During the game on Saturday, David Cone, the Yankees’ best color analyst, went out of his way to praise Chris Stewart for how he handled Nova, the game Stewart called behind the plate and for the targets he gave his pitcher. Cone was effusive in his praise for Chris Stewart the entire game. The only positive thing Cone said about Martin during Sunday’s games was that Russell Martin had cat-like reflexes as a catcher. Does David Cone know something the Yankees should know?
Catcher ERA is a statistic that is not widely regarded. So much of the statistic depends on sample size and circumstance. But the simple fact is that when Chris Stewart catches, the Yankees pitch better. Russell Martin has caught 88 games for a total of 712.2 innings. Yankee pitchers during those 712.2 innings have an ERA of 4.10, an OPS against of .762 and a strikeout to walk ratio of 2.91. Chris Stewart has caught 38 games for a total of 301.1 innings and during those innings, pitchers have an ERA of 3.17, an OPS against of .676 and a strikeout to walk ratio of 3.51.
Your first reaction to reading that might be that naturally Stewart would be better because he has been C.C. Sabathia‘s personal catcher and Sabathia is the Yankees’ best pitcher. And yes, Stewart has caught Sabathia more than any other Yankee pitcher. But even there, the difference is striking. Stewart has caught Sabathia sixteen times and Sabathia’s ERA in those games is 3.24. Russell Martin has caught Sabathia four times and in those four games, Sabathia’s ERA is 5.45.
The difference holds true for every starting pitcher Stewart has caught this year. That is either extremely coincidental, or there is a strong correlation. You decide:
- Phil Hughes: 20 outings with Martin (4.68 ERA), 3 outings with Stewart (2.95 ERA).
- Ivan Nova: 19 outings with Martin (5.45 ERA), 4 outings with Stewart (1.59 ERA).
- Hiroki Kuroda: 20 outings with Martin (3.50 ERA), 3 outings with Stewart (1.69 ERA).
- Freddy Garcia: 14 outings with Martin (6.17 ERA), 9 outings with Stewart (3.77 ERA).
- Andy Pettitte threw once to Stewart and pitched eight shutout innings. He had a 3.55 ERA with Martin.
It is difficult to make a case of sample size and coincidence by looking at those numbers. Every pitcher? And is it also coincidental that Stewart did the same thing with the Giants last year? For the Giants in 2011, Stewart caught 63 games and Giants’ pitchers had an ERA of 2.70 in those games. Buster Posey caught 41 games and the pitchers’ ERA was 3.34. Eli Whiteside caught 81 games and in those games, the pitchers’ ERA was 3.28.
To be sure, it would be great to hear from a sabermetric expert on if this argument is all wet. But from this uneducated seat, Yankee pitchers have more success pitching to Chris Stewart than they do pitching to Russell Martin. Since both catchers are marginal offensively, perhaps the Yankees should start Stewart more often. Perhaps he should catch a starter every time that starter had a bad outing his last time out. Or perhaps :::gulp::: Chris Stewart should be the starting catcher.