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

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