Mackey: Why Twins like Suzuki over Pinto
The starting catcherís job is almost a forgone conclusion that the position belongs to Kurt Suzuki to start the year. Josmil Pinto, with his impressive September campaign, will be in the passengerís seat when the season begins on March 31 in Chicago.
1500ESPN.comís Phil Mackey outlines a few of the reasons why the Twins are going that route:
Whatís interesting about Suzuki is the emphasis on his ability to handle pitchers, particularly his game-calling abilities. Last year, while splitting time between Washington and Oakland, Suzuki put the index finger down more than all catchers but one. His 63% fastball rate was well-above the league-average of 53%. This, of course, may have been a product of playing with the Aís (who as a staff had their catchers call for more fastballs than anybody 62.3%) and the Nationals (third with 60.9%).
1.) The Twins have had some atrocious starting pitching lately, and they feel like Suzuki can help squeeze the most out of the current crop of pitchers.
2.) Pinto's game-calling and defensive skills still need a lot of refinement. The Twins want Suzuki's work ethic and good habits behind the scenes to rub off on Pinto, who could very well stay on the 25-man roster as the backup catcher who plays a couple times per week.
3.) Gardenhire loves Suzuki's vocal leadership, which is something the Twins don't have much of among position players. One player even compared Suzuki's presence to that of former Twins catcher Mike Redmond.
But if Suzuki is simply following the game plan as outlined by the ability of the rotation and bullpen, how is it that heís able to coax the most out of pitchers? Last year he was below the average in terms of getting strikes call that were outside of the zone and had a lower than average rate of strikes being called in zone. If that is the case, what sort of value is he actually providing?
As Mackeyís column points out, Ron Gardenhire and Glen Perkins both lauded Suzukiís leadership skills, which is something than cannot be measured but can have a positive impact on a team in various ways. Perhaps the most impact will be to help Pintoís defensive game improve quickly so his bat can be an everyday presence in the lineup.