Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland A's Face A Catcher Conundrum

When the A’s let go of Kurt Suzuki in 2012, it was because of the emergence of rookie Derek Norris. When the A’s brought Suzuki back via trade with the Nationals this season, it was because Norris went on the disabled list because of a fractured big toe. Ahh, how the world goes ‘round.

Well now, with the return of Norris to the lineup tonight against the Houston Astros, Bob Melvin and the A’s have a decision on their hands. The A’s have had much success with the catching platoon of another notable newcomer, left-handed hitting Stephen Vogt, and either the right-handed hitting of Norris or Suzuki.

Vogt, obviously, is safe for the most part, since the concussion to fellow catcher, John Jaso, knocked him off the catching spectrum. Vogt is hitting a productive .253/.308/.398 in 83 at bats against right-handed pitchers, but is also producing behind the plate, especially against potential base-stealers. Vogt has thrown out eight of 22 attempted stealers, which is an outstanding 36%.

Suzuki, not known for his batting, has put up a productive, yet inconclusive, .333/.333/.571 average in a small-scaled 21 at bats since returning to the A’s while Norris has an above-average triple slash of .309/.406/.577 against lefties in a more detailed 123 at bats.

With the injury to his big toe, I doubt the A’s will want to use Norris as catcher in back-to-back games. Norris is, to most, clearly the offensive leader of the right-handed catching battle, which is why Norris took the title of top-dog last season anyway, but with catching, there’s much more than just batting.

With Suzuki known for his brilliance behind the plate and Norris, not so much, it’d be tough to leave the veteran off of the postseason roster. Many reporters have said the A’s could plan to use Suzuki predominantly in late inning situations to catch for relief pitchers Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour, who have been known to get a little wild with their pitches (e.g. ALDS Game 2 last season).

Another reason Suzuki can’t be left off the postseason roster is the love the catcher gets  from his teammates, most importantly the young pitchers. The tough goodbyes of 2012 turned into open armed hugs this year when Suzuki returned to the place where his major league career began in 2007.

So, if you’ve been thinking as much about it as I have then you have to be wondering: Which catcher are the A’s going to leave off the postseason roster? It seems less than likely that the A’s will go into October with three catchers, but to me, it’s something that has to be thoroughly discussed, and ultimately, should happen. I know it’d be entirely out of the ordinary, but hey, this is the A’s we’re talking about.

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Tags: Derek Norris Kurt Suzuki Oakland Athletics

  • chacha711

    I think most all ther A’s pitchers feel better w/Suk (Maui-WowWee) behind the plate, he not only is the better “defensive/game caller” but is a smarter-seasoned catcher n has done well w/the bat-contact as late n even better at bunting or sacrificing, ie today he had 3-solid contact long-fly-outs, while Norris looked lost/bad striking-out all 3 times in a row as DH! Skipper Bob “Mr Juggle-Platoon/lefty-righty” Melvin needs to make-up his mind soon w/his playoffs-starting lineup or Billy Beane and/or the opposition will 4 him!!!
    ps. not 2 mention who’s on 1st another A’/Melvin juggernaught challenge w/3 1st basemen, esp if they want 2 “focus” on building some momentrum n continuity w/their lineup/players facing the next group/series w/teams like Twins, LAA, Bosux, TX, Tigers, ATL, STL, Reds, or LA in the playoffs/WS if they make it that far?!

  • chacha711

    Mr Avilla/writer here failed to mention that it’s the pitchers/coach problem w/not being able to hold the runners close n not always/soo much the catchers fault, n should give us more stat #’s as to base-stealing/throwouts of all 3 catchers ie over 50-75 runners w/several variety of pitchers/games providing w/a a larger/better sampling!
    ps. Not 2 mention he didn’t discuss the “Melvin/who’s on 1st conundrum w/ 3 starting 1st basemen?!

    • Nick A.

      First, it’s Avila. Lol, but as for the CS% I didn’t compare Suzuki’s to Norris’ because of the complete stretch that Norris has about 60 attempted steals on him and Zuk has some 400 more. Both have the same % (26) but Zuk has been at around 10-15% for the past few yrs. I only used Vogt’s because of how much it stood out. Oh and for the 1B predicament I’ll leave that for another day.

  • chacha711

    OK….Avila Avilla sp. is not that big a deal, like ur’ not as big a deal as a some of the more well-known top-rated sports writers/analysts! The A’s/Melvin n Bean r running outta time 4 u or they 2 have 2 “just wait for another day” 2 figure things out w/ or w/o all the musical/platooning of players/lineups if they’re going 2 succeed in getting 2 n thru the playoffs, as players, pitchers, teams don’t like “uncertainty” esp going into the “pressure-cooker playoffs times/chances of the year, ie 1st base, 2nd base, not 2 mention the issue of “pitchers/coaches doing a much better job of holding on runners, mixing-it-up w/diff looks, etc. to prevent/limit base-runner leads/steals n not putting it all on a good vet catcher like Zuk, who would be my choice 2 start esp as the best experienced MLB signal-caller against all righties n big-sinker/cutter ball A’s pitchers (to block/save those pass-balls, etc!!!

    • Nick A.

      Avila to Avilla changes my entire ethnicity, besides I don’t consider myself a big deal, just informing you of a misspelling. And only time will tell for all the other opinions you typed. We shall see.

  • chacha711

    ps. typo, meant that “Zuk should start/hit vs all “lefties” not righties” n would start Vogt vs righties 4 his bat n arm”!