[Before I get into the substance of the post, I wanted to share Miguel Montero’s grand slam for the Tennessee Smokies last night, struck as he rehabs his thumb injury in anticipation of an imminent return to the Chicago Cubs:
Hopefully he brings some of that pop with him when he’s back with the Cubs, presumably this weekend. Ok, on with the rest.]
When discussing correlations in the baseball world, I’ve found that you’re pretty much never going to be able to convince everyone up front that you’re not pointing out a causal relationship. If you mention a correlation – no matter the sample size or your caveats – folks will invariably laud you as having discovered the explanation for something, or (on the other hand) chastise you for junk statistics.
Still, with that preamble aside, I’m trying to say that, with this article (and so many other baseball observations we make), I’m merely pointing out something interesting I noticed. Maybe there’s something here, or maybe it’s just one of the many “things” that happens in a given baseball season, what with its unique combination of skill, human beings, physics, flukes, and randomness. I noticed something, and I’m starting a dialog.
Miguel Montero left the Chicago Cubs’ July 11 game against the crosstown White Sox after suffering what was later deemed a sprained thumb. Although the injury opened the door for the Cubs to bring up world-beater Kyle Schwarber (and give him some on-the-job training behind the plate), it was unquestionably a blow to the Cubs’ overall performance. Coming into this season, we’d heard stories about Montero’s prowess behind the plate defensively, as a receiver, and as a commander of pitchers. Since then, as I’m sure Cubs fans will confirm from their anecdotal observations, that has played out in spades. I’ll confess I’m not the best man to describe the statistical intricacies surrounding catcher performance evaluation, but I can say that what I’ve seen of Montero tells me he’s a stud back there.
Now, I could go into the kind of small sample, purely observational anecdote here – the kind of anecdote I discussed in the preamble above – about how it seems like certain Cubs pitchers have performed considerably worse while Montero’s been out. But I won’t. I actually want to talk about something that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention when it comes to Montero: his bat.
From Opening Day until May 19, Miguel Montero was an offensive force, hitting .313/.430/.500 with a 19 percent strikeout rate and a 17 percent walk rate. That was good for a 155 wRC+. Dude was raking.
After May 19, however, Montero’s production declined dramatically – from that point until his injury on July 11, Montero hit just .182/.277/.328 with a 29 percent strikeout rate, a 10.3 percent walk rate, and a mere 70 wRC+. Dude was… a good defensive catcher.