Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Addition by subtraction?

The Chicago Cubs traded catcher Michael Barrett to the Padres this morning for backup catcher Rob Bowen and 19-year-old Kyler Burke.

A couple of things that a lot of you immediately considered when you saw this deal:
* What can Rob Bowen bring to our team?
* Why did we give away Michael Barrett's bat?

I think it's important to think about where the rest of Michael Barrett's season was headed. In the last three years, his on-base average was rising and his AB/HR ratio was getting better progressively, until he finally finished last year with a .307 average, .368 on base percentage, and 16 homeruns in just 375 at-bats.

It, however, looks like that Barrett was not on that same path this year. He's got 9 homeruns, so he's on pace to match that total, but he's got only 18 extra base hits, which means he will fall well short of the 50 extra-base hit per year average. His on-base percentage thus far has been a miserable .307 and his OPS fell from an impressive .885 last year to .734.

As far as Rob Bowen is concerned, his bat isn't anything too special. He's got a respectable .268 batting average and an outstanding .371 on-base percentage, but that's over 82 times at-bat. Bowen was the backup in San Diego and he probably won't be the regular catcher with the Cubs. So, Bowen's the defensive catcher, right? Wrong.

In just 515 innings behind the plate in his career, Bowen has comitted 6 passed balls and 6 errors. He's also managed to throw out just 10% of baserunners that have tried to run against him. Exactly how bad is that, you ask? In 475 innings this year for Michael Barrett, he's allowed 8 passed balls and committed 5 errors. Barrett has thrown out 18% of base stealers so far in 2007, which looks good when placed next to Bowen's numbers.

How is this addition by subtraction then? That's because Bowen will not play as much as Barrett. Hill is not as much of a defensive liability.

(So, Koyie Hill is our starting catcher?!?)

I don't know. But the extended injury to Blanco and now the trade of Barrett makes things a lot more interesting for the catchers in the farm system and there are a lot of good ones. Geovany Soto, Koyie Hill, and Jake Fox were all catchers within the orgnization that had their future blocked by the Barrett/Blanco tandum. Now, they're going to get their chances.

I'm still not sure whether or not this was a good move. It may take me a couple of more months (or years, if Burke turns out to be anything) for me to figure that out. But, the team was playing .464 ball, and that was unacceptable. If this move hurts the team, it certainly couldn't have decreased this team's chances at winning the division.

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