Ron Washington: There's No Catcher Controversy

Mike Napoli had another stellar day at the plate on Monday as his two home runs helped pace the Rangers' 11-3 victory over the Rays.

The team is now 9-0 when Napoli goes deep this season and they are 11-4 when he starts behind the plate. Seeing as how that means the team is 18-21 when he doesn't wear the tools of ignorance, people are starting to wonder if maybe he shouldn't be behind the plate a little bit more often.

Using the team's won-loss record as a measure of determining catcher performance is dumber than using it as the main marker of a pitcher's performance, but that doesn't mean Napoli shouldn't be getting more time behind the dish. It means that there are better arguments to use for why Napoli should be playing more and they start with how poorly Yorvit Torrealba has been playing this season.

Torrealba was brought to town to be a solid enough player on offense and defense to end the annual carousel behind the plate in Arlington. He's been fine defensively, but he's been beyond dreadful as an offensive player. His 58 OPS+ is historically awful while Napoli keeps on producing when given a chance at the plate.

Napoli's defense has never earned raves in the past, but it certainly seems like pitchers like throwing to him well enough. Torrealba has gotten a lot more starts at catcher this season, but Napoli's recent run at the plate and his seven starts in the last 15 games has people wondering if there's a controversy brewing around the starting catcher job. Ron Washington wanted to put an end to that right away.

"He does a good job, and he happens to be swinging the bat and putting some runs on the board," Washington said. "There's no controversy with that yet. Whoever is behind there when I write out my lineup tomorrow will be out there. It just depends on what comes out of my pen."

There's something endlessly fascinating about the way Washington talks about running his baseball team. He makes it sound like he has absolutely no control over what name will appear on the lineup card when he gets to the catcher spot which is right in line with his usual befuddlement about how good things happen as a residue of decisions made by actual human beings instead of pens.

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He's right about there being no controversy, though. There's nothing the least bit scandalous about giving more playing time to the guy slugging .571 over the guy with an OPS of 586. It's just good judgment to give more time to players who are performing better when you're trying to win baseball games.

Torrealba isn't likely to be this bad for the entire season and Napoli won't be this hot the rest of the way so keeping the playing time balance fluid is the only thing that makes sense for Washington and the Rangers. Perhaps Torrealba will wind up starting fewer games than anyone imagined when he arrived in town, but, again, that's not controversial.

That's just life in the big leagues.

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