baltimoresun.com

« The Koji Conundrum: Part III | Main | Is this really an issue? Really? »

Does it matter who the Orioles' backup catcher is?

Two days in a row you get a bar entry from me. Pretty impressive.

I think Cal Ripken Jr., may start getting worried about my streak.

The big news in Orioles’ camp Tuesday is the pending announcement that Chris Tillman will be sent to Triple-A Norfolk and David Hernandez is going to be the club’s fifth starter.

But we’ve already talked about that one.

The smaller news – whispers turning into a blip, really – is that Craig Tatum is getting the backup catcher job over veteran Chad Moeller.

Tatum is 27 and has played just 26 major league games (batting .162 with one homer for the Reds last year).

Moeller is 35 and spent parts of 10 seasons in the big leagues (a career .226 hitter with 29 lifetime homers).

The front-office thinking was obvious on three fronts: The Orioles are choosing the younger and cheaper player. And they are taking the guy with the better arm.

The belief is that the backup to Matt Wieters will play just once or twice a week, and that person is going to get run on – that’s a truism in baseball, run on the catcher who doesn’t get to throw in a game often.

And Moeller’s arm is not his strength; Tatum’s is. So, on the surface, the move makes plenty of sense.

But there’s more to it. Moeller is arguably the most respected – and respectful – player in that clubhouse. He is not a rah-rah guy, but he loves talking the game. He aspires to be a front-office guy one day, and it would be shocking if he doesn’t achieve that, given his smarts (he studied economics at USC) and experience.

Catching prospect Caleb Joseph couldn’t stop raving about Moeller this spring. The core of young pitchers on the Orioles feels the same way. Many of them threw to him at either Triple-A or the majors last year, so they are incredibly comfortable with him.

Given how infrequent the reserve catcher will play, and given how much Moeller has seized the mentor role, it just seems wrong to cut him loose and go with Tatum, when Wieters, no matter how talented he is, has less than a year of big league service time.

This is absolutely no slight on Tatum, who seems like a nice guy and hard worker. He just doesn't have the experience I think is required for the backup of a young starting catcher.

But this may be one of those issues that rankles beat writers but makes no difference to the general public. I mean, the Orioles have serious obstacles ahead of them and I am pontificating on the backup catcher. So put me in my place if I am wrong here.

I want to know whether the backup catcher spot means anything. I say it does, because Wieters is your franchise, your young pitchers are your future and having an experienced, calming influence on the bench and in the clubhouse is key.

Daily Think Special: Does it matter who is the Orioles’ reserve catcher?

Comments

sure it matters who your back up catcher is. just like it matters who your back up s.s. is. moeller has experience and did a good job last year as the back up catcher with the young pitching staff as well as mentoring wieters. with a young pitching staff and a young catcher moeller is the man for the job as back up catcher.

You're worried about the backup catcher on the Orioles? What did you think about the deck chair arrangement on the Titanic?

---
Barkeep's Reply: And I knew that one was coming. Drink chip to Bob.

At 35, is Chad Moeller interested in moving into a coaches role now, and the Orioles finding a way to keep him around the young pitchers that way?

---
Barkeep's Reply: Coaching staffs are already set. And I think Moeller still believes he has baseball left in him (he had a pretty good spring -- .300 in 20 at-bats). But when he retires, he'd rather end up in a front office than a uniform, partially because he has a young family.

You're right on this, Dan, as is Peter Schmuck. Big mistake by the Orioles. Over the long haul, the wisdom and experience of Moeller is far more important than Tatum's arm. Yogi Berra didn't start as an all-star catcher; he became one after Bill Dickey spend months working with him. Wieters needs Moeller. The Orioles need Moeller more than they need Tatum.

the backup catcher will be good arm michel hernandez
when he get better ok

It matters if Wieter's gets hurt the 1st week of the season. I still don't know why they didn't just Keep Zaun

I think it isn't a big since our bench coach has a catching backround. The only reason Moeller was better is becasue he is a vet. Now the bench coach can do the mentoring and the back-up catcher is ther better player.
Good choice O's

Backup catcher on a 4th place team? Not even an issue, much less worthy of a discussion.

I have to agree with Connolly and Schmuck on this one. I know they didn't want to lose Tatum and he had no options left but Moeller would be of more value with the bat and as a mentor. All JMHO!

Makes no difference. If Wieters is as good as they say, he needs no further daddy time. Go with the younger, cheaper, more defensive, eager and probably a couple of points higher average with time.

Let's see... a catcher with little offence who turns every walk into a double, or a catcher with little offence who will throw out someone trying to steal once in a while. Tatum is younger... Pitchers had a higher ERA with Moeller catching (5.68) than they had with Wieters (5.03). The Oriole pitchers pitched better (5.15) without him than with him. So what's so special about Moeller? That he's a nice guy... entertaining... tells good stories. Geez, if they need that in the dugout, they should have brought back Kevin Millar!

Does it matter who the Orioles' backup catcher is? YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT IT DOES! For the time being, I'm hoping it's Craig Tatum and not Chad Moeller. Here are three things I've learned about Moeller:
(1) Opposing runners always have the green light to steal bases at will when he's behind the plate.
(2) Did I mention that ALL opposing runners always have the green light to steal bases at will when he's behind the plate.
(3) Any runner who fails to steal bases off him deserves to be kicked out of organized baseball.

If it was my decision to make, I would have taken Moeller. But, you can make a somewhat reasonable argument for Tatum. In the long run, I'm not sure it matters all that much. It's not like our backup catcher is going to mean the difference between winning the pennant this year or not (anybody remember Jamie Quirk?). I'd feel a lot better, though, if we had a veteran back who could step in if -- God forbid! -- Wieters got hurt or had a horrific sophomore slump. Where's Brook Fordyce when you need him?

Dan,
I think its more than a question of which of the two is the best backup for Wieters. What happens if Wieters gets hurt(in the 13th game of this season) and has to go the 60 day DL or is out for the season? Then who would you rather have catching everyday? Who can help you win more games - Moeller or Tatum? In that case, I would pick Moeller's experience.

Also, Wieters hasn't been a major catcher a year yet and he is bound to have slumps. Moeller has the better bat thus far. I think the team will win more this year with Moeller than Tatum.

If Wieters goes down with an injury what difference does it make? Our success this season is going to depend on how Wieters and the other prime time youngsters perform, not their backups. Neither backup can fill his spot effectively by theirselves so I see this as a mute point. If any of the young guns is injured I see the wheels coming off the cart anyway for 2010.

Dan—I don’t want to be unfair to Jeff Datz, who I don’t know. But processing the information that I do know, Datz came to the Orioles in the off season after 19 seasons in the Cleveland organization. His job is called bench coach; he is a former catcher. Datz wants to make his impact with his new team, wants to be the teacher for Wieters.

Chad Moeller is a smart baseball guy. A few weeks ago, the New York Times sports section ran a piece where Moeller gave capsule summaries of many fine pitchers he had caught in his career, culminating with his comments on Brian Matusz. His observations were perceptive, fascinating.

It sounds to me that Trembley was saying it’s time for Wieters to take control (“This is Wieters’ team” said Trembley) and that he has Datz as his coach for catchers. I think Datz wants to have his voice, his power, and doesn’t need Moeller getting credit.

This approach—and I admit, I may be wrong in my reading of this situation—doesn’t place value where it should be placed—on good, smart baseball men and good guys on the bench and in the clubhouse.

I can understand why his teammates, particularly the young pitchers, do not want to see Moeller go.

Moeller, I believe, will be a future major league manager.

Upon further review... looks like there's another "hanging chad" in Florida. Sometimes these things come to me, as if in a dream. (Anyone remember Al Gore 2000? Anyone?)

Supposing Wieters and Tatum both have to leave a game, who's our #3 catcher? Wiggy? Wiggy could get starts this year at 3B, 1B, DH, 2B and LF. Who could have imagined that.

The anti-spam verification words on my post are "Mr Nausea." Are you trying to tell me something?

I don't think it's going to matter to the Kool-Aid spitters, they would find an angle to criticize either choice...

Somebody cut off DonM....it's offenSe not offenCe.

My two cents...I would have kept Moeller for the clubhouse personality factor over the backup catcher role. If this other guy has a stronger arm, not a bad choice. Neither would hit much.

If Moeller is as smart as he seems, he knows not to take a job in the Baltimore front office.

Get real people , you are worried about a backup catcher on this team,,,,,,,,,,,,,you need a backup team.................

No biggie

I applaud the O's for going with a guy who they think make them better rather than the fans & clubhouses choice

The most important function of Weiters' backup will be his defensive capability.
Tatum's got a rifle arm with a quick release and gives a good target.
Moeller gives a good target.

Those who commented on Datz being a mentor/coach to Weiters should also remember that he'll actually be spending just as much and maybe more time on the bench with Tatum helping him to learn the hitters and discussing situations. I think everyone will benefit from that.

This decision was no mistake.
Congratulations to the Orioles for making the correct one.

Winning a championship is a team effort and that includes every part of the organization. The people in management, the ones who are responsible for who gets paid by the Orioles, need to realize that the small bit of change they save on Tatum could cost them a few games this year simply because of the influence Moeller holds in the locker room.

A team is only as strong as its weakest link, and a veteran back-up catcher mentoring potentially the next Joe Mauer would only be a positive for the Orioles. This move might work out, but don't be surprised if it doesn't.

It's simple really:

Put Tatum, the younger cheaper catcher, in every Sunday as backup to Wieters. He plays one or two games a week and won't allow as many stolen bases as Moeller will. Keep in mind that the Orioles pitching staff is Wieters', not Moeller's. Moeller is a veteran mentor, but Jeff Datz was brought on for that role.

So we hope Moeller accepts a minor league assignment to AAA. If he can find another team to sign on with, great. If not, I'm sure playing baseball is better than watching afternoon soaps at home. If he does sign on with Norfolk, he would catch six days a week mentoring several pitchers: Arrieta, Tillman, Patton, Britton, Erbe, Spoone, Johnson... etc.

Let Wieters worry about the Orioles. Moeller would be better suited catching daily and mentoring the prospects in AAA.

You and Schmuck both? Wow, slow news day.

Every act in baseball is captured in statistics. Show me Moeller's veteran leadership in the numbers. You might start by looking at the ERA when pitchers throw to him -- oops, last year that was higher than other catchers'.

Numbers matter. You can ignore them, but that says more about you.

Dan said: "But this may be one of those issues that rankles beat writers but makes no difference to the general public. I mean, the Orioles have serious obstacles ahead of them and I am pontificating on the backup catcher. So put me in my place if I am wrong here."

Dead on. You're too close. This is not a story.

Does it matter? Of course it does. The question is how much? I'd venture that it matters more to the Moeller and Tatum families than to anyone else. Who knows, this could have as dramatic an effect on team performance as putting "Baltimore" on the road jerseys.

While this was not what I expected to unfold this spring, partcularly not since Moeller is even hitting the ball a little bit, I'll just raise my eyebrow like Mr. Spock for a moment and then go on about my day. For one thing, Moeller's hitting this spring is not something I expect to see carry on through the season. (You know it's spring training when... Andino is slugging over a hundred points higher than Tejada.) I probably would have made the other choice based on what I know - but the coaching staff knows a whole lot more about these guys than I do.

One potential advantage to giving the job to Tatum - it may be possible to stop the revolving door at backup catcher for a few years if he does well. He was a third round draft choice in 2004 and has tolerable offensive numbers in his MiLB career. If he can hold down the job until Joseph is ready that's not a bad thing.

A bunch of over the hill vets can't 'teach' our team to win. If our guys are good then we'll win. I don't buy the "he is a vet who can teach wieters". Wieters is good and nothing Moeller did made that happen. We're better off w/ the better arm so people don't run on us all day! Stolen bases = Runs = losses = Not teaching Wieters anything! ha

LETS ALL hope WEITERS stays healthy and happy,. he will be PRODUCTIVE--yes aback-up is very important -considering catcher -who gets hurt -is in every pitch.moller will be back ---lugo will also be a good addiiton.

So the O's taking the training wheels off weiters and this is a bad thing?

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

ADVERTISEMENT

Most Recent Comments
The Burning Question
ADVERTISEMENT

Buy Sports Tickets from the Baltimore Sun Store

Baltimore Sun blog updates

 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected