Washington Nationals: Kurt Suzuki Must Become Primary Catcher

rshinberg
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 06: Kurt Suzuki #28 of the Washington Nationals hits a two-run home run in the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Nationals Park on July 6, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Nationals are paying tribute to the Montreal Expos by wearing retro jerseys. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 06: Kurt Suzuki #28 of the Washington Nationals hits a two-run home run in the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Nationals Park on July 6, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Nationals are paying tribute to the Montreal Expos by wearing retro jerseys. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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With the Washington Nationals in the Wild Card race, they need to field their best team every day.  That involves making Kurt Suzuki the primary catcher.

When the Washington Nationals signed Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes this offseason, the Nationals drastically upgraded their catcher position after two disappointing years of Matt Wieters.

The idea was to have Suzuki be their primary offensive catcher while Gomes would serve as a great defensive player.

The idea of platooning the two catchers, who are both older than 31 years, seemed like a great idea to keep them both healthy and productive.

However, as this season has progressed, it is apparent that the Nationals would be best suited by playing Suzuki far more often than Gomes.

There’s no debating the impact on the offense both catchers have.  Suzuki is night and day better than Gomes.

In fact, while Suzuki is rolling along as a slightly above average MLB hitter, Gomes is having his worst offensive season since 2013.

Gomes is slashing .209/.303/.302 with a 56 wRC+.  Among catchers with at least 195 plate appearances (the number Gomes has this season), Gomes’ wRC+ mark ranks 22nd out of 23 eligible players.

While Suzuki’s numbers are slightly above average in an absolute sense, his numbers stack up well amongst catchers.  His 108 wRC+ ranks 12th out of 31 catchers with as many or more plate appearances as Suzuki (172).

However, Suzuki specifically shines in the power categories.  In the same split, Suzuki’s .515 slugging percentage ranks eighth and his .245 isolated power ranks seventh.

The main knock on Suzuki coming into the season was his defense.

Suzuki’s pitch-framing skills ranked 4th worst in the MLB in 2018 per StatCorner’s runs above average metric.  Gomes, on the other hand, ranked 26th best out of the 126 catchers.

However, he has drastically improved his pitch framing in 2019, while Gomes has regressed.  Gomes and Suzuki now have nearly identical runs above average marks (-1.9 and -2.4 respectively. The league average is zero).

Next. Fernando Rodney Rolling. dark

This all adds up to Suzuki deserving more playing time.  The Nats have done an excellent job keeping him healthy to this point.  But in this coming critical period of the season, where the Nats must decide if they are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, the must do everything they can to win ballgames, and Suzuki in the lineup gives the Nats the best chance to win.

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