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It seems like something that has been debated for months already. Sometime in late May or early June, Drew Butera became the personal catcher for Carl Pavano. Pavano went on a very nice run of good starts and gave a lot of credit to the defense of Butera. But as the Twins are set to start a three game series in Chicago, and Pavano is scheduled to start on Thursday night, the question has to be asked. Who should catch Pavano?
Let’s take a quick look at how Pavano has done with the two catchers this year:
Caught by Drew Butera:
- 14 games, 102 Innings.
- 3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .683 OPS
- 13 SB in 19 attempts
- 0.53 HR/9
- 4.9 K/9
- 1.67 BB/9
Caught by Joe Mauer:
- 15 games, 95 Innings.
- 3.79 ERA, 1.08 WHIP .691 OPS
- 16 SB in 18 attempts
- 1.04 HR/9
- 4.45 K/9
From May through August, I thought the move made a ton of sense. With the amount invested in Joe Mauer, both in years and in dollars, they must force themselves to give him adequate time off. Giving one of the pitchers the backup catcher, in my mind, is a decent way of doing that. When the backup catcher is as good as Drew Butera is, it doesn’t hurt. I think we can all admit now, even if you couldn’t earlier in the year, that Butera does a tremendous job behind the plate. I know some may disagree, but the idea of having Joe Mauer catch every day is just not smart. I think everyone understands that.
However, now we are in mid-September. The Twins play three games in Chicago with a chance to dash the hopes of the White Sox. Carl Pavano is scheduled to start on Thursday night. Who will catch him? Will it be Drew Butera again, or will Joe Mauer get to catch the Twins righty? Is Pavano slightly better when Butera catches him? That argument could be made. But is that slight difference worth the offense lost by having Butera catching and batting ninth in the lineup, or Thome DHing and batting in the middle of the order?
I am of the belief that if (WHEN!) the Twins make the playoffs, Joe Mauer will be behind the plate, catching Pavano and the rest of the Twins starters. I would be completely shocked if Butera caught in the playoffs, and I think we all know that he won’t.
So the biggest question is… How important is it for Mauer and Pavano to work together in a game situation before the playoffs? I’m of the belief that it isn’t as important as many want to think. Mauer caught Pavano a lot earlier in the season. He caught Pavano last year when he came to the team in August. Before each series, all the pitchers and catchers meet together to discuss the plan of attack on the opponent’s hitters. Mauer and Pavano are both in the meeting and hearing the same information. I have zero concern about Mauer and Pavano working together. Would it be nice for them to get a couple of starts together before the playoffs? Sure. Is it vital? Not necessarily.
So, what happens on Thursday night? Maybe it depends upon what happens in the first two games or maybe now is the time to make the transition. The Twins have a little leeway here. Having Mauer healthy is much more important in my mind than having him play every day and catching Pavano during the regular season.
That speaks to several things. The Twins are just 2.5 games behind the New York Yankees for the best record in the American League (1.5 games behind Tampa). The Yankees and Rays play to each other seven times this year yet. The Yankees play six more games against the Red Sox. It is fully within the realm of possibility that the Twins could have the best record in the league and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Twins are playing great at Target Field. They are 48-23 at home and 37-36 on the road. That means something in the playoffs. The Twins should absolutely push to achieve the top record in the league, but I also believe that having players go into the playoffs at 100% is also important. That means that the team should give Joe Mauer a few more days. It means that JJ Hardy and Orlando Hudson should get time off to get healthy. It means Jim Thome should rest his back. It means that it would be nice to give Michael Cuddyer a day off sometime. My opinion is that the Twins can compete with anyone in the league when they have their full complement of players healthy. I think that is just as important as gaining home field advantage. I believe players need the time off. That doesn’t in any way mean that they should not try to win games, and regardless of who is in the lineup, they should expect to win. If Ben Revere gives Denard Span or Delmon Young a day off, I expect that he will contribute. If Matt Tolbert gets another start or two at 3B, that is fine, and he can contribute. It is a fine line, no doubt, between going for the league’s top record and making sure players are healthy. I tend to side with health.
But that’s just my opinion… what do you think? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.
By the way… last night, I co-hosted Fanatic Jack’s Twins podcast, so be sure to listen to that here. Darren “Doogie” Wolfson and Andrew Bryz-Gornia were guests of the show.