catcher needs to be solid defensively and work well with pitchers. That describes Baker to a tee. Kottaras can’t throw and was terrible defensively this spring. Who really gives a rat’s ass if he can draw a walk.

    Good move by the Cubs. Renteria scored points with me today.

Bleacher Nation Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Bleacher Nation is a private media site, and it is not affiliated in any way with Major League Baseball or the Chicago Cubs. Neither MLB nor the Chicago Cubs have endorsed, supported, directed, or participated in the creation of the content at this site, or in the creation of the site itself. It's just a media site that happens to cover the Chicago Cubs.

Bleacher Nation is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Google+