Archive for Chris Stewart
I think we all knew that the post-Jorge Posada era would be a shock to our system, at least initially, but I’m not sure we expected it to be this bad. Posada was one of the greatest offensive catchers in history and as of right now, the Russell Martin-Chris Stewart catching tandem has combined for a .204/.295/.340 batting line. That’s a combined 73 wRC+ which ranks 23rd among the 30 clubs. Catchers across baseball are averaging .247/.315/.398, which seems Ruthian compared to New York’s backstops.
As the starter, Martin gets the majority of the blame. He proclaimed that he was “starting to feel dangerous at the plate” after hitting two homers (including a walk-off) in a game against the Mets last month, but he’s followed up that statement with four (!) hits and four walks in his last 58 plate appearances. He hasn’t reached base in his last 27 (!!!) trips to the plate. That’s dragged his season line down to .178/.297/.347 through 81 team games, a lowly 77 wRC+. Dating back to May 25th of last season (an admittedly arbitrary endpoint), Martin is hitting .203/.330/.353 in 554 plate appearances. This isn’t a small sample.
Stewart has hit an empty .270 as Martin’s backup, slapping singles off infielders’ gloves and dunking bloops into shallow left seemingly once a start. He doesn’t walk or hit for any power, which is why his batting line sits at .270/.295/.311 in limited playing time. For all the talk about his clutch hits, Stewart has six singles in 29 plate appearances with runners in scoring position this year (.222/.214/.222). The guy has never really hit before, hasn’t hit this year, and there’s no reason to expect him to hit in the future. He is who he is.
Offense is obviously not the team’s strong point behind the plate, but defense supposedly is. Stewart has allowed the fifth most passed balls in the league (five) despite being a backup, and he’s only thrown out four of 14 attempted basestealers. That’s a league average 28.5%, hardly what you expect from someone touted as a defensive standout. Stewart seems like a classic Nichols Law of Catcher Defense guy, frankly. Martin has allowed four passed balls of his own and has only thrown out 12 of 51 attempted basestealers (below average 23.5%). The Rays showed him no respect by stealing seven bases (in seven attempts) over the last two games. Anecdotally, I consider the two to be about average or maybe even slightly above averageon defense, underwhelming compared to expectations and reputations.
I can’t remember the last time a team won the World Series without an above average offensive catcher. I suppose the 2006 Cardinals with a young Yadier Molina, but then you have to go back to the Joe Girardi era mid-1990s Yankees. It’s not early anymore, the season is officially halfway complete and the Yankees have gotten little production from their catchers. You may disagree and feel Martin and Stewart have been very good on defense, but I have a hard time believing their glovework has made up for the limp bats. I don’t think calling up Frankie Cervelli — 86 wRC+ in Triple-A — is the answer, but he’d probably be an upgrade at this point. Either way, the Yankees need to serious consider going out and addressing their catcher situation at the trade deadline. These two aren’t cutting it at all.
When Chris Stewart stepped to the plate with men on second and third with no outs last night, many — including the YES Network booth — saw it as an opportunity for a squeeze bunt. Stewart is an awful hitter, but he instead swung away and grounded out to third, unable to advance the runners. Joe Girardi said today that he didn’t even consider a squeeze in that spot. Marc Carig wrote about the squeeze non-call today, and found that the Yankees haven’t scored a single run on a squeeze play under Joe Girardi’s watch. Fans of smallball tactics will disapprove, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“That the Yankees would have such a weak hitter at the plate with runners on — as they did with Stewart last night — is in itself an aberration,” wrote Carig, referring the team’s perpetually potent offense. “So, if anything, the fact that the Yankees rarely bother with squeeze plays is an indication that Girardi is smart enough to manage to the strength of his team.” Stewart went on to drive in three runs later in the game, another aberration. I’m not a bunting kind of guy but there is a time and a place for that stuff. The third inning is not that time, however.
Phelps — who made the Opening Day roster as the long man — obviously wasn’t going to happen for an all-glove backup catcher, and I still feel like even Kontos was a bit too much. Stewart is out of options and San Fran’s hands were tied, they either had to trade him or lose him on waivers for nothing. Did Austin Romine‘s injury really take that much of a bite out of the catching depth?
So much for George Kontos stealing a bullpen spot. Multiple sources report that the Yankees have traded him to the Giants for catcher Chris Stewart. You might remember Stewart from 2008, when the Yankees ran through a half dozen catchers. He also spent time with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2009. He will start the season as the Yankees’ backup catcher, as Francisco Cervelli will start the season at AAA.
Color me confused on this one. Stewart has a career .328 OBP in the minors, and .273 in the majors. How he’s an upgrade over Cervelli in any way is beyond me. If this was made to cover the catcher position at AAA since Austin Romine will start the season on the DL, well, it still doesn’t seem to make much sense. Kontos seems like a useful piece. Couldn’t the Yankees have found a .273 OBP catcher who cost a bit less?
In an Ed Price notebook today, we learn that a few anonymous sources claim that Jorge’s injury is not season-ending. An official diagnosis is forthcoming. More interesting and concrete, however, is the news about the Yanks will handle Jose Molina. They recognize that Molina cannot catch every single day; he is, after all, a career backup catcher. Expect Molina to play three days in a row with Chris Stewart sinking or swimming during those other games. Molina’s health and freshness is riding on Stewart quite a bit.
When Jorge Posada went on the DL yesterday, the Yankees had to resort to recalling their fourth-string backup catcher up from the Minors. The team had to DFA third-string backup catcher Chad Moeller on Friday to clear some roster space, and as the Yanks await the ten-day waiver period for Moeller, they had to call up some guy named Chris Stewart.
For even the most avid of Yankee fans, the name Chris Stewart is sure to raise a few eyebrows. “Who is this guy?” I wondered to myself yesterday when word of his call up came down. So I went looking.
Chris Stewart is a 26-year-old catcher out of Riverside Community College in California. He was drafted in the 12th round and 373rd overall by the Chicago White Sox in 2001. He toiled through the White Sox’s system and made his Major League debut on Sept. 6, 2006. As a September call-up for the Sox, he went 0 for 8 in six games. He did throw out two of the three runners who tried to steal off of him.
The White Sox shipped him to the Rangers in January of 2007, but Stewart didn’t fare much better in Texas. He started the season as Gerald Laird’s backup and made it all the way to June 9 before getting his ticket punched to AAA Oklahoma City. With the Rangers, Stewart went 9 for 37 over 17 games. Two of his hits went for doubles; the rest were singles. He also walked three times. Behind the plate, he threw out four of the 12 runners attempting to steal off of him but was charged with three passed balls as well.
As a Minor Leaguer, Stewart’s offense has been less than stellar. This season with Scranton, he’s 12 for 40 (an even .300) with a .404 OBP but only a .375 slugging. For his career, he’s hit .253/.314/.361 with just 21 home runs over 1583 plate appearances. Behind the dish, he’s had his problems too. Despite being tagged as the White Sox’s best defensive catcher in 2005, he’s been charged with 61 passed balls over the 361 games he’s caught. On the plus side, as Baseball America reported last year, he led the Southern League in throwing out 52 percent of would-be basestealers in 2005 and ranked second in the International League in 2006 with 49 percent.
While Darrell Rasner seems to like throwing to Chris Stewart, he is very much a back-up back-up back-up catcher. He’s a no-hit catcher with a decent arm who’s improved behind the plate a bit but doesn’t seem like a future Gold Glover. He won’t get much playing time in New York, if any, and I’m guessing we’ll see Chad Moeller return once he is eligible to do so. The list of available catchers is slim, and the Yanks are a bit stuck for now. Here’s hoping Jose Molina doesn’t go down anytime soon.