Indians Catchers Could Replace Regressions to Mean

The brilliance of baseball is its quirks. You can’t predict ball, as they say.

The game never stays the same, nor does the production from a player from year to year, something the fan base of the defending AL Champs may have to fear.

Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin will almost certainly regress after breakout seasons, as emerging players often do. Naquin hit .335/.399/.629 through July 31 before finishing 29-of-124, which was regression enough, and 5-foot-9 infielders don’t often hold up .312/.363/.462 splits perennially.

Not to say that neither will retain their form from an exceptional run to the World Series, but counting on that would be borderline foolish.

The fluid nature of baseball goes both ways, however, and the Indians boasted an MLB-worst -0.7 WAR from the catcher position in 2016 according to FanGraphs, as Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez battled with injuries.

Defensively, the combination of Gomes, Perez, Chris Gimenez and Adam Moore were the eighth-best catching corps in baseball at 14.2 dWAR. Offensively, they were an astounding -42.2 oWAR, a difference of 7.3 from 29th-ranked San Diego.

For reference, only two teams got a 7.3 oWAR from the catcher position all season.

The statistics are obviously a negative in a number of regards, but the positive is that you reached the World Series despite it.

The better news is that it will be nearly impossible to get that little production from the spot again.

Gomes has regressed each year from his .294/.345/.481 breakout year in 88 games through 2013 as he has dealt with nagging injuries in both 2015 and 2016.

The amount of regression due to playing the most physically demanding position while banged up can be debated, but that 2013 split only fell slightly to 2014 when Gomes hit .278/.313/.472 over 47 more games.

The question of Gomes in 2017 is not of whether or not he can hit. He can hit, he just has not for one reason or another. They question is whether or not he can stay healthy.

Roberto Perez, like Gomes, suffered a freak injury while playing the most strenuous spot on the diamond – and he paid for it.

The backup backstop finished the year with a paltry .183/.285/.294 mark, but hit .250/.310/.385 in the final 20 regular season games. You cannot measure post-season success by batting splits more often than not, but Perez did make an impact at the dish in key moments.

Regardless, at this point in time, Perez is still the backup catcher, and a good one at that. The 28-year old has only played above replacement level offensively in one of his three big league seasons, but the latest stands out as a result of injury.

There are not a whole lot of ways the Indians could get less production from their catcher position, and FanGraphs projects both Gomes (-21.5 oWAR in 2016 to -8.7 in 2017) and Perez (-9.3 to -7.0) to rebound from their horrendous 2016 campaigns. That could replace at least a sliver of what the team may lose from their breakout players regressing to the mean.

Perhaps the biggest caveat at the position is Francisco Mejia, who some scouting outlets have move into the top prospect spot for the organization. The Indians have shown no inclination to move Mejia to the 25-man roster for any reason by necessity, but should he get there, he could make an impact.

The man who hit in 50 straight games in the minors is projected at -0.5 oWAR in 13 plate appearances in 2017.

More from Alex Hooper | 92.3 The Fan
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