One of the Washington Nationals most surprising moves this offseason was acquiring Yan Gomes. He should have a huge impact from behind the plate.
Back in November, the Washington Nationals made a surprising trade for Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes. As the rest of the offseason continues to shake out, there’s an argument to be made than the backstop is the Nats’ best addition based on everything he brings to the team.
The obvious thing to point out first off is the clear upgrade that he should be over Matt Wieters with the bat. In his All-Star campaign last year, he slashed .266/.313/.449 compared to the measly .230/.303/.355 slash line Wieters had in his Nats career.
And even though Gomes was still a distinctly average hitter in general with a 101 wRC+, where 100 is league average, he is well above average compared to the rest of the league’s catchers. In 2018, catchers in the majors slashed a combined .232/.304/.372 and put up a wRC+ of just 84, proving that the Brazilian will be a huge asset at the plate.
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But Yan Gomes may have the biggest impact with the Nationals behind then plate. He ranked third in Defensive Runs Saved among qualified catchers last season behind just Mike Zunino and Yasmani Grandal, while also ranking second among qualifiers in catcher range factor.
Gomes also excels in a lot of the more advanced catching defensive metrics. For example, he ranked sixth in the majors in Blocking Runs, according to Baseball Prospectus. This is calculated by comparing the number of blocking chances with the number of wild pitches and passed balls, so Gomes clearly ranks as one of the better blocking catchers in the game.
This is something in particular that could benefit Patrick Corbin and was something that he touched on in his introductory press conference. The left-hander said, “I know I throw a lot of pitches down in the zone that might spike or wild, but those guys save me a lot.”
One of the main reasons for Corbin’s breakout 2018 season was adding a new curveball, which then, in turn, allowed him to increase the usage of his best pitch, his slider. As he alluded to, it works best when he makes it look like a strike before it dives out of the zone, which requires his catcher to block it.
Corbin pitched best when Jeff Mathis was his catcher, who ranked second in Blocking Runs, with a 1.83 ERA as a battery duo. Therefore, it could be a fairly easy transition pitching to Gomes instead of Mathis for the new left-hander and make it more likely that he sustains his success. A lot of that will be down to Corbin’s confidence in Mathis’ blocking ability, but in time, that should come with his new backstop too.
Gomes is also coming over from one of the few rotations that can match the Nationals on talent this season, which should also be a huge benefit. In particular, Corbin and Max Scherzer could benefit a lot from a backstop who clearly prides himself on getting to know his pitchers and his meticulous planning ahead of each game.
Former teammate Corey Kluber tweeted “he works his tail off for us pitchers” when his catcher was selected to the All-Star team last year. There’s a reason Gomes has caught Kluber for more games than any other catcher, as it’s no coincidence that Kluber had success to the tune of a 2.91 ERA when the Brazilian was behind the dish. It’s clear his experience in Cleveland will be valuable for the Nats next season and beyond.
The Washington Nationals didn’t give up a huge amount to acquire Yan Gomes, with Daniel Johnson, Jefry Rodriguez, and Andruw Monasterio going the other way. That’s a small price to pay for such a valuable and cost-controlled addition to the team’s World Series bid.