The “What We Learned” series rolls on as we take a look at the Angels catchers in retrospective. 2011 was a year of change behind the plate for the Halos. As much as Mike Scioscia will refuse to admit it he grew tired of Mike Napoli’s perceived defensive shortcomings behind the plate – which ultimately led to the most productive Angels catchers in years getting shipped to the Angels chief division rival (via Toronto) in Texas.
The result was abysmal. Angels catchers (Jeff Mathis, Bobby Wilson and Hank Conger) combined for 10 home runs (6 by Conger) and 49 RBI’s. Only one of the trio (Conger @.209) managed to hit above .200. Meanwhile in Texas Napoli had a monster season helping to lead the Rangers to their second straight AL West title by hitting .322/.414/.631 with 30 home runs and 75 RBI.
Lets take a closer look at the train wreck that was the Angels catching situation in 2011.
- Hank Conger – Hank actually started off the season playing good baseball. He hit .273/.333/.455 across 14 games in April. Then for some reason Jeff Mathis went and complained to Mike Scioscia about playing time. That’s when things went downhill. After Mathis and Scioscia’s mysterious closed door meeting we started to hear Scioscia say the same things about Conger that he used to say about Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis starting playing virtually everyday. Like he was with Napoli – Scioscia appeared to be in Conger’s head. Is that what led to Hank’s poor play during the rest of the season? We will never know but the Halos top catching prospect suddenly looked lost at the plate – as well as behind the dish slumping to just a .209/.282/.356 slash line. What made matters worse was Conger also struggled mightily with his throwing and defense. Despite all that – we still learned that of the Angels current crop of catchers (not saying much) Conger certainly offers the most offensive upside and at just 23 years old there is still room for improvement. Angel fans should hope that unless a catcher is acquired via trade or free agency that Conger is the opening day catcher. If Scioscia can learn to relax a bit and let the kid play his future could still be bright.
- Jeff Mathis – There is really not much to say about Jeff Mathis that hasn’t already been written. The guy is just an awful hitter. Even if Mathis had a rocket arm and gunned down would be base stealers at a astonishing clip (which he doesn’t) he still would not justify a spot as an everyday catcher. Mathis’ career average now sits at a paltry .194. In 2011 he hit .175/.225/.259 good for an absurdly low .484 OPS. Thirty five players in baseball posted a higher SLG. percentage than Jeff Mathis’ OPS! Mike Scioscia marvels at Jeff’s game calling ability and while that maybe true – Mathis has no business leading the Angels in games caught (93) like he did this season. What we learned about Mathis in 2011 is what we already knew. He should play one time a week at best. Hopefully Scioscia and
companythe new GM get the memo.
- Bobby Wilson – I actually held out a private hope that Bobby Wilson would claim the everyday catching job after he had a solid showing at the plate in Spring Training. However as often is the case – Spring didnt translate when the games counted. Although Wilson didn’t play much early in the season – when he did he was Jeff Mathis like at the plate in his own right. Posting just a .189/.252/.288 with a hard to believe 8 RBI’s in 111 at bats. Like Mathis it appears Wilson too is a backup catcher worthy of starting the occasional game against lefties where his splits look somewhat respectable.
In short what we learned in 2011 is that the Angels catching situation is a mess. They should look to sign or trade for a veteran catcher capable of producing some offense while they groom Hank Conger for an everyday role. There is nowhere to go but up from here.
- Up Next: The Outfield………..
What We Learned Archive:
- Part 1: The Infield