Washington Nationals: 2017 NLDS Tale of the Tape
By Ricky Keeler
Catcher: Matt Wieters/Jose Lobaton vs. Willson Contreras/Alex Avila
Out of all the positions in this series, the catcher spot might be the most lopsided in favor of one team. First, let’s start with the Nats, who tried to upgrade at catcher in the offseason, but it hasn’t gone according to plan.
When the Nats signed Matt Wieters, they were hoping to get good offensive production at catcher. But, that hasn’t come to fruition in 2017. The 31-year-old switch hitter hit .225 with ten home runs and 52 RBI’s. In the field, he hasn’t been much better as teams are running at will on him in September.
If there’s one positive to Wieters, its that he finds a way to drive in runs in clutch situation. Out of his 52 RBI’s this year, 44 of them have come with men in scoring position. This includes a go-ahead grand slam at Wrigley Field in the eighth inning on August 6. With Jose Lobaton’s disappointing season (.170 average in 51 games), the Washington Nationals need Wieters to stay healthy this postseason.
As for the Cubs, Contreras emerged into one of the better young catchers in the game. In 117 games, he hit 21 home runs, drove in 74 runs, and walked 45 times (fifth among catchers). His throwing arm is also very good as he has thrown out 23 of the 61 runners trying to steal on him.
Back at the deadline, the Cubs got Alex Avila in the Justin Wilson deal and that has paid dividends for him. For one, Miguel Montero isn’t on the roster, so the Nats can’t run like crazy against the former Tiger. With that being said, Avila has thrown out 17 of 38 runners trying to steal with the Cubs.
Despite the lack of defense, Avila has walked 62 times this year (second among catchers), has 14 home runs, and an on-base percentage of .387. But, does that production carry over into October, where the track record isn’t so great for him (.145, 3 home runs, 7 RBI’s in 32 postseason games).
Advantage: It’s clear this one goes to the Cubs. Right now, the Nats can’t expect much from the catcher position other than a clutch hit from Wieters at some point. Plus, Contreras has been great against Nats pitching wherever he hits in the lineup (.375, 5 home runs, 9 RBI’s).