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If I Was The Manager (Wild Card Game): Catcher

Over the next few days, I’ll run down who I feel the Yankees should start at each position in the Wild Card game. (Most of these will be no-brainers and will result is quick posts, but today we’ll start with a position that has a bit more controversy – catcher.)

River Ave Blues is running a poll on Twitter asking who should start as the Yankees catcher in the Wild Card game. As of the writing of this, over 3,600 people have responded – and the results are decidedly in favor of starting Gary Sanchez:

Who should start the Wild Card Game? (I can’t believe this is even a thing.) — River Ave. Blues (@RiverAveBlues) September 22, 2018

I understand why River Ave Blues, and other commentators, fans, and experts would like Gary Sanchez behind the plate in a one-game playoff – he is the better player. Talent wise, there is no question. Gary Sanchez is the better player. Period.

So, why would I prefer Romine over Sanchez?

One reason is that Austin Romine was actually the better hitter in 2018:

That does not mean that Romine will be the better hitter in 2019 or beyond, but the fact remains that Romine was the better hitter this year.

In addition, since coming back from his injury, Gary Sanchez has actually hit worse than his overall numbers for the season. He is batting only .167/2/5 in September. While Austin Romine is not a great hitter, the statistics show that he has been better than Sanchez.

There is also the strong argument that in 2018 Romine has also been the better defensive catcher. In 2018, Romine’s dWAR (Defense over Replacement Level) is 1.0. That is certainly not all-star worthy, but it ranks well above Sanchez’s 0.4 dWAR.

Some might argue that Gary Sanchez has a better throwing arm – and he does, but Romine’s caught stealing percentage this year is 28% while Sanchez’s is only 26%. Those numbers also don’t argue in Sanchez’s favor.

Then there are the wild pitches and passed balls. In 593.1 defensive innings with Austin Romine behind the plate, there have been 16 wild pitches and 5 passed balls. In 593.0 defensive innings with Gary Sanchez catching, there have been 43 wild pitches and 14 passed balls. In other words, in almost the exact same amount of defensive innings, 36 more pitches have gotten past the catcher with runners on base when Sanchez has caught than when Romine has caught. Those numbers are huge. Gigantic.

In every way, Austin Romine has been the better player in 2018. Romine hasn’t been great. He isn’t a great player, but he’s been better than Gary Sanchez.

I know that some will say, “But overall Sanchez is better than Romine. Everybody knows that!” And, again, talent wise, he is. Absolutely. Gary Sanchez is a better player than Austin Romine. The problem is that he hasn’t been the better player this year. The results for Gary Sanchez have not been there in 2018. Gary Sanchez’s 2018 season has been forgettable in almost every way.

But, even with all that, the reason that I would start Austin Romine is that he has been more in tune with the game when he has played. For whatever reason, on too many occasions, Gary Sanchez has seemed distracted while playing this year. There have been too many innings and situations like the following from Gary Sanchez this year:

(This comes from yesterday’s game – as reported by River Ave Blues):

“The Orioles scored their first run on a play that was equal parts bad, dumb, and weird. With runners on the corners and one out in the third, Cedric Mullins hit a weak tapper back out in front of the plate, and Lynn and Gary Sanchez did the “I got it you get it” thing. Sanchez picked it up, rushed the throw, and it sailed wide of first base. But! Gleyber Torres retrieved the ball in foul territory, threw home, and Steve Wilkerson was tagged out … by Lynn? By Lynn.

Huh. Sanchez committed a passed ball that put a runner on third with one out in the first place, then he threw wide of first for an error, and then he got caught watching the play and Lynn had to make the tag at the plate. Not your best inning, Gary.”

River Ave Blues wonders why Sanchez vs Romine is even a debate. This is the reason why. It is also the reason why there are logical reasons for starting Austin Romine in the must-win game.

Game-after-game, Gary Sanchez has just not played or performed to his abilities and capabilities. He has not played great defensively, he has not hit, and on top of all this, on too many situations throughout the year, just like yesterday, he has lost his focus in critical times. (I don’t recall any instances where Austin Romine’s focus or decision making has been brought into question this year.)

In a one-game playoff, when every pitch matters, when every play matters, I want the player who has played better, in every way, in 2018.

This is not the popular decision, but on October 3, in the Wild Card game, I’d like to see Austin Romine behind the plate. If I was the manager, Austin Romine would be catching.

(Note – According to the NY Post, Gary Sanchez has already been named the starting catcher for this game. I understand the reasoning, Gary Sanchez should be the better player. Unfortunately, this year, he hasn’t been.)


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