2012 Dodgers in Review #2: C Matt Treanor

.175/.281/.282 122pa 2hr -0.1 fWAR D-

2012 in brief: Card-carrying member of International Brotherhood of Backup Catchers may have ended his career with age-36 season that was somehow disappointing even by his own mediocre standards.

2013 status: $950k club option which will almost certainly be declined; unlikely to return to Dodgers.

******

If you remember, and I’m sure you don’t, the news that the Dodgers had signed Matt Treanor last winter was met with a solid “meh”:

In the comments of dodgers.com and the few other places I’ve seen it mentioned, the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative from the fans who cared enough to discuss it, mainly focusing on how Treanor will be 36 next year and provides no offense, with a bit of “Colletti gonna Colletti” thrown in. I have to say, I can’t really see the uproar here, because the alternatives are slim. Just look at the MLBTR list of free agent catchers, won’t you? Are you really dying for Jason VaritekGerald Laird, or Ivan Rodriguez? You could possibly argue for Chris Snyder, but he made $5.2m and $6.2m the last two years and is unlikely to accept a massive paycut. It’s not the same scenario as when we were against Dioner Navarro last year, because in that case Ellis seemed to be an immediately superior internal option; unless you’re one of the very few who think Federowicz is ready now, someone’s going to have to come in from the outside.

If anything, this might further indicate that the Dodgers are willing to give Ellis a shot as the primary option in a job share, which is great. So maybe it’s Treanor, maybe it’s Brian Schneider, maybe it’s Jose Molina (probably my choice because of his defense)… and maybe it’s not really going to matter. As long as it’s $1m or less, choosing between half a dozen guys who essentially provide the same value isn’t really worth getting up in arms over. It’s probably even money that whomever it is gets DFA’d two-thirds of the way through the season for Federowicz, anyway.

And that’s basically what happened, because Treanor was awful, even considering that he was coming in with zero expectations. At one point, he went nearly two full months without a hit, and even then the bookends there were seeing eye singles through the right side on July 26 and September 19. Think about that for a second, won’t you? A major league ballplayer went almost two months without a base hit and never once was his job in jeopardy. I know, I know; as a veteran backup catcher, I’m sure he provided a ton of valuable information which helped A.J. Ellis get through his first year as a starter. That sort of stuff can’t be quantified, and so I get it. But still. Two months.

So Treanor was expected to be bad and he was somehow worse. Wonderful. Yet he’s not coming out of this with an F, because of two bright shining points of light amidst the long darkness of his season. On May 21, Treanor hit his first homer of the year against Arizona’s Patrick Corbin, giving Chris Capuano a 2-0 lead that was all the Dodgers would need. That was all well and good, but the real value there was that coming as it did just after a brutal run of injuries, it allowed MSTI commenter “ThtsaPaddlin” to suggest the phenomenal post title “Dodgers Finally Get Good News From a Treanor“, which was by far the best post title I’ve had all season.

Second, and far more importantly, he put local scumbag T.J. Simers in his place on September 12 for trying to stir up some dirt:

“I don’t think you need to come at Hanley like that,” snaps Treanor.

You mean, my man?

He tells me to meet him outside. I have a pass to get back in but I worry he might not. He says, “In the dugout.”

I agree, but need to chat with Mark Ellis. Ellis says he has joy, while Treanor interrupts to call me names that can’t be printed here.

In the dugout, Treanor swears a lot, puts a finger in my face and when a team official suggests he apologize, Treanor goes on an obscenity-filled rant.

It’s almost enough to make me forget that Treanor is terrible at baseball. Almost, but not quite. Thanks for the season, Matt.

******

Next up! Is Tim Federowicz just a much younger Matt Treanor?

Matt Treanor Is Just the Best

Well, not in a baseball sense, because he’s having what is arguably the worst offensive year of a career that was already pretty terrible, and at 36 and without a single hit in more than six weeks, it’s pretty easy to see 2012 being Treanor’s last shot at the bigs. So when I say “the best,” I really mean “the worst,” and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Tim Federowicz was slowly moving his things into Treanor’s locker as we speak.

But sometimes, as our less statistically-inclined friends are all too eager to remind us, what happens off the field is more important, and even if it’s just for today only, Matt Treanor is my new favorite Dodger.

From this morning‘s latest garbage piece from T.J. Simers in the Los Angeles Times, which apparently can only afford paragraphs with one sentence apiece:

That’s when someone yells, “Zip it up.”

Now I’m an old man, and every once in a while I forget.

But the voice is telling the team’s PR guy to “Get that clown out of here,” so I know Matt Treanor is talking about me.

“What’s your problem?” says Treanor, and I’m thinking, I’m not the one who hasn’t had a hit since July 26.

“Are you trying to tell me you have no joy in your heart?” I say to Treanor, never for a second thinking I would talk to a Treanor unless it was the athlete in the family.

“Don’t come in here causing problems about our attitude,” says Treanor, and folks wonder why I don’t spread good cheer more often.

I tell him the team is dead, but I’m here to revive it and remind them how important joy is to what they do.

“Get out of here,” says Treanor, a second later saying, “Is there anything else you want to talk about?” Hello, anyone home?

“Sure, but you don’t seem in the talking mood,” I say, and Treanor says, “I am now.”

Then he gets in my face and we’re belly to belly because mine is so big.

“What’s wrong with this team?” I ask.

“No comment,” says Treanor, and the whole team is watching because it beats taking batting practice knowing they’re not going to score anyway.

“Are you playing tonight?” I ask, curious if the Dodgers have opted to surrender.

He’s not, and credit to his teammates for not cheering.

He’s getting really upset, and I’m the one who has been stopped from spreading joy. He says it’s unbelievable the local paper isn’t supporting the team and I never write anything positive.

I mention Cruz, Dee Gordon, Matt Kemp, Ramirez and never get to the Clippers, Vernon Wells and a wonderful USC fan with ALS who is more determined than any of these guys.

“I don’t think you need to come at Hanley like that,” snaps Treanor.

You mean, my man?

He tells me to meet him outside. I have a pass to get back in but I worry he might not. He says, “In the dugout.”

I agree, but need to chat with Mark Ellis. Ellis says he has joy, while Treanor interrupts to call me names that can’t be printed here.

In the dugout, Treanor swears a lot, puts a finger in my face and when a team official suggests he apologize, Treanor goes on an obscenity-filled rant.

All sins are forgiven, Matt. Retire that man’s number.

Dodgers Finally Receive Good News From a Treanor

We joke about there being a new hero every night, but this is just getting ridiculous. Tonight’s gold star just might have to go to Matt Treanor, probably the most forgotten man on the 25-man roster thanks to A.J. Ellis‘ breakout and his own general irrelevance. Treanor is the proud owner of just 16 homers and a .308 slugging percentage in nearly 1400 plate appearances over parts of nine seasons, yet after a Jerry Sands single to start the second, it was none other than Treanor who took a Patrick Corbin pitch deep to left field for a 2-0 lead that the Dodgers would never relinquish.

To merely focus on Treanor is to neglect Chris Capuano, of course, who was once again excellent in allowing just one run and five baserunners over six scoreless innings. There was some well-founded worry that he’d come back to earth once he was forced out of Dodger Stadium & Petco Park, and that may yet be the case since he’s outpitching his FIP by more than a run, but he was outstanding tonight and really has been all season. At 6-1, 2.25, it’s not entirely impossible to see him becoming an under-the-radar All-Star candidate, since that’s the sort of superficial stat line that makes a guy like Tony LaRussa quiver. Ronald Belisario – looking particularly nasty – Javy Guerra, & Jamey Wright finished with three scoreless innings as the Dodgers were never threatened.

Treanor’s blast may have been all Capuano needed, but it wasn’t all the Dodgers received. Andre Ethier added the third run by crushing his ninth homer of the year – off a lefty, no less! – and James Loney, clearly glowing from the rare praise which was heaped upon him earlier today, put an exclamation point on it with his second home run of 2012, coming off of Bryan Shaw in the 8th. (As Eric Stephen noted, Loney now has 10 homers in just 44 career games in Arizona, against just 25 homers in 420 games in Dodger Stadium. If he ever leaves the Dodgers, he’s going to be a star. Mark it down right now.) Though the additional offense may have seemed like merely icing on the cake, it unbelievably marks the fifth consecutive game in which the Dodgers have scored at least six runs. They managed to do that just once last year and not since 2004 before that, but the fact that they’re doing it without Matt Kemp and all the rest continues to be absolutely mind-blowing.

The true hero of the night, however, was clearly the poor soul at Fox Sports headquarters in Dallas who managed to break commercial capabilities across the entire Fox Sports network. Rather than being bombarded by the usual corporate shilling, we were treated to interviews & vignettes. It was, as I’m sure I don’t need to point out, a more than welcome change.

With the win, the Dodgers move to 29-13, the best record in baseball by two games over Baltimore’s 27-16. Lest anyone think that’s a total fluke, they’re earning it; their +50 run differential is the third best in baseball, behind only Texas & St. Louis. Aaron Harang tries to keep it going against Trevor Cahill tomorrow.

(hat tip to valued commenter ThtsaPaddlin for the excellently punny post title)

Older Players Find a Rest Home With the Dodgers

You’ve always thought Ned Colletti had an unnatural predilection for older players, right? Whether it’s been trying to stick Luis Gonzalez in front of Andre Ethier or Garret Anderson in front of absolutely anyone who wasn’t Garret Anderson, the Dodgers in the Colletti era (2006-11) have always been seen as choosing experience over talent, even when the experienced player is well past their sell-by date. We’ve always joked about it, but we’ve never had a really great way to confirm it.

Until now, that is. Today, FanGraphs (who, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve recently begun writing for) has unveiled “age filtering” on their leaderboards, which can show you all kinds of fun things. (Examples they give include seeing all qualified batters in their age 18-24 seasons since 2005 and seeing which teams have benefited the most from pitchers age 30 and up since 2000.)

Well, if we have that kind of information at our fingertips, how could I not go see how much playing time has been handed over to the elderly since Colletti arrived 2006? Let’s start with hitters, throw all the proper inputs into the blender, and we’ll come out with…

2006-2011, Most PA by Players 35+
1. 8587 Giants
2. 8580 Dodgers
3. 8098 Yankees

…and, of course they are. But okay, in and of itself having older players isn’t necessarily bad. Barry Bonds stayed productive for the Giants well into his 30s, and the Yankees are always carrying expensive, older superstars into the playoffs. Manny Ramirez was no spring chicken when he arrived in LA, and it can’t have been all Mark Sweeney and Juan Castro and Mark Loretta since, right?

2006-2011, wOBA of Players 35+
10t. .328 Reds
10t. .328 Rays
12t. .327 Dodgers

Not awful, if likely Manny-fueled. However, also likely fueled by Manny is the defensive performance of this group of players…

2006-11, Fielding Runs of Players 35+
28. -41.0 Red Sox
29. -62.9 Yankees
30. -66.0 Dodgers

Yikes. (While we’re here, I can’t help but share the numbers for +WPA and -WPA. They aren’t great stats for evaluating long-term performance, because they’re so dependent on the context of an individual game, but over this span this group of Dodgers provided a Win Percentage Added of 0.02… and a -WPA of 147.37. That’s just fantastic.)

Okay, how about the pitchers?

2006-2011, Most IP by Pitchers 35+
1. 2496.1 Yankees
2. 2038.1 Mets
3. 1904.0 Red Sox
4. 1766.2 Braves
5. 1678.1 Dodgers

Top five, again. And as to their performance…

2006-2011, FIP by Pitchers 35+
1. Braves 3.70
2. Cardinals 3.78
3. Yankees 3.79
4t. Marlins 3.86
4t. Dodgers 3.86

This actually comes out pretty well, mostly considering that Derek Lowe, Hiroki Kuroda (2), and Ted Lilly each had solid seasons of 190 innings or more after turning 35 – plus several excellent Takashi Saito years in relief. The most amazing thing about this is that they’ve managed to commit so much time to older players despite having such an impressive pipeline of young prospects coming up in this time, guys like Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton, Andre Ethier, James Loney, Chad Billingsley, etc. It’s like they’ll only play guys who are under 27 or over 35.

Still, I’ll have to admit the results of this didn’t come out exactly as I thought they would. The Dodgers under Colletti have actually done a decent job out of getting production from the higher-tier older players like Manny, Lowe, Kuroda, Lilly and a year or two each out of Jeff Kent, Jamey Carroll, and Casey Blake. That’s great, and credit is due there. If anything, the problem is in choosing poorly on the mid- to lower-range guys and then either delaying in or outright refusing to cut the cord when it’s clear that the veteran is absolutely cooked. That’d be Anderson in 2010, Brad Ausmus in 2009-10, Loretta in 2009, Sweeney in 2008, Olmedo Saenz in 2007, any mention of the Flying Ortizii Brothers, etc.

Of course considering this doesn’t include 2012 – you know, low-upside guys like Matt Treanor, Jerry Hairston, Mark Ellis, Adam Kennedy etc. – the trend isn’t likely to turn this year. Or next year either, since they’re mostly all signed to two-year deals.

Are the Dodgers Going To Have the Weakest Catching Situation in Baseball?

All of us love A.J. Ellis around here. How can you not? He’s the kind of guy you always root for, because after having been in the minors for nine seasons (including four in a row at Triple-A) and seeing small stints with the big club in every year since 2008, he’s finally positioned to be a big-league starter for the first time in 2012 at age 31. It’s the kind of story we can all relate to, and it helps that when he’s actually seen playing time late in the year over the last two seasons, he’s been excellent, putting up a .342/.444/.461 line over 92 September/October plate appearances since 2010. Even his style works, because on a team that has had far too many OBP black holes in recent years, getting on base is exactly his strength, along with positive reviews of his pitcher handling. And selfishly, I’ll admit that any ballplayer who not only has a Twitter account but is interesting with it and follows me, Jon Weisman, and Eric Stephen gets an additional one billion coolness points.

Few of us like Matt Treanor. He’s old. He can’t hit, at all, even a little. That’s usually fine from a backup backstop, because you’re rarely expecting much from the position other than to be a capable defender, but Treanor grades out poorly there as well, not even as good as Rod Barajas was. You don’t ever want to get too agitated over a one-year, small-money commitment to a player who really isn’t going to make much of a difference, but Treanor was never good, and when he turns 36 in two weeks he’s not going to start getting any better. He exists. I’m not sure why.

None of us are really sure what to make of Tim Federowicz. You try not to unfairly denigrate him simply because he was included in one of the most shocking and unpopular Dodger trades in years, because he had nothing to do with that, and his defense is supposedly excellent. However, I’ve yet to see anyone outside the Dodger front office who thinks he can hit enough to be a big-league starter, and if he isn’t more than a backup, then why did you trade Trayvon Robinson for him anyway? Well, there I go again, busting him for a trade he didn’t ask for. Kevin Goldstein ranked him as the 13th best Dodger prospect recently at Baseball Prospectus, and being one spot ahead of Ethan Martin and four below Alex Castellanos isn’t exactly high praise. Maybe he’ll improve his hitting skills, but we won’t find that out this year in Albuquerque; remember, playing in the PCL once made Terry Tiffee look like a stud.

Taken as a whole, the top three Dodger catchers are questionable at best. We like Ellis and are optimistic about him, but can his great-eye, zero-power ways stop pitchers from throwing nothing but strikes, and how many guys are really impact players when they don’t get their first real shots until 31? Is Treanor going to be really bad or just very bad? And is Federowicz really the catcher of the future, or just someone we say nice things about regarding his defense while we hope Gorman Erickson pans out? Or Pratt Maynard? Or someone we don’t even know about yet?

One scout asked BP‘s John Perrotto just that:

“I don’t understand what the Dodgers are doing here. These guys are both number-two catchers, and I can’t imagine either one of them starting 100 games. Maybe they think (rookie Tim) Fedorowicz [sic] will be the answer at some point in the season, but I wasn’t all that impressed with what I saw of him last September. This has to be the weakest catching situation in the major leagues.”

The weakest catching situation in the major leagues. Well, I thought, that seems kind of harsh, but to outsiders who don’t have as much of a soft spot for Ellis as we do, I suppose I can see where they’re coming from. On the other hand, outside of a few teams, catching is a black hole across the sport. But the weakest? Well, I couldn’t let that go by without trying to figure out if that’s true. Of course, there’s no black and white way to solidly identify that, because you can’t just go by 2011 stats; situations have changed, players have moved, players have aged.

Besides, we’re not interested in what happened in 2011, we’re trying to project what might happen in 2012, so for that, I went to BP‘s PECOTA spreadsheet, the most recent version of which was posted on Tuesday. In order to weed out minor leaguers and others who may skew the data, I referenced MLBDepthCharts.com to identify the likely top two catchers for each team in 2012, with some small changes to their guesses. By combining BP‘s WARP score (their variation of WAR) for each club’s top two backstops, we have a quick-and-dirty way of looking at the value of each team’s 2012 backstop duo.

So are the Dodgers the worst? Well, not exactly…

Team / Total WARP / Top Two
1. MIN 5.8 Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit
2t. CLE 4.6 Carlos Santana, Lou Marson
2t. ATL 4.6 Brian McCann, David Ross
4. TEX 4.2 Mike Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba
5. STL 3.4 Yadier Molina, Bryan Anderson


25. LAN 1.2 A.J. Ellis, Matt Treanor
26. PIT 1.1 Rod Barajas, Michael McKenry
27. SEA 0.8 Miguel Olivo, John Jaso
28. KCA 0.7 Salvador Perez, Brayan Pena
29. HOU 0.6 Chris Snyder, Humberto Quintero
30. TBA -0.1 Jose Lobaton, Jose Molina

So according to PECOTA, the Dodgers might have merely the sixth-worst catching group in the game. Take that, nameless scout! Of course, this is loaded with caveats, because even if PECOTA was an exact science (which it’s not), a difference in 0.2 points of WARP is so insignificant that it’s hardly worth noting, so think of this more as being “in the bottom group”. Still, expect some fluctuation there. If the Mariners really do play Jesus Montero regularly behind the plate, his bat alone will vault Seattle out of this group, and I’m somewhat surprised to see the Royals ranking so low, considering that Perez was impressive as a 21-year-old in the bigs last season. Not the Astros, though. Good lord, are the Astros going to be bad.

Most importantly, all of this is tied up in Ellis. Unlike most of the other clubs where the two catchers combine their value to reach the total WARP, this represents Ellis at 1.2 and Treanor (and Federowicz, for that matter) at 0.0. I’m cautiously optimistic that Ellis can keep his OBP high enough that along with his plus defense his near-total lack of power won’t prevent him from being a solid starter, or at least solid enough to get the Dodgers through the season and guarantee him a big-league career that could last for several more years. But if he can’t, or if he gets injured, there’s nothing behind him to step in. And you remember what shortstop looked like when Rafael Furcal got hurt in 2008, right?