The David Ross MysteryPosted: April 8, 2012
One gripe some Braves fans have had with Fredi Gonzalez is his use, or lack thereof, of David Ross as a pinch hitter. This situation came up again Saturday against the Mets. Matt Diaz was used to pinch hit with two on and two outs in the 9th and promptly struck out. Many would have preferred Ross. The theory (I don’t know if Gonzalez has actually said it or not) has been that he doesn’t like to use Ross, “burning” their only other catcher, incase McCann were to get injured. However, this does not seem to apply when Ross starts games behind the plate. Personally, this has bothered me as a fan to the point where I needed to actually investigate deeper. After going through all 162 box scores from the 2011 season, here is what I came up with.
McCann started 118 games at C. In those games, Ross entered 8 times (6.8%).
Ross started 42 games at C, (14 of them McCann was on the DL, 2 of them McCann started at DH), McCann entered 8 times (30.8%).
*Boscan started 2 games at C while McCann was on the DL, Ross entered both.
As you can see McCann was over 4.5x as likely to enter a game that Ross started as opposed to Ross entering a game McCann started. The top layer of this makes sense, McCann is the better hitter so he is more likely to pinch it. But the fact that Ross only entered to pinch-hit in eight games last year that McCann started was absolutely shocking. I noticed some patterns while going though the box scores and decided to take a closer look at the eight times Ross entered when McCann started.
May 20: Ross entered to pinch-hit for DH Chipper Jones; Braves lost 9-0.
May 25: Ross entered to catch after Wilkin Ramirez pinch ran for McCann; Braves win 4-2.
July 10: Ross entered to pinch-hit for McCann; Braves lost 14-1.
July 19: Ross entered to pinch-hit and catch in a double switch; Braves lost 12-3.
July 23: Ross entered to catch for McCann; Braves lost 11-2
July 26: Ross entered to catch after McCann injury; Braves win 4-3 in 19 innings, lol.
September 12: Ross entered to pinch-hit; Braves lose 5-4 in 12 innings.
September 16: Ross entered to pinch-hit and catch for McCann; Braves lose 12-2.
So out of the eight games Ross entered, five were lost by nine runs or more, two were because the games went in extra innings and one was to catch because McCann was pinch-run for. In other words, Ross got ZERO pinch-hit at-bats, in a 9 inning game, that were of any importance in 2011. This is truly puzzling because Ross is one of the Braves most valuable bats off the bench. A productive right-handed bench bat (Ross) is an area where the Braves lack. Here are some players who were on the Braves bench during the 2011 season and their respective wOBA and wRC+ from 2008-2011.
I still cannot think of a logical reason why Fredi doesn’t hit Ross in many high-leverage situations. As you can see, Ross clearly stands out as the best hitter on the bench. It is really a disservice to the team that Ross does not pinch-hit more frequently. He is one of the most, if not most, valuable back-up catchers in the game averaging almost 1.5 WAR the past 4 seasons. There is no reason that he can’t be used to pinch-hit in high-leverage situations. It would make sense if Fredi did not pinch-hit McCann on his days off because it is his one rest day during the week. Yet, he enters in over 25% of his days off. For Ross to sit on the bench and only catch once a week is completely absurd with the production he is capable of. Additionally, letting him hit would keep him more in tune between his starts behind the plate. He is a very valuable bat that is being held hostage.
At this point, I may be too wrapped up in this situation to see it any other way. Ross can be used a lot more effectively by allowing him to pinch-hit in important late game situations. While I don’t see this changing anytime soon, there is always a chance… even when there isn’t.
P.S. I am not trying to say Ross should play over McCann or anything like that. All I’m saying is Ross should be used more efficiently off the bench. Additionally, Fredi should try to rest McCann on days they are facing lefty (where the Braves mightily struggle). Now should he completely force this to happen, no not at all. But McCann will need a day or two off every week, and if possible, give him those days off against a lefty.