Phillies catching for the 2018 Whiz Kids

Rupp Has Rebounded from His Early Struggles. Photo by Eric Hartline – USA TODAY Sports.

Behind the mask and the plate, the man who earned the starting gig will take his position to call the game on Opening Day for the 2018 Philadelphia Phillies; however, general manager Matt Klentak has yet to decide between his three possibilities.

The Tools of Ignorance:

If a person has the right combination of talent, ability, training, effort and dedication, then all that remains is handling the internal and external pressures of their chosen path.

With rebuilding in its third year including the trades of aging veterans in 2015, the Phillies are in their deciding season regarding the competition for 2018’s regulars, starters and back-of-the-bullpen arms. And although some spots already have the winning candidate, some players currently with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs are also in the mix. That stated, when the calendar turns to June, the front office will evaluate everyone vying for the rotation, the starting lineup and the top slots in the relief corps. But the total numbers aren’t the only statistical consideration if a player rebounds from a slow start or cools off after an early April hot streak.

By comparison, the 1950 Phils were 88-55 before they faced a reversal of fortune and finished at 91-63. Firstly, southpaw Curt Simmons missed September after the National Guard activated his unit due to the Korean War. Health-wise, two right-handed starters had campaign-ending injuries: Bob Miller slipped on wet stairs resulting in back trouble, and rookie Bubba Church took a comebacker off his face, which ricocheted in the air to right field.

Wins through August:

  • Roberts with 17 victories.
  • Simmons with 17 victories before missing September.

Facing a three-game playoff if they lost their final contest, the Philadelphia Phillies entered the clubhouse in Brooklyn without knowing the starter tabbed by manager Eddie Sawyer. Did skip say who’s pitching? No! But a little while later, Sawyer walked over and put the ball in his ace’s hand: Robin Roberts.

With such an important game ahead, no moundsman had time to think about it. Was Sawyer still making up his mind? On the other hand, maybe he didn’t want any hurler losing sleep with this critical outing weighing on him. Or he didn’t want Roberts to know until the last minute.

NICE CATCH:

“No one ever grew up intending to be an umpire, except perhaps my friend Billy Haller. His brother Tom wanted to be a catcher, so an affinity for masks must run in that family.” – Ron Luciano

Knapp Is Making the Most of His Backup Role. Photo by John Geliebter – USA TODAY Sports.

In ’50, the red pinstripes had Andy Seminick, 29. And although he whacked 24 homers with 68 RBIs each in 1949 and 1950, the latter was his career year because he hit .288 but only .256 the prior summer. The second highest average for the catcher was .264 for 14 seasons.

Backing him up behind the plate was Stan Lopata, 24, who batted .271 in ’49 but didn’t have as much playing time in ’50 because of Seminick’s solid hitting. In other words, the younger receiver averaged .209 for only 129 at-bats. His career numbers, on the other hand, were .290 in 1954 and 32 home runs with 95 RBIs in 1956.

After Cameron Rupp hit .252 with 16 long balls and 54 RBIs in 2016, he earned having until May’s end to be productive. But if you remember, his average was .125 for 24 ABs through April 12, and some fans felt Jorge Alfaro should replace him. Well, Rupp’s line is now .263 with three homers and six RBIs because he’s batted.327 since April 12. Ergo, patience matters.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
A catcher must want to catch. He must make up his mind that it isn’t the terrible job it is painted, and that he isn’t going to say every day, ‘Why, oh why with so many other positions in baseball did I take up this one.'” – Bill “The Man Nobody Knows” Dickey

Alfaro Is Only a Few Months Away from His Second MLB Shot If He Stays Consistent. Photo by Anthony Gruppuso – USA TODAY Sports.

Even though Rupp isn’t giving up his job so quickly, the locals are only focusing on Alfaro, not Rupp or Andrew Knapp. Granted, the second-round draft pick for 2013 behind J.P. Crawford has only 32 at-bats so far, but he has a .281 average. And, yes, the switch-hitting rookie is earning more opportunities and keeping Rupp from overuse.

In the dugout, hitting coach Matt Stairs sits right next to the batting helmets in the equipment section, where he reminds – for instance – Maikel Franco to track the ball into his swing path. And after Franco finishes his AB, coach gives him pointers regarding how the pitcher worked him. Meanwhile, Tommy Joseph listens to the third baseman describe with words and his right hand the movement of the hurler’s out pitch. Then, Joseph walks to the on-deck circle, observes his opponent, and takes practice swings during a few pitches to time his fastball.

Even thought Alfaro had injuries in the last two years, he is healthy and performing at Lehigh Valley like he did with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils since he joined the organization. He’s batting .320 with three home runs and 14 RBIs for 100 at-bats, but Klentak will want him to produce these numbers for the first half before considering to promote him. And remember, Alfaro did not impress Mackanin last September: 17 plate appearances and eight strikeouts. Ergo, 100 ABs isn’t going to cut it.

Even thought Alfaro had injuries in the last two years, he is healthy and performing at Lehigh Valley like he did with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils since he joined the organization. He’s batting .320 with three home runs and 14 RBIs for 100 at-bats, but Klentak will want him to produce these numbers for the first half before considering to promote him. And remember, Alfaro did not impress Mackanin last September: 17 plate appearances and eight strikeouts. Ergo, 100 ABs isn’t going to cut it.

Rupp Erupts with a Solo Home Run in Chicago. Photo by Caylor Arnold – USA TODAY Sports.

The Numerical Bible:

This review is not a sabermetrics article, which means no heavy statistical analysis. But because some readers rely on stats, this is only a reference: no reason to articulate the importance of these numbers.

Stats are for 1950 receivers and current stats are through May 10.

Catchers:

  • Seminick, 29: 130 Gms., 467 PA, a .288 Avg., a .400 OBP, a .524 SLG, a .237 ISO, a .279 BABIP, 24 HR, 68 RBI, a .925 OPS and a 4.7 fWAR.
  • Lopata, 24: 58 Gms., 151 PA, a .209 Avg., a .325 OBP, a .279 SLG, a .070 ISO, a .252 BABIP, 1 HR, 11 RBI, a .604 OPS and a 0.2 fWAR.
  • Rupp, 28.5: 22 Gms., 90 PA, a .263 Avg., a .367 OBP, a .474 SLG, a .211 ISO, a .386 BABIP, 3 HR, 6 RBI, an .840 OPS and a 0.4 fWAR.
  • Knapp, 25.5: 12 Gms., 39 PA, a .281 Avg., a .410 OBP, a .469 SLG, a .188 ISO, a .348 BABIP, 1 HR, 2 RBI, an .879 OPS and a 0.2 fWAR.
  • Alfaro, almost 24: 25 Triple-A Gms., 105 PA, a .320 Avg., a .352 OBP, a .480 SLG, a .160 ISO, a .439 BABIP, 3 HR, 14 RBI, an .832 OPS and a 1.0 WARP.

The 1950 Rotation:

  • Roberts, 23: 40 gms. (1 in Relief), 304 1/3 Inn., 20-11, a 3.02 ERA, a 3.64 FIP,  1 Save, a 5.3 fWAR and a 1.18 WHIP.
  • Simmons, 21: 31 gms. (4 in Relief), 214 2/3 Inn., 17-8, a 3.40 ERA, a 3.63 FIP,  1 Save, a 3.7 fWAR and a 1.24 WHIP.
  • Miller, 24: 35 gms. (13 in Relief), 174 Inn., 11-6, a 3.57 ERA, a 3.82 FIP,  1 Save, a 2.5 fWAR and a 1.42 WHIP.
  • Church, 25: 31 gms. (13 in Relief), 142 Inn., 8-6, a 2.73 ERA, a 4.16 FIP,  1 Save, a 1.4 fWAR and a 1.19 WHIP.

This article originally appeared on