The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 28, 2009

More on Morales

I opened Monday's print column with the observation that Jose Morales was outplaying Mike Redmond. This was followed by an item in the Star Tribune suggesting that Morales was likely to catch all three games of the Tampa Bay series.

Monday night, Morales demonstrated some of the reasons he might not be better than redmond: Three pitches got away from him, allowing runners to advance.

Two of the three were ruled passed balls, one a wild pitch. One of the passed balls was particularly bad, coming as it did on a pitchout. The other one came on an R.A. Dickey knuckleball, and that and the wild pitch are worth commenting on.

The distinction between a passed ball and a wild pitch is that the catcher gets blamed for the passed ball, the pitcher for the wild pitch.

The problem is that the league leader in passed balls will almost always be the guy who has the most knuckleballs to deal with. Last year Kevin Cash led the American League in passed balls with 14; he was Tim Wakefield's personal catcher. A catcher can anticipate the slider in the dirt or an outside fastball; he has no idea where the butterfly is going.

The passed ball on the knuckleball, in my view, wasn't really Morales' fault. It was the pitch, not the receiver.

The wild pitch charged to Scott Baker was an automatic scorer's call — they'll always charge a wild pitch on a delivery that hits the dirt before it hits the catcher, and that one kicked up chalk. But pitchers often want to throw their breaking pitch in the dirt, and Morales did not shift position to block that particular pitch. I view that one as less Baker's fault than Morales'.

Statistically, there were still two passed balls and one wild pitch. It's a question of which one was which. And Morales now leads the AL with four pased balls. (The guy in second? George Kattaras of the Red Sox (3) — this year's personal catcher for Tim Wakefield.)

• A long as I'm talking about the Twins catchers, much has been made on the broadcasts about the fact that Morales and Redmond have combined to throw out just one base stealer. The Twins pitchers have caught five base stealers — four of them with Morales behind the plate, one with Redmond. (Morales has, entering Tuesday's play, caught seven more innings than Redmond.) Nine steals allowed with Morales catching, 10 with Redmond.

The difference in pickoffs is probably coincidential. But it's there right now.

e-mail Edward Thoma