posted on Apr, 16 2006 @ 10:45 PM
Dear Giants Fan,
OK, you have hit one of my hot points....
This is not a popular point of view, but I think Pudge Rodriguez is seriously overrated, as a hitter. Yeah, he has a .304 lifetime batting average,
but for a guy with his bat speed, batting average and power to have a career WALK percentage per plate appearance of only 5.31 is horrible, and it's
why, despite his high lifetime batting average, his lifetime on-base percentage is a modest .343. A career batting average of .304 doesn't mean much,
if your on-base percentage is .343.
Far MORE meaningful, of course, are his 11 Gold Gloves, including the 10 in a row, although sometimes players rack up strings of Gold Gloves more on
reputation than statistical reality (see, e.g., many of Junior Griffey's Gold Gloves and his accompanying stats). Pudge's career fielding percentage
is 11% BELOW average for a catcher of his time, but I believe that is because of all the throws he makes to various bases trying to nail, and
sometimes in fact nailing, baserunners--exactly like Clemente. And for that, the occasional throwing error is well worth the trade off for all the
guys nailed on the bases, just as was true with Clemente, whose fielding percentage was far more below average than Pudge's.
So yeah, despite the low fielding percentage, I think Pudge deserves all the Gold Gloves he's gotten. His "range factor" also says he has about 10%
better range than the average catcher, and obviously that's a huge thing. And Lord, how he hath shone in the big games. If you don't believe me, ask
other SF Giants fans who watched that S.F.-Florida series!
Texas's ballpark is, in my opinion, a big help for hitters. No coincidence, then, that Pudge's slugging figures are down in the three years since he
left there. Still, even if you knock 15 points or so off of Pudge's career slugging average, it's still at .472. That's a lot better than most
catchers. As it is, he's at .487, just barely ahead of Yogi Berra (Bill James' #1 catcher), 11 points ahead of Johnny Bench (James' #2), and only 13
points behind Campanella (James' #3; my #1).
So I guess, in rating Pudge, it comes down to: (1) how much he benefitted from that park in Arlington [a lot, I think]; (2) how much the ball has been
juiced since 1990; (3) how much he's benefitted from "modern" retro parks with tiny foul areas and shallow fences; and (4) how much you want to slam
him for that lame on-base %.
I think he has to be slammed a lot for that OBP. I don't pretend to know for sure about Items (1)-(3), above, any more than I pretend to know if
Pudge is legit. But on the latter score, I am aware of zero evidence--either direct or circumstantial--that Pudge is a steroid/HGH cheat, and I've
never heard/read anything to the contrary.
And now, as he's basically at the point where the human body CANNOT catch any more games (James says it's 1800-1900 games, and Pudge had caught 1,811
coming into this season), and he is allegedly only 34 years old, we will see if he has a marvelous explosion of numbers at this impossible point in
time. I really hope that doesn't happen, because this is a guy almost everyone would hate to see turn into a blatant cheat, I think.
I don't think he'll do that. But I also think people have significantly overrated his value from an offensive standpoint. He's played 15
years coming into this season, he's been a guy pitchers have feared for a long time, he has 56 career intentional walks, and he STILL has only 411
TOTAL career walks???
That is a pathetic statistic, and it has made an enormous difference in the number of times he has gotten on base, and thus the number of runs he has
scored/created. And his power is greatly overstated, as he has averaged 1 HR every 27.27 at bats in his career.
I don't mean this post to compare Pudge to Ray Schalk (a ludicrously undeserving Hall of Fame catcher from the 1910's and 1920's, credited with being
one of the few honest guys on the Black Sox team), nor to say he's a lousy player. When his time comes, if someone decided I should have a vote,
Pudge's great defensive skills and good offensive skills would get my vote for enshrinement into the H.O.F.--and NOT because jokes like Schalk have
gotten in. Strictly on his own legitimate merit.
But I think that when he retires, we will hear lots of talk that he, not Berra, Campanella, Bench or Mickey Cochrane, was the greatest "overall"
catcher of all time. And I mean, I think such talk will be pervasive on places like ESPN, where the talking heads know nothing about those other
players but are quick to say someone or something is "the greatest of all time."
I have foreseen this for a long time. I'm sure it's coming, and I'm equally sure they're going to be full of s... when they say it.