Dodgers: Yasmani Grandal is the Dodgers Catcher for the Postseason

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 21: Yasmani Grandal
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 21: Yasmani Grandal /

Dodgers’ catcher Yasmani Grandal has had a rough time at the plate post the All-Star break. It’s been such a struggle watching Grandal’s at-bats that many fans, including several of the contributors on this site, have called for Dave Roberts to bench Grandal in favor of Austin Barnes. While that may seem like the best move now, I’m not entirely sure that’s the right one as the Dodgers prepare for their playoff run.

Let me preface this article by saying Grandal has been bad, and there’s no way around it. Post the All-Star break Grandal is slashing a poor .204/.276/.319 with a decent eight home runs. The issue is the Grandal looks lost at the plate, striking out at an alarming rate of 33% (50 strikeouts in 153 at-bats).

Those numbers get worse through his performance the first two weeks of September. In September, Grandal has only managed two hits in 38 at-bats culminating to a .053 batting average and even worse on-base percentage of .196. Grandal has struck out 20 times in those same 38 at-bats which leads to an abysmal 53% strikeout percentage! That’s even worse than bad. So why am I defending Grandal again?

Oh yeah, defense. While I was on my way home last night after the game, I was listening to am570’s Dodger Talk hosted by David Vassegh. During their opening segment, Vassegh pointed out something that I initially wasn’t able to catch when watching the game. Before Kershaw gave up his first career grand slam, Vassegh noted that Kershaw and Austin Barnes we’re quite on the same page that inning. He went on to say that Kershaw seemed frustrated with Austin Barnes after his second visit to the mound. Vassegh feels that may have affected the pitch that ended up in being the grand slam pitch.

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Vassegh and former GM Ned Colletti went on to stress the importance of a pitcher and catcher being on the same page. Especially in crucial moments with the game on the line. Austin Barnes has done an excellent job in spot starts, but Grandal has been Kershaw’s catcher this season.  We witness this when Grandal first arrived, and Don Mattingly kept AJ Ellis on the team to be Kershaw’s catcher.

Kershaw is a highly competitive pitcher and takes his preparation for each start very serious. So small things like who’s catching him could throw off his routine in the postseason. I know Grandal is struggling mightily, but perhaps his real value is the way he receives the games.

Grandal is in the top tier of MLB catchers defensively. Kershaw loves having Grandal behind the plate because of his ability to get more called strikes and control the running game. When you compare the defensive numbers between Barnes and Grandal, the main difference is in managing the running game. Grandal has caught 21 of his 63 base stealers (33%), while Barnes has caught 6 of 27 (26%) base stealers.

Grandal without a doubt needs to make adjustments. He’s a much better hitter than the way he’s performing right now. It makes the most sense for Roberts to keep Grandal as the starter once the postseason begins because Grandal has the experience and the familiarity with the pitching staff. In the postseason limiting baserunners is an essential aspect of the game. If Grandal can help limit that it can prove to be valuable.

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This endorsement of Grandal does not have anything to do with Barnes. Barnes is one of the biggest surprises of the season, and he has proven to be a valuable player on this club. At least for this season, Barnes brings more value to the team off the bench. He’s a versatile catcher that can play the infield in defensive substitutions. He has top of the line speed that can be used in pinch-running situations. He is a proven pinch hitter with nine hits in 30 at-bats. Barnes’ time to start may come sooner than the Dodgers front office expected after his performance this season, but at least for this postseason run, this is still Grandal’s pitching staff to manage.