The Dodgers recently purchased veteran catcher Miguel Olivo’s contract from Albuquerque, and sent Tim Federowicz back down. There’s a lot of celebrating going on via twitter that I have noticed. I can understand the reactions. I won’t make excuses. Fedex has been terrible with the bat. Fedex is hitting just .109 (5 for 26) in 50 plate appearances.
That makes Drew Butera’s .231 average seem almost Ruthian in comparison. No doubt, Fedex was not hitting a lick. But if you look deeper at this move, you’ll realize that the Dodgers probably made the wrong move. If the Dodgers are trying to sacrifice defense for offense with the 35-year old catcher, they won’t be getting much. Yes Olivo was hitting well at Albuquerque, (He was hitting .390 there, and had been playing down there since opening day), but we should all know by now never to trust Albuquerque numbers. It’s like hitting on the moon over there.
Olivo hasn’t it above .225 since 2010. Olivo is the new Ramon Hernandez of 2014. The Dodgers have been here before if you remember. The Dodgers have tried to use veteran washed up catchers over the last few years and none of them have worked out. Rod Barajas, Dioner Navarro, and Brad Ausmus. All were terrible respectively. Hernandez could barely hit above the Mendoza line last year before the Dodgers designated him. Olivo probably won’t be much better.
Olivo batted .224 with Seattle in 2011, .222 with Seattle in 2012 in 84 games, and then he batted .203 with the Marlins last year in 33 games. Olivo has a career .241 average, and a .275 OBP.
Olivo does not get on base, nor does he consistently make contact. Olivo whiffed 140 times in 2011, and only walked 20 times that year. In 2012 Olivo struck out 85 times, and had just seven walks. Olivo has never walked more than 27 times in any season of his career, and has five seasons of 100 or more whiffs. Olivo has accumulated 1,048 strikeouts, while drawing just 157 walks. That’s pretty bad.
But Olivo does have some pop in his bat. In 2006, and 2007 he hit 16 home runs for Miami. In 2009 for Kansas City, he blasted 23 home runs. In 2011 while playing for Seattle he hit 19 home runs. Last season Olivo hit four home runs in 80 plate appearances for Miami. All total, Olivo has hit 145 home runs. He has what I like to call Ocsasional power.
But is that occasional power worth more than defense? The Dodgers may seem to think so. However Fedex is a far superior defensive catcher. According to the metrics, Fedex has a career +2 defensive runs saved, and total zone runs above average fielding rates him at a +7 for his career. (Yes I know he made two catcher’s interference errors, I don’t care, that doesn’t mean he’s not a good defensive catcher. Those could have happened to anyone) As a matter of fact I remember a game when Mike Scioscia, considered one of the best defensive catchers, make a very costly interference error by stopping a rolling ball with his mask. It happens to everyone.
But Fedex is a pretty good catcher. Not to say Olivo is terrible, but Fedex is better. Olivo has a career -4 defensive runs saved, and a -6 total zone fielding rating. He’s cost his teams over four runs per season with his defense. Fedex also has a stronger throwing arm.
My guess is that Fedex will be up and down all year. They did the same thing with A.J. Ellis during his first couple of seasons. The Dodgers are banking on Olivo’s occasional power to give them some kind of value to the catcher’s position right now.
My opinion is that other things are more important than an occasional home run. Fedex is not a good hitter right now, no question. But if the Dodgers are going to go with defense like they said they were, then Fedex should be playing instead of wasting away in Albuquerque.
Fedex’s game calling abilities, pitch framing, and throwing arm, are all superior then the declining Olivo. And Fedex is younger, and more likely to stay healthier thoughout the season. Not to mention that Fedex is much more familiar with the pitching staff, then Olivo is. We might be seeing a lot more wild pitches and passed balls than before.
Isn’t that all more valuable then an occasional home run? What do you think? Remember, the Dodgers have been down this road before with a long list of washed up catchers, like Brad Ausmus, Rod Barajas, (Big Rod), Dioner Navarro, and last year with Ramon Hernandez.
A.J. Ellis can’t get back soon enough.