On second thought, Drew Butera is closer to a zero-dimensional player because what he does well is so completely overshadowed by what he does at a historically awful level (basically, every part of his game that doesn't involve putting on a mask and crouching behind the plate). He's not just bad at hitting, he's one of the worst hitters in the history of Major League baseball.
Wilson Ramos...we hardly knew ye. Matt Capps continues to haunt my dreams.
Back to the original article....Baseball Prospectus | Spinning Yarn: Removing the Mask Encore Presentation
If you go right under the first big table with all the qualifying catchers there is a link that says "data for all catchers is available here".
Scroll down to #68
Now, bring in the offense. Butera's career wRC is .040 runs / PA. Doumit's is .128 / PA. Assume there are about 700 PAs per 1440 innings caught. Multiply that out and you have for Butera
A difference of 61.6
Your skepticism of CERA is probably well-founded; I think it's pretty well accepted that hitting is easier to comprehend, and thus easier to create meaningful stats for. Butera doesn't really pass the eyeball test, and until we have some more reliable defensive metrics, and some better way of accounting for the randomness inherent in the defensive game, I think I'd prefer Doumit as the regular backup catcher, with Butera used only in a time of extreme need.
Subjectively Speaking: Catcher Framing Runs, Part 1
Its probably impossible to place a value on Butera at this point. But what we can say with a high degree of confidence, I think, is that Doumit is bad, and possibly really bad. If Butera is even average, then the difference between these two overall, at least starts to approach zero and may even favor Butera.
If it's strictly catching we're talking about, the balance is far closer to be sure, but Doumit is head and shoulders above Butera as a whole player.
On that list, the difference between Jose Molina and Ryan Doumit is 155 runs.
155 runs. Think about that for a second. On a good team, that's 1/4th of all runs allowed over the course of a season. All done by the catcher framing a few pitches. Nothing to do with the pitcher, the defense's range, pitches called, defensive shifts, preventing the running game, the ballpark... Just the catcher and where he puts his mitt.
On the other hand, Butera has zero value if he isn't behind the plate. Zero. It's not a "well, he's below average" argument, it's that he literally brings zero value to the team when he's not catching.
Actually, you can make the argument that he's a negative value player when he's not catching because his bat is so below replacement level that he even detracts from the bench by simply existing.
I'm not sure how this became an arguement about who has more value. There is no contest Doumit has a ton more value than Butera. It's not even debatable. Seems we all agree that Doumit isn't a very good catcher so that seems settled.
Seems to me the only real topic left here to discuss is the vailidity of Butera being on the roster.
I will admit, I don't know why its taking so long for someone to mull through the actual pitchf/x data and break it down that way. Compare what is truly a strike, and how often a catcher is getting those called (or how often he's getting true balls to to go his pitchers' way). That would be much more convincing than this. What we have here is a very general observation and I don't put absolute confidence in the run values, but I accept the conclusions that the guys at the top of the scale are probably better than the guys at the bottom.
And also, just from watching games. How many times do you see an umpire shift like he's going to raise his hand, and not? or call a late strike and the batter gets ticked off - more by the lateness of it and less by the actual call? It happens every game, it probably happens more than we even realize. Data like this just tells us there's a pattern to it. These things aren't totally random. And, really, over the course of 1440 innings, we're talking about less than a run per game separating the absolute best from the absolute worst.
Its not like other defense, where you might, on a good day, field 4 or 5 balls. Although even there, you have something like 40 runs separating the absolute best from the worst. And to consider, catchers field 150+ balls every single game. I think its very plausible that they would have a greater impact.
I do think there may be something to Pavano's and Liriano's stretches of success pitching to Butera, but that's a separate point, pretty much impossible for me to backup and possibly irrelevant now that both pitchers are off the team.
I don't know much about Burroughs but I am in total agreement that he should probably be the backup catcher instead of Butera or Doumit.
For the record, that is 60% of the runs allowed by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012. From pitch framing.