I'm going to take this opportunity to defend my fellow Rhode Islander, Chris Iannetta. The stimulus for this piece came yesterday when irishfever wrote a fanpost about the Iannetta era possibly coming to an end that I strongly disagreed with. This post is not designed to pick on him but instead to throw out my feelings on the whole catcher debate to the community while using a wide lens.
First of all, let's make one thing clear. Chris Iannetta was awesome in 2008. I can't stress this enough. CHRIS IANNETTA WAS AWESOME IN 2008. I don't think enough people realize this. Of all the catchers with at least 400 PAs, CDI may have been the best. If you only use average, Iannetta's .264 compared with Mauer's monstrous .328 (highest among all catchers) seems like a landslide, but you have to look much deeper than that. In 2008, CDI had a .390 OBP, an .895 OPS, and a .391 wOBA; both the OPS and wOBA were better than Mauer. In fact, that .391 wOBP was good for best among all catchers in baseball (with at least 400 plate appearances). Take a look here.
Last year, CDI's performance was again very underrated. If you look past that .228 average, you will find that CDI was still one of the better catchers (6th to 10th best) in baseball. Only seven catchers last year with at least 300 PAs had an OPS over .800 and CDI was one of them. In addition, only seven catchers with at least 300 PA's had a wOBA over .340 and again CDI was one of them. The reason why CDI lost his starting job late last season was because Torrealba got ridiculously hot down the stretch and batted .327 with a .370 OBP and a 1.74 WPA from August 27th on. Tracy took the guy consistently knocking in late inning runs over the long term better player and I have no problem with that. This however, does not change the fact that CDI still had a very good 2009 season despite the low average.
So let's fast forward to 2010. Iannetta is off to a terrible start and Miguel Olivo is on pace to hit 43 home runs. This is all well and good but it is important to remember that neither of these players has appeared in more than 12 games so far season while Iannetta has appeared in only eight. In other words, SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT. If you want to start Olivo for most of the games right now and ride the hot streak, be my guest; in fact it's a position I agree with. However, suggesting that Iannetta's time in Colorado may be over because of this is ludicrous. Miguel Olivo is the catcher of the moment and nothing more. The backstop of the future remains CDI; why would the Rockies give him a multiyear contract extension this past winter if it wasn't? This organization has a plan and they are certainly not going to waver from it after eight bad games.
So as the season wears on and Olivo inevitably cools off, CDI will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself, and I have confidence he will do just that. His season going forward will look a whole lot more like his career numbers than the numbers he put up in his first eight games this year. Remember, those career numbers are both well above average for a catcher, and well above Olivo's career numbers. It's only a matter of time until the cream comes to the top.