Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Catching Duties

As chronicled elsewhere, the Sox have split up the catching duties among Sandy Alomar Jr. and Miguel Olivo in an interesting way: Alomar catches for Scott Schoeneweis and Mark Buerle, and Olivo catches for Loaiza and Garland and the 5th starter (if applicable).

I know Buerhle has a particular affection for Alomar, but the relationship between Schoeneweis and Alomar is not as developed. As left-handers, they both keep runners close and inhibit steals, so Alomar's throwing is not a problem.

I'm sure that this makes a lot of sense to Ozzie Guillen. However, there is probably a better basis for dividing the catching duties among the two. At this point in his career, Miguel Olivo murders lefthanders. His current line this year is .459(!)/.488/.973(!!) against lefties and .185/.250/.309 against righties. 5 of his 6 home runs have come against southpaws. Prior to this year, he was .290/.309/.548 against lefties and .214/.278/.292 against righties. That's a pretty significant platoon difference.

On the other hand, Sandy Alomar performs pretty well against right handed pitchers. This year, he's .308/.286/.538 against lefties (in only 14 at bats) and .271/.316/.329 against righties. Over the last three years, he's .249/.269/.351 against lefties and .271/.300/.402 against righties.

It seems to make sense, then, for Olivo to start all games when the opposition is starting a left-hander, while they split the games against right-handers. Olivo's overall offensive production should improve. Buerhle will likely still get the majority of games caught by Alomar, but Olivo should gain some valuable experience with Buehrle in anticipation of Sandy's retirement.

The more important long-term goal, however, is to get Olivo to hit right handers. He really looks woeful against righties on their breaking pitches, and that's something he's going to have to learn if he ever wants to be really valuable to the White Sox.

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