Why can't White Sox backup catchers hit?

Ramon Castro drew the collar on Thursday, and it made me reconsider some choices I’ve made in my life.

Ramon Castro (credit to Oral Sox, unless they heard it elsewhere)
Specifically, my decisions to spend more than the minimum amount of time to evaluate White Sox backup catchers.  I’m convinced that it doesn’t matter who the Sox use to back up A.J. Pierzynski. In youth and in old age, in prime or past it, in sickness and health, they simply can’t hit.
Here’s an interesting way to illustrate Pierzynski’s durability. Add up all the plate appearances by the nine different catchers behind Pierzynski on the backstop over the last four years, and you only get roughly a full season’s worth (631).
Here’s a barf-inducing way to illustrate their ineptitude: Over those 631 plate appearances, those backup catchers are hitting .202/.253/.278.
The full chart is below:

Widger 168 31 10 15 1 2 2
Casanova 5 1 0 0 0 0 0
Alomar 46 10 4 3 0 0 2
Molina 18 1 0 1 0 1 1
Hall 243 57 9 9 2 1 1
Phillips 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lucy 15 3 0 0 0 0 0
Miller 39 8 3 3 0 0 0
Castro 44 6 2 7 0 0 0
580 117 28 38 3 4 6

Awesome, huh?
Before Castro, I had just figured the Sox hadn’t invested enough in an able body. The one good-faith effort to address the position went horribly awry when Toby Hall tore his labrum diving for a grounder at first base on my birthday two years ago.
I have two theories.
No. 1: White Sox : Backup catchers :: Bears : Quarterbacks
It’s Lake Wobegon in reverse. If that’s the case, then I wouldn’t draft Jay Cutler in your fantasy league.
No. 2: A.J. Pierzynski has instituted a culture of fear.
On May 30, 2005, Chris Widger goes 3-for-4 with a solo homer in a returns to the clubhouse after a 3-for-4, two-RBI performance in a 4-2 victory over the Angels. The win improves the White Sox’s record to 33-14.
“Can you imagine I was playing rec softball just last year?” Widger asks Pierzynski. “Now I’m batting .356 for a first-place team. I must be dreaming.”
Pierzynski grunts, turns and walks out of the locker room. Widger thinks it’s odd, but then again, Pierzynski hasn’t exactly been the warm and welcoming type this season.
The next day, he arrives to Angel Stadium before the rest of his team (even Greg Walker!). He stops by his locker only to discover… with horror…
Also, a note tacked to his locker with a knife that reads:


Now, there’s a 99 percent chance that story is an urban legend. It’s even more likely I made it up. But it certainly would explain why even a healthy, not-ancient guy with a solid track record like Baron Werner Underbheit turns into Gustavo Molina with a perfect game under his belt.  It also explains why there haven’t been any reported Fordyce sightings since the 2004 season.
In either case, I’m beginning to think that, even if he hits .680/1.021/5.000 in Charlotte,  Tyler Flowers shouldn’t be anywhere near the 2010 team.
Bartolo Colon came to Chicago to chew bubble gum and throw some fastballs.
And he’s all out of fastballs.
He’s apparently off the radar as well, as Hefty Houdini pulled a disappearing act for the second time this season, and the third time in two years. Ozzie Guillen isn’t concerned:

“No, he’s not here,” Guillen said. “What is it? That’s hard to find out. That’s the hardest question you ask me, where is Colon?
“I think I don’t see him pitching here in the next 20 days because he’s got to go to a rehab assignments, start over with a pitching thing and we’ll see what happens.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise. He up and left the Red Sox last season when Terry Francona had no room in the rotation, and he vanished earlier in the year before showing up to a rehab assignment. Hell, even when he was around the team, he could best be described as “somewhere else.”
That’s why he cost just $1 million — and only $1 million, as he won’t meet even the minimum incentive of 100 innings. The Sox went 3-9 in his starts, so he was one notch above Fifth Starter Hell.
It’s probably most wise to follow Guillen’s lead — shrug, and hope that Carlos Torres has another quality start in him.
Alexei Ramirez is set to return tonight after missing eight games with a sprained ankle.
One guy who could use a night off — Jermaine Dye.
It’s not that he’s just 4-for-31 over his last six games.  It’s that, in his last four games, Dye has allowed two J.D. Triples — one allowing Melky Cabrera to get the cycle, the other correctly ruled a three-base error — and forgotten how many outs there were.
Joe Cowley wrote a great story on Gordon Beckham’s hair. Among other things:

“Very Southern gentleman,” Beckham said. ”Let me put it straight: If a girl takes me to meet her parents, it’s over, they’re in love with me. That means calling her dad, ‘Sir,’ all that, but both parents will love me.”
Basically, he’s the antithesis of a former highly touted Sox prospect, Brian Anderson, who would just as soon put the moves on a date’s mom than meet her. But Beckham, he’s from a different school. And the media and fans are eating it up.

Minor league roundup:

  • Indianapolis 6, Charlotte 4
    • Lucas Harrell had to work hard, allowing four runs (two earned) on eight hits and a walk over six innings.  He struck out four, and needed 113 pitches.
    • Derek Rodriguez took the loss by allowing a two-run homer in the seventh.
    • Fernando Hernandez pitched a perfect inning.
    • Tyler Flowers went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
    • Stefan Gartrell went 0-for-4 in his Triple-A debut.
  • Birmingham 2, Tennessee 0
    • Matt Long threw seven scoreless innings., allowing two hits and a walk while striking out three. Look at his mugshot — he appears surprisingly pleased with himself.
    • Dayan Viciedo went 1-for-2 with a walk, an RBI and a strikeout.
    • A day off didn’t help Jordan Danks: 0-for-4 with three K’s.
    • C.J. Retherford doubled; John Shelby went 0-for-3.
  • Frederick 15, Winston-Salem 3
    • Rough day for Nathan Jones, the only pitcher of note to throw today: 1 1/3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 1 K. One of the hits was a three-run homer.
    • Tyler Kuhn went 3-for-5;  Brent Morel doubled and walked in four plate appearances.
    • Justin Greene continues to struggle, going 0-for-5 with a strikeout. He was also picked off/caught stealing.
  • Kannapolis 12, West Virginia 2
    • Another big day for Kenneth Williams Jr. : 4-for-5 with a double, four RBI and three runs scored.
    • Josh Phegley finally broke out, going 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBI.
    • Jared Mitchell drew two walks in five PAs, but was caught stealing once.
    • Dan Black drew two walks; Brandon Short singled, tripled and drove in two.
    • Drew Garcia had three hits, as did Jon Gilmore.
    • Nevin Griffth was solid, allowing one run on eight hits and a walk over six innings. He struck out two.
  • Kingsport 4, Bristol 3
    • Freddy Garcia was OK: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K.
    • Daniel Holmberg struck out four over two hitless innings, walking one.
    • Panamanian Jeffer Patino was perfect at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a homer and two walks. He was caught stealing, and comitted an error.
  • Missoula 5, Great Falls 1
    • 10th-round pick Nick Ciolli and 12th-round pick Kyle Colligan maintain identical .301 batting averages after they each went 1-for-4.
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Your reading too much into this Jim. The backup catchers cant hit because none of them could hit before they got here. When the best backup you sign in the last 5 years is a guy who couldnt cut it on the 70 win tampa teams…. enough said.
I didnt mind the castro trade, I thought he actually would be an upgrade to miller but good god he is freaking brutal at the plate and not much of a help defensively.
I go back to an offseaon where I begged for Pudge Rodriquez or at a minimum Henry Blanco who atleast always gives great defensive play and occasionally handles the bat.
Thats the biggest problem I have, is not only are our catchers pitcher like at the plate, they are all terrible defensively.


I say MLB should factor Sox backup catchers’ numbers into AJ’s.


Great article on the White Sox backup catchers!! Your theory on AJ must be correct. Chris Widger & Jamie Burke seemed like decent backups but both disappeared quickly. AJ purged them. Castro looks like the weakest hitter of the bunch. His batting style reminds me of Andy Gonzalez!!


Judging from the tone of article, I bet Brian Anderson had put the moves on Cowley’s wife.


sorry jim..i’ll restrain myself the next time you post a cowley gem


Of course other than Hall none of the aforementioned back-ups hit like Johnny Bench, so maybe it’s just amazing luck.
Great to have you back Jim; I was getting waaaaay too much work done.


I like the analysis. But my gut tells me if any backup catcher could hit, he’d be a starter somewhere else. I guess the only way to really tell that is to look a other teams backup catchers and see how many of them actually hit and ended up starting somewhere else the next year. That seems to me like it would require look at a lot of numbers…that always puts me to sleep.


I really think you’re onto something here, Jim. I don’t like the backup catchers either, and I think Castro had his moment with the perfect game, even then I think it’s all Buehrle there.
Have you taken note of who the backup catchers are catching? I’ve noticed AJ takes days off when Contreras pitches, or when Colon is (was) on the mound. I take note of this bc these guys havent been solid and theyve been shaky during the season. I dont believe those shaky outings are helped by a guy that’s not as seasoned behind the plate, esp one that hasnt been with the club all that long