Dodger catchers have improved defensively from last year as well. Grandal (28 percent caught stealing percentage) and Ellis (44 percent caught stealing percentage) have already caught 37 would-be base stealers, which is only one less than the catching squad threw out during the entirety of last season. Interestingly, wild pitches have also gone down. Last season there were 64 wild pitches by the Los Angeles pitching staff, but in 2015 there has only been 44 so far.
Grandal is much better at blocking balls and throwing out runners than what was projected before he joined the Dodgers and has also brought his skill of pitch framing to Los Angeles, which has given the pitching staff an even greater edge. More strikes equals more strikeouts, and it may be no coincidence that Clayton Kershaw leads the Majors with a career-high 251 strikeouts.
Even though many saw Ellis as Kershaw’s personal catcher coming into this season, Don Mattingly has still had Grandal catch him in 11 games. Opposing batters are hitting .182 off Kershaw when Grandal is catching him, and Kershaw’s strikeout:walk ratio is more than three points higher (9.64) when Grandal is catching rather than his buddy, Ellis.
The front office’s acquisition of catcher Austin Barnes was probably one of the most important moves that Andrew Friedman has made in order to bolster the Dodgers catching depth. After losing a slew of catchers throughout the organization this offseason and going years without a top caliber catcher (Ramon Hernandez anyone?), the Dodgers finally acquired some solid catching corps in Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes.
Barnes was recently recalled from Oklahoma City for the third time this season. The converted catcher could very well be the backup to Yasmani Grandal next year. Although Clayton Kershaw lobbied for Ellis last offseason, I could see the 34-year-old transitioning into a coaching role in the future.
Even with the prolonged slump of Grandal and the offensive struggles of Ellis earlier this season, the solid catching has not only been an important part of the success of this Dodger team, but it also means that the Dodgers will have productive catching for the foreseeable future.
Even though the saying goes “you can never have enough pitching,” I think the same can be said about catching.