One thing that has happened for the Pittsburgh Pirates as of late has been the emergence of catcher Michael McKenry offensively, leading many to believe that McKenry should take over for Rod Barajas as the Pirates primary catcher.
While I have become a fan of The Fort over the past year, that’s not something that’s not going to happen, nor should it.
McKenry has turned himself into a useful second catcher and he should stay that way.
With the bat in his hands, McKenry has outperformed Barajas. He has an insane .944 OPS and a 1.8 WAR, compared to miserable numbers of .632 and 0.1 for Barajas. I will admit that McKenry should see more time behind the dish for the Bucs, but also consider that because McKenry doesn’t play every day, his flaws as a player aren’t nearly as exposed.
If that eventually happens, I’m not totally convinced yet that we won’t be having the same concerns about McKenry that we currently do about Barajas.
What I don’t like about McKenry right now and why Barajas will continue to be the Bucs primary catcher is his performance behind the plate.
Barajas was brought in to handle this pitching staff and he does it very well. Yes, the Pirates and Clint Hurdle hoped for more production with the bat out of Barajas, but he’s been very solid behind the dish and that’s exactly what he was brought into do.
I don’t put too much stock into catchers era, but the pitchers are throwing to Barajas at a 3.36 clip fourth best among regular National League catchers) and throwing to McKenry at a 4.00 clip (25th among all National League catchers), nearly a run difference.
Remember that preventing runs is as important as scoring them sometimes, especially with a team like the Pirates.
Barajas is an easy target for Pirates fans, especially ones wise enough to only look at batting average, home runs and RBI, but he’s a valuable part to this team.
Give A.J. Burnett and James McDonald all the credit for the seasons they have had to date, but also throw Barajas some credit there as well. It’s no coincidence that Burnett is on pace to exceed his best season as a major league pitcher this season. The one common denominator between 2008 and 2012 for Burnett is Barajas as his catcher. The same rings true for McDonald, who mostly has thrown to Barajas.
It’s good to have a catcher that can handle a pitching staff well. Quite simply, Barajas is a better catcher than McKenry right now and that’s not taking a shot at McKenry.
Right now, preventing runs is very important for the Pirates and Hurdle knows it.
“Rod has been great working with the pitching staff and Pitching Coach Ray Searage,” said Hurdle. ”He brings a veteran presence to the catching position and a leadership role in the clubhouse.”
In their 106 games this season, the Pirates have allowed five or more runs only 35 times. In the 72 games Barajas has played, that has happened to him 15 times, yet in only 47 games, that has happened to McKenry 20 times, which amounts to nearly every other game for the Fort.
This Pirates team isn’t made to outslug opponents on a nightly basis.
I’m a big fan of the way McKenry plays the game, but for anyone to insist that Hurdle makes McKenry the primary catcher is close to foolish. This pitching staff as a whole is performing the way they have, partly because they have a veteran catcher in Barajas.
He may be frustrating with the bat right now (actually all season), but he’s doing exactly what he’s getting paid to do and doing it very well.
McKenry should probably catch two out of every five games right now the way that he is hitting, but Barajas should, and will be, the primary catcher of this Pirates team.