In the second inning of Tuesday’s game vs Oakland, the Jays #1 Catcher, JP Arencibia, suffered from a foul tip off of his right hand. Initially, Arenciba looked as if he was going to be able to shake it off, staying behind the dish to catch 17 additional pitches to finish the inning.
The pitch, an 84 MPH Slider, was thrown to Inge with runners on 2nd & 3rd (no running/stolen base possibility) and the ball was far from ending up the dirt. The only reason to have his hand in front would be to try and catch one of the runners leaning with a pick off play however the risk involved in a play such as that was not one worth taking with a pair on and 1 out. The sequence begs one to ask themselves why JP had his hand out, leaving it susceptible to being hit by a foul ball. Simply put, keeping your arm behind you when the pitch is live is one of the first things they teach you when learning the position.
Failing to apply some of the basic fundamentals has lead some people to question JP’s defensive work behind the plate, a subject that has weakened the young Catchers overall value to the club since his debut in 2010. A debut that saw Arencibia go 4/5 with 2 Home Runs, 3 RBI and 11 total bases but a game that also saw the Tampa Bay Rays plate 11 in the loss.
Since the beginning, JP has been referred to as an “Offensive Catcher” thanks in part to his ability to drive the ball to all fields however if you take a look at how he’s preformed from a defensive standpoint in 2012, you can notice that his defense is becoming equally as strong.
A look at the numbers:
Fielding – (VS American League Catchers, 2012)
The number of Assists Arencibia has made this season, leading the league.
Caught stealing Percentage, Second in the league.
Total of Errors committed this season.
Number of Stolen Bases allowed this season, tied for 1st (fewest) with Kurt Suzuki & Matt Wieters.
Offense (VS American League Catchers, 2012)
Number of Home Runs, 2nd in the league.
Number of Extra Base Hits, 2nd in the league.
Number of RBI, Tied for 1st in the league.
Slash with RISP.
*Numbers were taken at the time of his injury
To be fair, it’s worth mentioning how Arencibia’s .276 career OBP is far from ideal and his ability to block pitches has proved to be a hindrance on the team earlier on in the season but at 26, he is still a work in progress and is steadily improving his overall game. Another concern has been his 4.70 Catchers ERA on the season putting his game calling ability into question.
Blaming Arencibia for the pitching woes experienced by the Jays in 2012 is extreme. Being the # 1 Catcher has resulted in Arencibia being subjected to the highs and lows of a young, beat up rotation. An argument can be made about the fact that 2011 saw JP end up with a 4.31 CERA however you have to give a 1st year Catcher a break in that situation. Especially in the AL East.
If I was to ask you who, in your opinion, would be the most productive Catcher in Blue Jays history, Who would you pick? Ernie Whitt, Pat Borders … Brian Milner?
JP is quickly earning his rank along side some of the greatest offensive Catchers to suit up for the Blue Jays in team history. During his 2+ years with Toronto, Arencibia has already set a team high in Home Runs for a single season with 23 (2011) and is 6th in all time RBI as a Catcher. These offensive highlights paired with the fact that he is becoming a top defensive player, bodes well for his future in the MLB.
As for now, Jeff Mathis will take over as the #1 Catcher having Yan Gomes fill in when he needs a game off. Mathis, who has always been solid with the glove has hit admirably during his time in Toronto having raised his Extra Base Hit percentage while making hard contact in the majority of his AB’s. Gomes is not as polished defensively however he provides the Blue Jays with a respectable bat out of the position.
With d’Arnaud out for the remainder of the season, the Jays will likely ride this tandem of Catchers until Arenciba is ready to make his return. The upcoming weeks will be a big test for Mathis as he takes the top spot behind the dish. His season to date has been exceptional and As of Monday, the 29 year old Catcher has hit .266 with 4 RBI and a pair of Extra Base Hits since Arenciba’s departure.
As always, I leave this topic open for discussion. Feel free to leave your opinion below.