Aug
13

The future needs to be now behind the plate

By

I have something to show you:

Chris Stewart spray chart

That is Chris Stewart‘s spray chart since the All-Star break (via Texas Leaguers). You know how they set up those short little outfield fences behind the infield for charity softball games or whatever? I think Stewart would have hit like two homeruns since the break using those fences. According to the batted ball data at FanGraphs, he hasn’t hit a fly ball since August 3rd (!).

This isn’t much of a surprise, of course. Stewart has never hit in his career and no one expected him to this year, yet he’s still somehow falling short of expectations at .219/.296/.279 (60 wRC+). Among the 33 catchers with at least 200 plate appearances this year, Stewart ranks 30th in offensive output. As an added bonus, he’s stopped throwing out base-runners — opponents are 13-for-15 (87%) in stolen base attempts against him since the All-Star break. He’s worn out. It happens when a guy who hasn’t started more than 85 games behind the plate since 2005 catches 70 of your first 117 games.

Austin Romine, meanwhile, has shown some signs of life since the All-Star break after being completely unplayable in the first half. He’s gone 8-for-23 (.348) with some power (three doubles and a homer) since the break and that’s kinda cool. Romine also had a few nice games at the plate immediately prior to the Midsummer Classic and has actually thrown runners out of late — four steals and four caught stealings since the break. It’s not much, but when you’re talking about a 24-year-old kid who missed basically half of each of the last two seasons with back problems, it’s encouraging. A silver lining in these rough last few weeks.

“He’s been swinging the bat pretty good,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand last week when asked about upping Romine’s workload down the stretch. “I might give him a little bit more playing time here and there. Stew’s still going to catch a lot, but he’s been swinging the bat pretty good.”

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

To Girardi’s credit, Romine has started seven of the team’s last 17 games. But that’s not really enough. Stewart is generally bad at this baseball thing and now he’s even worse at it because he’s out of gas. Romine should play more and not just two or three times a week. He should take over as the starter — three-fifths of the rotation has pitched so poorly that they don’t even deserve the luxury of a personal catcher, so that’s not an issue — and that’s it. See what happens. He won’t continue to hit .348 the rest of the way, but he can actually hit the ball in the air and still play pretty good defense.

There’s a pretty good chance Romine might stink at baseball too. Baseball is hard, especially as a young catcher. It took Yadier Molina three years to get his OPS over .700 and seven years to get it over .750, for example. But there’s also a chance Romine might not stink at baseball. It was just last year that Baseball America said his “defense still could make him New York’s long-term future catcher, with the offensive upside of a .270 hitter with 10 homers annually.” That’s pretty good by catcher standards. Certainly better than Stewart, who we know isn’t anything special because he’s 31 and hasn’t been anything special his entire career.

The Yankees are stuck in the unenviable spot of having way too many old players and way too few young players. Their long-term catching outlook is promising with J.R. Murphy in Triple-A and Gary Sanchez in Double-A, but prospects are no sure thing, especially catching prospects. Look at Matt Wieters. Romine has shown actual signs of life at the Major League level these last few weeks and that’s an amazing thing. The Yankees should be thankful for it and they should give him every opportunity to show it isn’t a fluke. As crazy as it sounds, they might even have a long-term building block sitting right under their noses, which is something they desperately need regardless of position.

Categories : Players
  • trr

    For the life of me, I can’t understand why Girardi keeps runnning out Stewart behind the plate. There’s no rational explanation. None.
    This is comon sense for chrissake – give Romine a chance!

    • pat

      I wonder if it’s at all possible that a 15 year MLB catcher/ Former Manager of the Year/ World Series winner/ 4x WS champion knows more about catching that the average bloke on a blog .

      • jjyank

        And that’s valid logic. This average bloke on a blog disagrees, but I don’t get all hostile about it because I know that Girardi is far more qualified to make these decisions than anyone here.

        • trr

          Fair enough gentlemen, except for this: whether measured statistically or simply by watching him play, Stewart is demonstrably a rock bottom option @ C. Romine may be no better; but with the playoff light rapidly dimming, now is the time to find out.

      • Anderson Silva

        There is a pretty good argument based on actual numbers that Romine gives us a better chance to win some games right now. But sure, let’s ignore that and go with your blind trust in Girardi.

        It might be just me, but objectivity is better than subjectivity.

        • Scout

          And maybe Girardi likes Stewart because he plays the game like…Girardi. It isn’t uncommon in many occupations for people to take a shine to younger peers who remind them of themselves. Subjectivity takes various forms, some quite subtle.

  • jjyank

    Agreed 100%. I’ve been around here long enough that you all know that I’m not prone to bash Girardi or the Front Office. I like to find the silver linings and support my team.

    But this is one area that kinda pisses me off. Chris Stewart does not have a future with the team. Romine might. Let him start and see what happens. With Murphy in AAA and Sanchez now in AA, he may not get many more chances to show what he can do as a full time player. There’s no reason that Stewart should get more starts than Romine at this point.

    I know a lot of us, and myself included, often mock the “let teh kidz play!!!” chants, but yeah…let the kid play.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      I’m all for “let teh kidz play!!!” when the starter is below replacement level. Stewart is such a black hole on both offense and defense that even if Romine is worse, there are diminishing negative effects once you’re dealing with performances that terrible. And at least with Romine you can hope for better things to come.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Well I lied. Apparently stewie has been worth 0.3 WAR.

        Boy, catchers are awful.

        • jjyank

          Stewart would be just fine as a BUC. Romine at least has upside, however limited it may be. I can usually understand the logic of the team’s decisions, even if I disagree with them. But this is a case where I don’t see any reason to start Stewart more than like, twice a week.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      Yup, this.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        He might not be better than Stewart, but it will be awfully hard for him to be worse.

        • jjyank

          Yeah, and I think the team owes it to itself to find out for sure. If Romine’s future is a BUC, then fine. But they really should make sure he can’t start first. Murphy is having a great year and Sanchez is a great prospect, but that doesn’t mean that they should give up on Romine as a starter.

          • Cool Lester Smooth

            Exactly, Murphy and Sanchez might flame out, and even if they don’t he could be a nice trade chip to some second division NL team.

          • Former ACE MannyGeee

            “If Romine’s future is a BUC, then fine…”

            To piggyback on your point, this *might* be his future, but we have zero idea. The only way to know is to run him out there and play the (relatively) hothand.

            I think we all kind of know as a fact that Stewart is a BUC.

        • viridiana

          Romine will certainly be better than Stewart. Has more pop. And Murphy, offensively at least, will be better than both. Defending Girardi when he is obviously loath to challenge or piss off his veteran players, is becoming increasingly untenable. To me, it seems that Girardi is overcompensating for the problems he had in Miami, when he was willing to challenge both players and management. Now he bends over backwards for veterans who could hurt him in clubhouse if they start grumbling. Obviously hinders rebuilding, which is now necessity. In a way, his overcompensation parallels that of Hal and Cashman — who still can’t get over the Igawa signing. It’s good to learn from experience. It’s not good to learn the wrong lessons.

  • Eddard

    Romine should now be playing 3-4 times out of every 5 games. Hiroki could throw to a tree stump and he’d still be a Cy Young candidate. Romine could catch him, CC, Nova and Hughes. Andy doesn’t like pitching to Romine so that’s a good day for Stewart to start.

    The lineup is actually decent now. The only black hole is Stewart so they might as well start Romine. He’s a better option for the present and the future.

    • I’m One

      Andy doesn’t like pitching to Romine …

      And you know this how? Private conversatios with Andy?? The fact that Andy hasn’t pitched well when Romine has caught him doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t like to pitch to Romine.

      • Former ACE MannyGeee

        In #EddardWorld, there are story lines required…

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Andy hasn’t liked pitching to anyone this year.

      • hogsmog

        He just sort of grumbles to himself, plays with the rosin bag and makes pickoff throws until the ump yells at him.

  • Nick

    He displayed potential in the minors that he can be a legitimate bat for the catching position, along with quality defense. It also wasn’t too long ago that he was a top 100 prospect. It makes all the sense in the world to get him as much playing time in 2013 the rest of the way, which is why it is unlikely lol.

  • Kd

    Stewart walking to the mound last night looked 100 yrs old.
    Do catchers call the game? Or do the genius ‘ in the dugout?
    They hate Romine that much??

  • Kd

    romine looks a little goofy, maybe he is

  • Robinson Tilapia

    All of this.

  • WhittakerWalt

    But see, according to John Flaherty, Stewart has been “invaluable” for the Yankees. I mean, where would the Yankees be without Chris Stewart this year?

    Maybe he means it’s better to have Stewart behind the dish as opposed to no one at all? Because then, yes, he’s been invaluable. Otherwise the pitcher would throw one pitch and it would hit the umpire, and then never throw another one, and the game would last forever. Yes, invaluable.

    Flaherty then went on to say that Stewart “may be scuffling a little bit lately.”

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That would work until someone got on base, after the first guy walks.

      This would be the genius of keeping Phil Hughes in the rotation. So many home runs that you actually don’t really need the catcher out there.

      • WhittakerWalt

        I wonder sometimes, is there anyone Hughes could not surrender a homer to? I mean, it’s only a matter of time before an NL pitcher gets him. Pitcher home runs are rare, but they do happen. Hughsie is eminently qualified.

        • Peter North

          “…is there anyone Hughes could not surrender a homer to?”

          Yes, Chris Stewart.

          Zing!

    • Monty

      Those sneak bunt singles with no one on are worth a ton to pad his .230 batting average and 16 RBIs through 100 games played… VALUE!!!!!!

  • Frank

    Agree Romine should be getting the bulk of playing time moving forward. Melky Mesa also deserves to be brought up and given a chance to play regularly. Sit Sori and Ichiro. Mesa played pretty well in his limited action a few weeks back. Give him a chance to see what he’s got.

    • Former ACE MannyGeee

      They didn’t trade for Soriano and commit to two years of him to bench him for this years Greg Golson.

  • nsalem

    For whatever reason, maybe the starters have expressed to Girardi a comfort level with Stewart that doesn’t exist with Romine. I can’t think of any other rationale. By my amateur eye Romine seems to be competent behind the plate and he has seemed very comfortable and aggressive in the batters box as opposed to the tentativeness he displayed in the first half. Maybe he is not totally healthy and they don’t feel he can physically handle being a full time catcher. Who knows. Don’t think we will ever be told the real reason behind this.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      “maybe the starters have expressed to Girardi a comfort level with Stewart that doesn’t exist with Romine.”

      Yo know what Girardi should say to that? “If this is comfortable, maybe we need to be less comfortable.”

      • nsalem

        From what most see (including me) Romine should be getting his shot. Girardi obviously thinks otherwise and I don’t think it’s because he believes that Stewart will all of a sudden become an offensive force. There must be another reason and I’m just speculating out loud.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          Yeah I’m not criticizing you. I just think that if that were the reason, it’s pretty much bologna at this point.

    • WhittakerWalt

      As Mike said in the post, these guys don’t deserve the luxury of a personal catcher. If that’s really what’s going on here, these pitchers need to STFU and pitch to whomever is back there.

  • The Real Greg

    I do agree that Girardi should be playing Romine and I am stunned that nobody in the media or in the organization has pushed that point with him more, i.e. ask him about it in pressers.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      You’re really stunned about that?

    • Get Phelps Up

      What would the media asking him about it do?

  • Bo Knows

    Should happen but it won’t, Girardi is a man of the “veteran presents” those guys will always rank higher on the totem pole no matter how undeservedly until someone else forces him to change. It’s one of my peeves with the guy.

  • Elton Cod

    6-8 weeks ago everyone in the comments was blaming Romine for bad pitcher outings, calling for his head, etc. Now all of a sudden Romine is perfect and should catch every game.

    I think he should catch more, but this is Joe Girardi we’re talking about. Every morning when he wakes up Girardi watches the movie ‘Platoon’, because matchups are the most important element of managing, much more important than actual statistics and common sense, which are much less important than statistics of really insignificant sample size.

    Stewart has a ‘veterinarian presence’ so by keeping him behind the plate Girardi feels like he is being strategeric like a good baseball manager should be…always two steps behind common sense.

    • The Real Greg

      And yet yesterday people who are paid to say things were lauding Girardi for having this cast where it is. Weird, isn’t it?

      • Elton Cod

        Wally Matthews is paid to say things. What’s your point?

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      Who’s saying Romine is perfect? He probably sucks. However, we don’t know for a fact that he does, which is more than anyone other than Ted can say for Stewart.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Veterinarian? Stewart is more multifaceted than I imagined.

    • WhittakerWalt

      “everyone in the comments was blaming Romine for bad pitcher outings”

      Bullshit.

    • jjyank

      “6-8 weeks ago everyone in the comments was blaming Romine for bad pitcher outings, calling for his head, etc. Now all of a sudden Romine is perfect and should catch every game.”

      No, only the fickle idiots who follow the Eddardian style of sample sizes and judgements were saying that. There were, and still are, plenty of rational fans who wasn’t blaming Romine for pitcher outings and thought he might just take some time to adjust for MLB pitching. Or he might not. But that’s the whole point of what most of us are saying, not that “he’s perfect and should start every game.” Just that he’s shown signs of life lately, and should be given more opportunities to find out if he has made adjustments.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        The non-ironic Eddards.

    • viridiana

      If Stewart has “a veterinarian presence” why can’t he control Joba?

  • Cool Lester Smooth

    Look at Matt Wieters?

    Sign me up for 20+ homers a year and Gold Glove defense from my starting catcher. Not everyone can be Brian McCann.

  • Mister D

    Sucks, but you need to see what the kids have. And atleast we can replenish the farm by selling at the trade deadl … oh. Right.

  • ropeadope

    Make Romine the everyday catcher, send Stewie down (if still has an option) or DFA, and activate Yogi, Jorge, or Girardi (player-manager) as the backup. Yes, I know Yogi is 88, but I said before he could outhit Stewart on memory alone. After looking at the spray chart above, I’m more convinced than ever.

    • jjyank

      Heh, Girardi might make a half decent BUC as a player-manager. Dude is still in fantastic shape.

    • Former ACE MannyGeee

      Stewart does not have options, which was the reason that #1 SF traded him to us for Kontos (we’ve speculated) and #2 the reason Cervelli went down to AAA last season (we think).

  • Leg-End

    What more annoying is Romine has looked pretty decent at the plate recently but he doesn’t get a chance to string some games together. Even if he gets some decent ab’s and hits he’s likely to be benched again a couple games later anyway.

    Stewart’s defense isn’t anywhere near as good as it should be for someone to continue playing him in spite of his poor hitting and having a rookie catcher as backup.

  • The Real Greg

    I wonder if Girardi isn’t going to pull the string until the Yankees are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Now that doesn’t mean I support him, I’m just trying to think about the why.

    • ropeadope

      Now that doesn’t mean I support him …

      Yes, we all know you’re the last person to support Girardi.

  • Get Phelps Up

    Did you know that the player with the best wOBA as a catcher in baseball this season* is a Yankee?

    On a more serious note, yeah, I agree with most everything here. Romine should play not because he’s the next great thing or whatever, but because he’s better than Stewie’s been of late and he actually can be a long term solution. At the very least, they should split time 50/50.

    -

    *minimum 60 PA’s. shhhhhhhh…

    • Former ACE MannyGeee

      EddardWorld Sample Size Alert!

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    I think the reasoning for this is simply because Romine doesn’t have a catchy name that Girardi can use in the post game press conferences. Stew or Stewie really works for Joe. You can’t add a -y or an -ie easily to Austin or Romine. Girardi doesn’t want to be burdened referring to Austin by his regular name. Thank god our other catching prospects don’t have this problem (Gary and Murphy).

  • jim p

    Maybe Giradi is worried about Romine’s back. That he gets twinges or something after a day or two catching. That’s the only plausible thing I can think of for not playing him every day.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I honestly don’t think it’s that complicated. Plucky rookie with good SSS needs to show much more than gritty gutty typical average veteran catcher to manager who was gritty gutty typical veteran catcher himself.

      Girardi then was better than Stewart now, but still.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        Fun Fact: Girardi’s career wOBA is the same as Ichiro’s in 2013.

  • pat

    Matt Wieters 2013 bWAR: .6
    Chris Stewart 2013 bWAR: .5

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      DRS has Matt Wieters as a -9 fielder. That is objectively wrong, so I’m having a hard time taking his bWAR seriously.

      • RetroRob

        I have a hard time taking most advanced defensive metrics for cathcers seriously.

        • Cool Lester Smooth

          Exactly.

    • http://theevilsquare.com handtius

      ouch. really? How is that possible? Stew has a 61 ops+ vs 91 for Wieters, 3 hr to 16, 574 ops vs 712. Is it the defense? Wieters even has 400+ PAs to Stews 250+. Don’t get it.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        They have Wieters, one of the best defensive catchers in the league by both reputation and most metrics, as a -9 defender. Just as a reference, Jorge Posada average out as a -5 defender during his career.

  • Mark

    Can anyone explain Girardi’s love affair with Chris Stewart? I’ve been a Yankee fan since 1965 and can say that Stewart is probably the worst offensive (starting) catcher they have had since Frank Fernandez. Rommine appears to be at least as good defensively as Stewart and might be a better hitter. He certainly can’t be worse. Give the kid a shot. Play him 5 games a week and let’s see what we have. This would not be running up the white flag on the season because the team would be no worse off with Romnine behind the plate. Meanwhile, they’ll get a good sense of whether he can be the starter next season or if they need to dip into the free agent or trade market this winter.

    • LarryM Fl

      Its amazing that Girardi does not see what everyone else sees. You could use the argument that he played professional baseball as a catcher and knows better. But sometimes the handwriting is own the wall and you can not see it. Romine has a swing which clearly indicates some cap power. He blocks pitches well. He throws over the top and straight. I believe Andy does not like to throw to him but Kuroda, Hughes and CC should have no problem. Stewart might do well with Nova because of his inexperience.

      I just shutter every time I turn the TV on and Stewart is behind the plate. His best contact of late was getting hit with a pitch the other night.

  • LarryM Fl

    Play the kid 50% of the time. He can not do worse than Stewart. Someone brought up how he waltzed out to the mound. He looked like and 80 year old taken short measured steps

  • RetroRob

    And then there is the obvious. Girardi is slowly moving Romine into the starting catcher’s role, with each week him playing more.

    • LarryM Fl

      I guess that I’m missing the obvious. We have no time for slow when there are 45 games remaining with not many loses to spare.

  • Dick M

    Free Romine.