In case you haven’t noticed, Major League Baseball is already encouraging its fans to vote for their choices as All-Stars. For most teams, the All-Star game is approximately 58 games away, with 1/3 of the time between the start of the season and the games already completed. While completing All-Star ballots 29 games into the season can be no doubt silly considering sample sizes, the conversation can officially started of who should be voted to what.
What you see above is a blind comparison of the current standout catchers in the National League. Per FanGraphs, their WARs are 1.3, 1.2, 1.1, and 0.9 respectively, and their stats are about as close as they get. All four are having around the board standout years, with each having their own specialty stat. Catcher 1 leads NL catchers in runs scored, doubles, and steals; catcher 2 gets on base in nearly half of his plate appearances but strikes out nearly as much; catcher 3 is a close second among NL catchers in BA and leads NL catchers in HR, SLG%, and ISO; and catcher 4 has the most consistent triple-slash, leading NL catchers in BA and wOBA.
You may be surprised who these catchers are as you begin to fill out your initial All-Star ballots.Catcher 1 is three-time All-Star Yadier Molina who appears to be on pace for his fourth consecutive NL All-Star appearance. Molina is well regarded as both an offensive and a defensive threat. Since 2008, Molina has hit .291 with four straight Gold Gloves. Catcher 2 is LA Dodger AJ Ellis, who, prior to this season, has never had more than 128 PA in a season. The 31-year-old journeyman already has a career high in home runs (2) and walks (18). Ellis has a career .267 BA in the Majors but has hit .280 BA in the Minors; with consistent playing time, he may fall right around the .280 mark but it is important to note that he has consistently struck out as much as he has walked throughout his career. Ellis is a good story but likely will not be in this group at the end of the year.
Catcher 4 is 2010 Rookie of the Year and World Series winner Buster Posey. There were many questions regarding Posey’s return from a gruesome ankle injury he suffered in 2011 but so far the 25-year old Posey has returned better than he started. It may be surprising to hear but the Phillies’ own Carlos Ruiz is Catcher 3.
Ruiz is currently 7th in the NL in SLG% (.565) and 1st among NL catchers. His 6 2Bs are tied for the Phillies team lead and leads all NL catchers in RBIs. Ruiz’s numbers are good enough to put him in the top tier of catchers exactly 1/3 of the way to All-Star voting. The Phils have played 29 games with 58 remaining before the All-Star break.
A closer look at some advanced stats, cements Chooch’s status as a premium catcher in the NL. Of note is the increase in power, demonstrated in his ISO. This undoubtedly is a product of a small sample size as his career ISO is .133. However, even a sharp regression toward that number would likely see Chooch topple his career highs in HR (9) and 2B (29). Chooch’s defense should not be underestimated either: he has picked off nine runners and has not allowed a passed ball. His work behind the plate has limited opposing hitters to the second least BB/9 IP and has guided a staff to the second most cumulative WAR. After seeing these numbers, a vote for Chooch is a valid vote, even if we are less than 30 games into the season.