During the 2012 season, not only has Russell Martin struggled mightily at the plate (last night notwithstanding), but the pitching staff was floundering. Enter Chris Stewart who was obtained on the last day of Spring Training in a sudden spin of events that landed Francisco Cervelli in Triple-A. We were all kind of stunned at the event. And then C.C. Sabathia sort of fell in love with Stewart and whether Joe Girardi admits it or not, Stewart is Sabathia’s personal catcher. And then Stewart caught Andy Pettitte, who threw eight scoreless innings. Anjd then Chris Stewart caught Hiroki Kuroda, who threw eight scoreless innings and suddenly we have a debate to talk about. Stewart, who is even less capable offensively than Martin, is suddenly the darling of many for his catching skills. But is it a proper debate?
The numbers are so peripheral that they do not even make sense to talk about. Yes, the Yankees are 8-3 when Stewart catches. And yes, Stewart’s CERA (catcher ERA) is 2.80 compared to Martin’s 4.53. And yes, Stewart’s CERA with the Giants last year of 2.72 was lower than that team’s ERA of 3.30 last season. But we are talking about such small sample sizes and the fact that most of Stewart’s starts have come when receiving the Yankees’ best pitcher. In his one game receiving Phil Hughes, Stewart did not get much better out of the struggling pitcher than Martin has.
Two things have led us to this point. First, Russell Martin has put himself in the bulls-eye due to his terrible offensive start to the 2012 season. Secondly, the pitching staff outside of Sabathia and Pettitte has struggled to the point where it is a constant focal point of the team. When those two things happen, the natural human tendency is to look for quick fixes and lightning in a bottle. Chris Stewart has offered that with the success he has had catching during his thirteen games thus far this season. Those two things just pointed out have led those who follow the Yankees to start questioning the pitches Martin is calling and everything else. Maybe the pitching woes are Russell Martin’s fault.
All the talk becomes like trying to whistle with a mouth full of saltine crackers. Joe Girardi has been insistent that Russell Martin is his starting catcher. Russell Martin will hit better than he has in April and most of May. Perhaps last night was the start of better things offensively for the catcher. Instead, let us all just calm down a little bit and be thankful that the Yankees have two very good defensive options behind the plate. Stewart will not do anything great as a batter, but if the big guy of the Yankees’ pitching staff is more comfortable with him behind the plate, great. The Yankees currently have two superior defensive options behind the plate and that is a good thing.
Russell Martin is the starting catcher and will remain so unless he gets hurt or something. Chris Stewart is the backup and Sabathia’s caddy. No problem. It is up to the rest of the rotation to sort itself out and find a groove that can lead to the Yankees usual spot at the top of the division. There is no catching debate. There are simply two good defensive guys. One is the starter and the other is the backup.