Buster Who? Derek Norris Should be the NL All-Star Catcher

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The San Diego PadresDerek Norris is not the leading vote-getter among National League catchers, even though he is having the best season at the plate of any backstop in the senior circuit. Worse than that, he’s not even in the top five.

What are we waiting for, Padres fans?!

Before you continue reading this article, you should go and submit your ballot 35 times now at http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/all_star/y2015/ballot.jsp. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. 

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Or if you need more convincing before casting you ballot, keep reading.

The current balloting has Buster Posey first and Yadier Molina second, followed by Miguel Montero, A.J. Pierzynski, and Yasmani Grandal. Holy Overrated Backstops, Batman!

OK, in actuality, this list isn’t all bad. Posey is a legitimate star having a decent year, leading NL catchers in homers with nine. Even when hitting 25 points below his career average, Posey is still better than most other catchers in the league.

Molina has been the gold standard for defense for a decade, but is having a pretty bad year at the plate. While his average is a reasonable .280, his power has disappeared. He has yet to hit a homer, and is 11th among NL catchers in OPS. But Yadi has years of being the best catcher in the majors going for him, and that’s always going to get a guy votes.

Montero is hitting .234. Pierzynski is on a pace to hit .264 with 12 homers and 63 rbi. Grandal, while leading catchers in OPS at .820, has driven in only 20 runs and scored only 18 in a high-scoring Dodgers lineup. His contributions haven’t led to many runs.

And behind them all is D_No.

Norris leads all NL catchers in RBI with 35, four more than Posey, and 11 more than Wilson Ramos, who’s in third place. Got that? Only two catchers have more than 24 RBI, and Norris has almost 50% more than that.

He also has the most extra-base hits. By a lot. His 24 are nine more than the second-place Posey, who has 15.

He’s second in SLG behind, wait, what? Nick Hundley?? Man, sometimes I forget just how much of an advantage Coors Field gives. Holy crap. But Derek leads all NL backstops who don’t play a mile above sea level.

His 17 doubles are nearly double that of the second place catcher, Molina, who has nine. Molina has no other extra base hits. Norris has six homers and a triple.

On defense, Norris has gunned down more runners than any other catcher in the majors. Now, in fairness, this is a bit of a mixed stat, because his 21 runners thrown out, which is 8 more than any other NL catcher, comes with 41 steals allowed, also more than any other catcher. But a great number of those steals come when Tyson Ross is pitching. Ross has stated outright that he is much more concerned about getting hitters out than he is about holding runners close, and indeed, 21 of the 50 base thefts the Padres have allowed have come when Ross is on the mound. Roughly half of Norris’ steals allowed have come when his chances of throwing out the runner are almost nil. In spite of this, he has thrown out 34% of baserunners, well above the league average of 28%.

And this might be the best reason for Norris to be an All-Star. He’s played in more games than any other catcher. He’s made 55 appearances this season. Only Norris, Posey, and Molina have appeared in as many as 46 games. Norris has played in all but three of the Padres’ games. Posey has sat out four games, and Molina has missed five. Posey and Molina are mainstays of the Giants and Cardinals lineups, and Norris is playing more than they are. That’s how valuable he is to the San Diego lineup. With elite defender Austin Hedges backing him up, Norris is still the least likely catcher in the NL to sit out a game. And that’s with Bud Black at the helm, a manager who’s never met a platoon he didn’t love.

Overall, Norris leads NL catchers in runs, RBI, doubles, extra-base hits, total bases, games played, and runners caught stealing.

He’s second in hits, homers, slugging, and offensive WAR.

And, just in case you missed it, he won a game last week with a walk-off grand slam.

Let’s give Derek Norris the respect he deserves. Let’s get out there and vote for the man.

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