Photo credit to Mike Stone / Reuters
By Sarah PowersPersonal catchers very rarely exist in baseball. Many people think the concept is crazy and a waste of time, but I believe that certain pairings are worth it, especially in light of what the Rangers saw in the last 1/3 of the season from one specific pairing on the team.
After Geovany Soto was acquired by the Rangers last July 30th, many had questioned how he and the rotation would do together, especially Yu Darvish. After he handled Darvish a couple of times, it was said that the pair did well and they’d be together exclusively in the absence of Mike Napoli. The move more than paid off for the Rangers. Darvish had a 6-2 record with a 2.42 ERA with Soto and looked the best he had all season. I believe that Geo helped facilitate that.
Napoli, as seen below, relied on the fastball an average of 51.54% during those outings. He relied on all the other pitches combined an average of 48.59%, with the slider and curve being his secondary pitches to call for. The pairing’s ERA was 5.74 (4-3 record).
Also, just for some perspective, I’m including an eight game set when he was paired with Yorvit Torrealba. As you can see, Torrealba had pretty much the same plan as Napoli: fastball, with the slider and curve the second and third most called for pitches. The pairing’s ERA was 5.22 in this eight game sample.
Soto, on the other hand, utilized a mixed pitch approach to handling Darvish. He still favored the fastball the most, but his secondary go to was the cutter and not the slider. The pairing’s ERA was a very commendable 2.42 (6-2 record).
Obviously, Darvish is a great pitcher and will have great stuff regardless of who is receiving him. That being said, I feel Soto is a big component of Darvish’s success with his ability to call a more effective game by utilizing a diverse mix of pitches and not relying on a singular plan as Napoli and Torrealba appeared to do. It hasn’t been confirmed, but it would not surprise me if the duo is kept together until further notice in 2013.
Closing note: I’d like to see Darvish use his change-up more. I think he could be even more consistent & effective with two shut down pitches (the split and the change), but that depends on his comfort and the catcher’s inclinations. Sarah Powers is a Staff Writer for ShutDowninning.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SEP0710.