Nick Hundley is very likely a bang-up guy—good to people, generous, and deservedly well liked. His teammates speak highly of him. He’s likely a pillar of society and a citizen to be admired. Nick Hundley is probably a fine human being.
I think I’m a good person, too. I’m generous; I’m helpful; I’m kind. I try to see the world through an empathetic lens. There are things to improve upon, of course. I’d like to volunteer more and not be so guarded about my free time, and I think I could be more vocal and take more action regarding issues I care about. I try to improve myself. I think I’m a good person, but there’s room for improvement. But there are barriers. One is clad in catcher’s gear.
The Rockies are doing their damndest to make me a bad person. They are making me a bad person because, over the past couple of months, I’ve developed a particular and general dislike for Nick Hundley. This is made all the worse because he is probably a good person. I can’t see it though. Hundley has become the object of my Rockies discontent. He’s the reason and symbol for everything that has gone wrong, big and small. He’s why the team is depressing to watch even as they’re exceeding pre-season expectations; he’s accountable for every opposing walk and offensive strikeout and every bad call; he’s the reason for too-long replays; he’s responsible for the unsightly camouflage uniforms. I don’t know Nick Hundley, and I don’t like him. This is unhealthy.
It’s also not fair. To explain that, it’s necessary to explain why, exactly, I now get queasy at the sight of his baby-fatted face. The emotional response comes from a tangible place: Hundley, starting catcher, is not as good as Tony Wolters, backup catcher. This isn’t the first time that sentiment as showed up at Purple Row, and we’re just as tired of writing it as you are of reading it. It’s true though!
Wolters is clearly a better defensive catcher. Baseball Prospectus has the most sophisticated catching metrics, and the holistic view of Wolters as a catcher that accounts for framing, blocking, and controlling the running game, places Wolters as the ninth best catcher in baseball this season. He also has fewer chances than every player ahead of him except for one. By the same measure, Hundley is the fourth worst defensive catcher in the majors. The reason Tony Freakin’ Wolters hasn’t received more playing time is because of freakin’ Nick Hundley.
There’s more. Early in the season Wolters’s weakness was his bat. With more playing time, however, he’s slowly improved. In fact, he’s having a better season at the plate than object-of-my-scorn Nick Hundley. Observe:
Hundley also appears to be sucking up playing time that could go to prospect Tom Murphy. Murphy got his feet wet in the majors last September. He held is own at the plate, hitting .257/.333/.543 with three home runs in just 11 games and 39 plate appearances. While he’s been resistant to walking in Triple-A (a 4.4 percent rate), he’s also hitting .325/.354/.661 with 19 dingers. On defense, the eye test in his brief major league appearance suggested that he was a quality framer, at the very least. This season in Triple-A, according to BP’s metrics, Murphy is a plus defender. It’s Hundley’s fault that Murphy isn’t in the majors.
Nick Hundley has intangibles, I’m sure. He’s probably as good of a clubhouse guy as he is generous. Maybe he also excels in the unquantifiables, like game calling. But Wolters is good at those things, too. And Murphy, at least, has worked with most of the Rockies young pitching staff. Couple that with his cup of coffee last season, and he’s far from a green prospect to be handled with kid gloves.
The thing about all of this is that it’s irrational to place the hate on Hundley—he’s not even doing anything wrong! I don’t expect him to nobly reject a starting assignment, nor do I expect him to send Jeff Bridich a memo telling him that holding on to a veteran catcher with an expiring contract so that he can siphon playing time from younger and superior players makes no damn sense. That’s not in his interests. It’s in my interests as a well-adjusted person though, so I think he should do it.
I should be mad at Weiss, or Bridich, or the Rockies, the megalith of the status quo. But no, it’s Hundley. Maybe it’s because he’s so visible. As a catcher, he’s on the broadcast for about 50 percent of every game. We could go innings without seeing the right fielder on defense. The only rational aspect for throwing so much ire at Hundley himself is that sports hate is irrational. It’s overblown but unavoidable.
I can’t stand Nick Hundley. I want him out of my life. And it’s because of the Rockies. They’ve damaged my ability to empathize. The Colorado Rockies are making me a bad person, and Nick Hundley is their agent.