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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Carl Pavano's Personal Catcher

Tonight, Pavano is starting for the Twins in the Bronx. As always, it will be tough to eke out a win against the Yankees. It will be even more difficult, however, if Pavano's "personal catcher," Drew Butera, starts tonight.

I generally have no problem with an ace pitcher requesting a certain catcher. If it makes them more comfortable, and helps them to pitch better, then so be it. But Pavano really isn't an ace pitcher. To be sure, he is an above-average, veteran MLB pitcher who has played very well for Minnesota, and who chose to come back to the Twins when he could have had other offers. But it is a stretch to describe Pavano, holder of a career 4.37 ERA, as an ace.

Drew Butera is a very good defensive catcher, and a horrible hitter. Now, we all know that Joe Mauer will need days off to keep his legs and knees in playing condition, so it makes sense to have a reliable back-up backstop on the team. And Butera nicely fills that role on the defensive side, which is his primary function. But to suggest that, regardless of the day, the schedule, and the pitching match-up, Mauer will not catch when Pavano pitches, is ridiculous. Tonight, old foe Freddy Garcia will be taking the hill for the Yankees. In a pretty decent sample size, it is evident that Mauer has had excellent success against Garcia, batting .419 (13 for 31), with 2 HRs. It appears that Butera has never faced Garcia, but I would take my chances with Mauer any day against Garcia.

Finally, although it's only the first week in April, this is an important game for the Twins. If Pavano can keep us in the game, the fact that this team has had proven success against Garcia, and is coming off a "surprise" win in NY, bodes well for their chances tonight. To give the Twins the best chance, Mauer should be catching and batting third. Let him, if necessary, take tomorrow off: Thursday is a day game after a night game, anyway, so that makes more sense to me.


  1. Butera makes Pavano better -- for me, it is as simple as that. If the rest of the Twins big hitters get it going (Morneau, Young, Cuddyer, Kubel, and/or Thome), there should be enough offense to make up for Drew's weak bat. I am very impressed with Butera's game management and his ability to throw out runners.

  2. JB, thanks for the comment. I agree with you that, if this lineup produces like it should, there will be plenty of offense to hide the lack of Joe's bat. In fact, the roster is good enough that you can sub out any one of the big bats in favor of a defensive replacement, and still have a pretty good lineup.

    My question, though is how much better does Butera make Pavano? I think the jury still might be out on that one. It might be fair to say now that Butera is an equal, or maybe even better, defensive catcher than Mauer. Because Pavano can give up his share of stolen bases, and Butera has a gun, maybe Butera saves Pavano some runs there. Andrew at Off the Mark ran some numbers earlier this year (take a look at, and concluded that, with respect to ERA, Pavano/Butera combined last year for 3.65, and Pavano/Mauer for 3.79. Not a big difference. Of course, there are many other stats one could compute, but I'm just not yet convinced that Butera makes Pavano that much better so as to negate the absence of Mauer.

  3. To me, I'm not sure it matters whether Mauer takes the day game after a night game off... or the night game before the day game. Either way, he's not having to play two games within 20 hours or so. I don't know about comparative ERAs, but it didn't take an advanced statistics degree to notice Butera had better success throwing out attempted base-stealers with Pavano pitching last year than Mauer did. How much of that was due to Mauer's knee not being 100%? I dunno... some, no doubt.

    I agree that it's not a matter of Pavano "deserving" special treatment based on performance. But I gotta say... I had just a brief glimpse at how Pavano treats people (fans and staff alike) down in Ft. Myers and if that glimpse was any indication of how he treats team mates, I'd argue that letting Butera catch Pavano most of the time is doing Mauer more of a favor than Pavano.

  4. Jim,
    Thanks for the comment. If it is more of a "personnel" issue than anything else, who am I to argue with that? I have to admit, when I was in Baltimore last season (the game after Pavano threw a fantastic complete game), I did not get the best first impression of the way he treated Twins fans looking for autographs. Sure, he signed a few, but wouldn't even acknowledge the fans' existence.

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  6. If only Pavano/Butera could approach Erickson/Ortiz like '91 dominance!