One of the more difficult position battles this spring among the Padres’ position players is the battle for starting catcher, between Nick Hundley and Yorvit Torrealba.
I initially declared Torrealba the better player, by a bit, in my optimization earlier this week.
I thought I’d take a deeper look into the two today, and perhaps re-evaluate that decision.
Torrealba hit .291/.351/.380 last year with the Rockies; Hundley hit .238/.313/.406 with the Padres. Hundley clearly has more power, while Torrealba makes far more contact, striking out at only two-thirds of Hundley’s K rate.
The two are close to equal in plate discipline and defensive ability.
Torrealba is five years older than Hundley, so he has the “veteran leader” trait that so many teams love to have in a starting catcher, while Hundley’s youth makes his long-term development more important.
They’re both right-handed hitters with severe reverse platoon splits…
Damn, these two are tough to separate!
It’s very difficult to find something that distinguishes the two in terms of standard offensive and defensive abilities.
Ultimately, I had to look deeper into Torrealba and Hundley’s splits to find anything interesting.
Torrealba and Hundley’s Career Pitch Type Linear Weights (per 100 pitches):
Player Fastball Slider Cutter Curve Change Splitter
Torrealba .02 -1.90 .10 -.77 -3.31 -1.54
Hundley -.87 1.79 -.16 -2.86 .22 .19
Now, this sheds some light on how they could be used.
Torrealba is a far superior hitter against hard stuff (fastballs and cutters), and he also handles curves far better than Hundley.
Hundley, however, is much better against sliders, changeups, and splitters.
Torrealba, thus, should start against power pitchers with heavy fastball usage (for example, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Cain, and Ubaldo Jimenez), while Hundley should start against slider/change/split-oriented pitchers (for example, Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, and Johan Santana).
With Torrealba facing pitchers he’s likely to have success against, he should put up some solid stats and be worth a good prospect or two at the deadline. At that point the Padres could call up Dusty Ryan to back up Hundley, who would be used more conventionally (unless Ryan breaks out, which he certainly could).
This arrangement is certainly unorthodox–platooning by opposing pitcher is fairly unheard of–but it would keep both catchers nice and rested, and could lead to impressive performances from both Torrealba and Hundley.