The season is still very young, but so far the MVP for the Colorado Rockies is a clear choice.
It might be surprising, but it’s not even a contest. His 0.8 bWAR is the best on the team with Charlie Blackmon at second with 0.3. Díaz is even better than the best Rockies pitchers—Kyle Freeland and Justin Lawrence— at 0.6.
The 32-year-old catcher is leading the team, one that has C.J. Cron and Kris Bryant on the roster, in batting average at .333, slugging percentage at .486, and OPS at .878. He has two homers (tied for fourth), five doubles (tied for fourth), 24 hits (tied for second), eight runs and (tied for fifth).
Rockies fans saw Díaz’s power potential in his first season with the Rockies in 2021 when he hit 18 homers, 18 doubles, scored 52 runs, drove in 44 runs, and hit .246/.310/.464./.774. Last year, he dropped to .228/.281/.368/.649 and scored 29 runs, but still drove in 51 runs, hit 18 doubles, and hit 9 homers.
The bat alone would be enough to give Díaz Colorado player of the month honors in April. (That said, there are three games left in the month and something amazing could alter that I suppose). But when you add in defense, Díaz looks even better.
Seven runners have tried to steal second base when Díaz was behind the plate this season and four of them were thrown out. That’s 57% sent back to the dugout. Not bad.
But wait, it gets better.
Earlier this week, Statcast debuted a new metric: Catcher’s Caught Stealing Above Average CCSAA). Even though catchers are often dinged or credited with making life easier or harder for baserunners, so many of the elements at work in a base-stealing situation are out of the catcher’s control.
Enter Catcher’s Caught Stealing Above Average, aka “you steal off the pitcher, not the catcher.”
This goes way beyond catching runners stealing. Catcher’s CS Above Average calculates the entire situation, as described by Baseball Savant, including “runner distance from second, runner speed, pitch location, pitcher/batter handedness, and awareness of pitchouts or delayed steals,” as well as pop and exchange time, arm strength, and teamwork, which “refers to value that can’t be assigned directly to a catcher — which may imply great tags or missed slides.”
For now, the metric only tracks attempts to steal second base, but third base will be coming down the road.
Using this new metric for the 2022 season and 2023 so far, Díaz has a Catcher’s CS Above Average of three, which makes him tied with seven other pitchers at No. 7 in MLB. Díaz caught 12-out-of-40 (30%) of runners during that time with two catcher stealing runs. Superhuman J.T. Realmuto is at 16 with 10 catcher stealing runs more than double anyone else.
Díaz’s bat and catching was impressive in 2021 and if you calculate his stats from 2021 through this season, Diaz is fourth in MLB at eight CCSAA with five catcher stealing runs. He’s thrown out 35% of runners. When going further into Baseball Savant, you can see the factors in every steal situation, along with video of each play. For example, Díaz has a three CCSAA and six caught stealing when Kyle Freeland is on the mound (16 attempts) and 18 of his throws have gone to Brendan Rodgers and resulted in nine outs for a four CCSAA.
If you just look at 2023, Díaz’s CCSAA of three is tied for first. That equates to two catcher stealing runs, which adds up when the Rockies are tied for most errors in MLB with 19.
This season, Díaz has caught four out of seven stolen-base attempts (57%). That’s only behind Arizona’s Gabriel Moreno, who’s gunned down four out of five attempts (80%).
Whether he’s behind the plate or standing at the side of it, Díaz is a top-tier catcher this season. With the Rockies struggling offensively and defensively, he’s a bright spot thus far.
In an article about CCSAA on MLB.com earlier this week, Mike Petriello uses Arizona speedster Corbin Carroll as the baserunning example. Baseball’s fastest man, Carroll is 8-for-8 when swiping bases this season. For perspective, the Rockies as a team have five stolen bases on seven attempts (two of those steals came from Brenton Doyle on April 25).
The Rockies lead MLB with five pickoffs this season (three from Brent Suter and one apiece by Germán Márquez and Brad Hand). With Díaz at the plate, the Rockies aren’t the easiest team to steal against.
In order to catch Carroll, every input in the CCSAA metric has to be perfect. Even if the Rockies can’t be the first to get Carroll out, it will be fun to break down the stats if he tries to swipe second in the three-game series that starts tonight at Coors Field against the Diamondbacks.
Either way, hats off to Díaz and his start to 2023.
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Rockies fans need good news anywhere they can find it. As Drew Creasman writes, Noah Davis is carrying a huge load in this area. Through his first two MLB starts, the 26-year-old righty has a 0.93 ERA in 9 2⁄3 innings with 10 strikeouts. Creasman got a chance to talk with Davis and find out how he’s handling joining the Rockies rotation.
Patrick Saunders starts this one as optimistically as possible, highlighting the first Rockies series win against Cleveland this week, but then switches to the numbers that have delivered the 8-18 start, which is the second worst in team history (6-20 in 2005). The power is missing, the new rules haven’t led to more stolen bases, C.J. Cron is slumping, and the rotation is struggling to say the least, especially with Germán Márquez’s unknown injury status after leaving Wednesday’s game with arm pain.
Nick Groke found a gem in the Colorado Rockies media guide. It might have to do with Brent Suter and a children’s book he’s authored about his dog’s habits of stealing pacifiers from a newborn baby. That’s amazing. Next time you need to find a gift for a kid under 8, The Binky Bandit might be just what you are looking for.
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On the Farm
First baseman Elehuris Montero hit solo two homers and added an RBI single, Randal Grichuk and Nolan Jones each added a hit and scored two runs apiece in Albuquerque’s win on Thursday. Michael Toglia added two hits and drove in three runs. Riley Pint and Blair Calvo each pitched scoreless innings in the win.
Bladimir Restituyo hit a three-run homer and Bret Boswell added a solo shot as part of a 2-for-3 night with a double, two walks, three RBI, and three runs scored to lead Hartford to win Thursday night. Blake Goldsberry got the win for Hartford after entering the game in the fifth and pitching 1 1⁄3 scoreless inning and Nick Kuzia got his fourth save after giving up one in two innings.
Sterlin Thompson and Zack Kokoska each hit two-run homers, and Nic Kent added a solo home run in the second inning for Fresno. In the fifth, Jordan Beck hit a homer, Thompson drove in two runs with a double, Yanquiel Fernandez and Braxton Fulford both hit RBI doubles, and Adael Amador chipped in an RBI single in an offensive explosion for Spokane. The Indians totaled 19 hits and Thompson finished with three hits, four runs scored, and four RBI, Benny Montgomery posted four hits and scored three runs, and Fulford finished with four RBI.
Bryant Betancourt got a five-run third inning started when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Jesus Bugarin hit a three-run triple, and Cole Stilwell rounded out the inning’s scoring with an RBI double to help the Grizzlies on their way to a 6-2 win on Thursday. Michael Prosecky picked up his second win of the season after giving up one run on three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.
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