Blue Jays: Two Jays rank inside the top 10 in new Statcast catching metric
One of the more polarizing topics for Blue Jays fans last season and through the first part of the offseason was what to do with the catching depth. With two MLB-proven catchers in Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen, plus prospect Gabriel Moreno, there certainly wasn't room for all three backstops on the big league roster.
In the team's win-now mode, the front office decided on the two proven commodities, shipping Moreno off to the Diamondbacks. While we know how good of a hitting duo Jansen and Kirk are, it looks like the team made a good decision defensively as well, based on a new Statcast metric now available on Baseball Savant.
Mike Petriello of MLB.com recently tweeted out the news about the new Blocks Above Average (BAA) metric, and low and behold, both Blue Jays catchers appear near the top of the leaderboard. Kirk ranks fourth with a +12 BAA, while Jansen ranks ninth with a +9 BAA.
What does Blocks Above Average measure?
With this metric, you can see how a catcher performs compared to a league-average catcher. According to Baseball Savant, it measures the "demonstrated skill of catchers at preventing wild pitches (WP) or passed balls (PB)."
Essentially, how good is a catcher at catching the ball?
Sounds simple enough.
However, in his article outlining how Blocks Above Average helps catcher analysis, Petriello explains that the measurement is "based largely on the location of the pitch (including whether it bounced or not) and the location of the catcher (actual, not assumed), and then further accounts for the speed and movement of the pitch and the handedness of the batter and pitcher."
With so many variables going into this stat, it's a better defensive metric than just looking at passed balls and wild pitches, which aren't always scored accurately during games.
Kirk and Jansen: Two of the best blocking catchers
Here's a simple breakdown of last season's estimated and actual passed ball and wild pitch numbers for Kirk and Jansen. You can check out the full Blue Jays Catcher Blocking Leaderboard for more details.
Est. PB + WP
Act. PB + WP
Blocks Above Avg.
Kirk faced 24 pitches that would have been passed balls or wild pitches for a league-average catcher. He gave up 12 and stopped 12, leading to a +12 BAA. Jansen saw 19 estimated passed balls and wild pitches, allowing 10 to get by him for a +9 BAA.
Let's put those numbers into context and see how they actually affected the team.
Blue Jays pitchers must be the most confident and happiest pitching staff in the majors because their battery mates led the league last year with +25 Blocks Above Average and a +6 Catcher Blocking Runs value (this includes contributions from Moreno as well as Tyler Heineman and Zack Collins).
Kevin Gausman led the team with eight estimated passed balls and wild pitches, of which his catchers saved five. Alek Manoah was the most challenging starter to catch last season. The Cy Young finalist had seven balls that would have gotten by an average catcher, and his catchers managed to stop only one.
While blocking is just a small part of the skillset that makes catching the most demanding job on the field, we can agree that it's better to excel at a skill than struggle, no matter how small a role it plays in team success.
Jays fans can feel confident heading into 2023 that the catching duo of Kirk and Jansen will provide plenty of value behind the plate.