Dodgers: Austin Barnes Is the Best Option at Catcher

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 06: Austin Barnes
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 06: Austin Barnes /

Now that the Dodgers have ended the losing streak and have a series win under their belt, the team is doing everything they can to get that good feeling in the dugout as they head into the biggest series of the year in Washington.

From Adrian Gonzalez bringing out the lineup cards for the Dodgers rather than a coach, to team huddles before the game, even Jobu (the famous good luck charm for Pedro Cerrano in the movie Major League) was brought in to make sure that the team had every chance possible to win.

That is the fun side of trying to get out of the slump if there is one, but there are realities that come with the slide that some players won’t be laughing about. Over the last two weeks, there wasn’t one person or group of players that could be blamed for what went wrong, but there were certainly players doing more to get things right.

Besides Chris Taylor, no player on the Dodgers performed better on the offensive side during the streak than Austin Barnes. He hit .286 in split time with Yasmani Grandal but certainly outperformed his counterpart in that 11-game stretch. In fact, Barnes has been outperforming Grandal in the second half of the season. Here are their stats since August 1st (Click into the tweet): 

In short, Barnes has hit .316 with a .811 OPS while Grandal has hit .163 with five home runs in that same stretch of time.

The reason Barnes began to get more playing time in the first place was due to Grandal’s inability to hit left-handed pitching, even while being a switch hitter. Now, he’s hitting arms from both sides better.

Barnes has been one of the best hitters in the league against right-handers, sporting a .356 average with an OPS of .954. If he qualified, he would lead all catchers in the MLB against righties and rank second behind Buster Posey in average overall. He would be second in OPS behind Gary Sanchez.

Bill Shaikin of the LA Times wrote a report Wednesday explaining how Barnes will have an increased role; Dave Roberts was quoted in it, “Austin deserves that consideration. He’s earned it.” 

I’m gonna tell you that if the Dodgers want to give themselves every opportunity to win a World Series, Austin Barnes should be the everyday catcher.

Grandal has had a solid year overall; one many teams would be happy to have. A near .250 average and 19 home runs at a position where hitting, especially for power, is at a premium. Teams have won championships with worse before.

People could make the argument that Grandal’s power numbers compensate for the average and when it’s a catcher, the defense should be the final factor either way. Grandal has been heralded for his pitch framing ability and plus arm but hasn’t used that to separate himself.

When it comes to throwing out runners, Grandal has gunned down 21 of 63 attempted steals (33 Caught Stealing %) while Barnes has gone six for 27 (22%) in 483 fewer innings behind the dish. But that’s a very shallow way to inspect catcher’s defense.

To dig deeper behind the dish, Baseball Prospectus has a great breakdown of catching defense for every year. Grandal ranks third in the MLB this year by their leaderboards in Fielding Runs Above Average (their individual defense stat), but Barnes is right behind him at sixth.

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For all that is made of pitch framing, according to their charts, Grandal ranks third best in the league there, and Barnes is fifth.

On top of that, Barnes is significantly better when it comes to blocking the baseball. Wild pitches and passed balls are at the digression of the scorer, but either way, you twist it, those numbers heavily favor Barnes as well.

Barnes has simply been better, especially in the last 30 games. When it gets to this point in the season, the hottest hands have to play.

Roberts also mentioned he had faith in Grandal to get back on track and I hope he does too. Having as many quality hitters off the bench as possible for the final push can make or break a team.

Next: Dodgers vs. Nats

As far as the catching duties, for the remaining 16 games and beyond, Austin Barnes should be the one behind the plate.