With the Blue Jays moving on from Gabriel Moreno prior to the 2023 season, the club was clearly content with an Alejandro Kirk-Danny Jansen tandem behind the plate for the year. As a whole, this move worked out nicely, as the two made nearly every start (aside from the random Tyler Heineman sightings we had throughout the season) and formed one of the strongest catching duos in the game.
Jansen brought the offense while Kirk brought the defense. The two of them each brought their own set of skills to the plate and the plan worked out for the best. Kirk in particular took quite the step back when it came to his offensive production. After all, he he had hit .278 with a 123 OPS+ in 208 games prior to the 2023 campaign.
It's not fully clear where Kirk's offensive regression stems from, but there are certainly a few factors that make sense. This past offseason, he and his partner welcomed a baby girl into the world in February. This came right before he was expected to join Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, so he ultimately withdrew his name from the competition in order to spend time with his family.
Avg Exit Velocity
After his daughter was born, Kirk did not show up to MLB Spring Training right away while he was spending time with his little family. Of course, building his family is much bigger than baseball and it's no surprise he didn't report to camp right away, but it's worth wondering if these early "distractions", so to speak, led to him never really finding his footing in the regular season.
Things started off on the right foot in the month of April. In 21 games, Kirk hit a pair of home runs and drove in 10 with a .274 average and more walks (15) than strikeouts (12). This encouraging start perfectly mirrored the strong offensive season he had put together the year prior. However, the wheels completely fell off in both May and June, leading to his numbers plummeting. A strong July helped boost things a bit, but he once again went silent in August and was "just okay" at the plate in September.
All told, Kirk made it into 123 games this year, hitting eight home runs with 43 RBI, a .250 average, .692 OPS and 93 OPS+. He experienced a significant regression in nearly every single offensive category, but continued to be a force behind the plate. Per Baseball Reference, he put up 1.7 dWAR this season, which is easily a career-high for him.
Baseball Savant also offers praise for Kirk and his defensive play. He ranked in the 99th percentile in Outs Above Average and 79th in Framing. A look at the Catcher Framing Leaderboard shows that he was 15th in the league with 5 Catcher Framing Runs. Finishing 15th doesn't immediately sound like its anything to be proud of, but there were 63 qualifying backstops, so 15th is perfectly fine. On the same leaderboard, his Strike Rate ranks eighth in the league.
Over the course of the year, Kirk was relatively durable and played some incredible defense behind the plate. Many pointed to his weight as a reason behind his offensive decline, but if that's really the case, it's worth asking why his defense got so much better. One would think it'd be the opposite effect.
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