With Jason Kendall and Kurt Suzuki now vying for favor behind the dish, I continue to wonder how much of an impact the catcher has on the pitchers' success. Is CERA (catcher's ERA) relevant? Is pitch-calling really that different and important from catcher to catcher?
Rather than speculate further, I decided to call the A's and see if they were willing to provide me with data to help answer these questions. I was really thinking more about some "inside-the-numbers" stats, but I wound up with a true bonanza. An A's front office executive, acting on the condition of anonymity, said he would provide me with excerpts of some early season mound conferences that had been miked and archived. These conversations are truly enlightening, so I have transcribed them. See if this clears up the controversy a little bit:
Melhuse: I say let's put him away with your slider, man. It's your best pitch.
Gaudin: Don't you trust my fastball?
Melhuse: Of course I do, I just think--
Gaudin: No, you don't. If you thought I had a good fastball you'd have called for it more.
Melhuse: Hey, we can go fastball. Let's go fastball, in.
Gaudin: Well now it's just gonna feel like you called for the fastball because I said something.
Melhuse: No, dude, let's blow him away with a fast--
Gaudin: Now I don't even want to throw a fastball.
Melhuse: C'mon, man--
Gaudin: I want Jason.
Melhuse: Oh no, don't do this. Please don't do this, Chad--
Gaudin: I want Jason! He'd know what to call for!
Melhuse: Chad, dude, we can go with whatever you want, just--
Gaudin: I want to go home!
Melhuse: C'mon, Chad, you gotta pull it together. <BAP>
Gaudin: Did you just touch my ass?
Melhuse: Yes, and I liked it.
Kendall: A'right, Keeks, whaddya say we go with the slider here?
Calero: Yes! This is SUCH a great idea. That's easily my best pitch!
Kendall: Yeah, that's what I was thinking.
Calero: It's like you totally get me, Jason! You know what? I'm gonna snap off that slider like you've never seen, and just watch him flail at it.
Kendall: Atta boy. <BAP>
Calero: Did you just touch my ass?
Kendall: Yes, and I liked it.
As you can clearly see, Adam Melhuse was simply not able to call pitches effectively or earn the confidence of the pitchers, while Kendall's uncanny game-calling instincts and his paternal handling of the pitchers brought out the very best in them. Furthermore, Melhuse may well have molested his own teammates and made them uncomfortable as men, while Kendall showed terrific support and leadership in both his words and his actions.
Meanwhile, early indications are that Kurt Suzuki eats babies, as evidenced by this conversation taped just a couple days ago:
DiNardo: Hey Kurt, do you eat babies?