While I was watching last night's exciting A's game, I saw a tweet posted by @athleticsnation that described exactly what I was feeling while I wondered why both John Jaso and Derek Norris weren't in the lineup:
Alberto Callaspo's OPS is down to .677, and the early-April hot streak is over. Why is he still DH'ing?— Athletics Nation (@athleticsnation) May 11, 2014
Yes, why is Alberto Callaspo and his below-average bat still in the lineup while Norris, who is hitting .378 and crushing everything he sees, rides the bench? Before that tweet, though, there was another one that caught my eye:
John Jaso now has an .815 OPS. He & Norris simply need to combine for more than 162 starts this year (DH or 1B when not catching).— Athletics Nation (@athleticsnation) May 11, 2014
That couldn't be more spot-on: Jaso and Norris need to play as close to a full season each as possible. They can split catching duties, DH, and first base and manage 145 games apiece. But, are they that much more valuable as a duo than either one of them with Callaspo, either at DH or first base?
First, let's just pretend that Jaso and Norris are just one player—the starting catcher for the Oakland Athletics—and the Oakland lineup will only receive offensive production from "Derek Jaso" or "John Norris," not both. How would that catcher stack up offensively to the rest of the league?
Here are both of their offensive stats during their plate appearances this season as catcher*:
Neither player individually has enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title (3.1/game), but together, they fall right in line with the rest of baseball's catchers. Here, now, are the offensive numbers for "Derek Jaso"/"John Norris":
Not too shabby, right? Now, here's how Oakland's new super-catcher looks next to the rest of the league:
Of course, Jaso+Norris have more plate appearances than all but Miguel Montero, but their average of .331 trumps everyone by a significant margin—Matt Wieters is closest with .308—and their OPS of .875 falls only behind Buster Posey and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
However, this is still a small sample size—does anyone expect Derek Norris to continue his Ruthian tear?—and it doesn't factor in other variables like rest or pitcher matchups. John Jaso and Derek Norris probably wouldn't be as good as Buster Posey like these numbers currently illustrate, but that doesn't mean that they both shouldn't be in the lineup every day in some way, shape, or form, right?
Well, let's look at last year's totals for both players for a slightly larger sample size. Jaso appeared in 70 games with a total of 249 plate appearances and Norris appeared in 98 games with 308 plate appearances. To qualify for the batting title, a player usually needs around 502 plate appearances. So, what might each player have done with an increased workload?
Using some pretty basic arithmetic—stretching out their 2013 production to a larger sample using the same proportions—here's what Jaso and Norris could have looked like with 502 plate appearances in 2013:
Now, to the original question: are they that much more valuable than either one with Callaspo? Let's compare that with Alberto Callaspo's offensive production during his time in Oakland—a total of 308 plate appearances so far between 2013 and 2014, which is a similar sample to those used in the previous example—stretched to 502 plate appearances:
Before the angry mob of Jaso and Norris supporters—which, to be honest, I would normally be a part of—brings pitchforks to my residence, hear me out. Jaso and Norris are both valuable and fun to watch, but their recent remarkably good fortunes aren't going to last forever. And, on that note, Callaspo's poor fortunes won't, either.
If we really do believe "In Beane We Trust"—or are a member of the "Sons of Melvin" like I am—then let's trust that they're using the platoon correctly for now and have a little more patience with Callaspo.
Disclaimer: This article was written prior to today's game in which Norris smashed two more home runs. Just my luck.
. . .