The Hit List: The top five pitcher and catcher combinations in baseball
Although this isn’t officially a “column,” we all love lists, right? David Letterman has made a career of it, so I figure I can make a blog post out of it. Think about the greatest day of the preseason – Pitchers and Catchers! We all look forward to the day when the flame throwers report to see who will become their little buddy calling the plate and sending the signals. Pity that the pitchers get all the credit because when you think the greatest catchers – Bench, Pudge – these are guys who called a game as masterful as the guy who threw it.
Think of your MLB team. Consider your ace. Does he have a favorite catcher? He should, as have many pitchers before him. Today, as we approach the glorified postseason, have you considered the best batteries – pitcher and catcher duos – in baseball today?
Before we step in the batter’s box for today’s Hit List, here’s some bar room trivia for you: Battery is the age-old term to describe the relationship between a pitcher and a catcher. DYK in military terminology, a “battery” is a group of artillery that delivers missiles to a target – together? Now think about any perfect game or no-hitter…the pitcher and catcher do it together with aim, precision and explosion.
5. R.A. Dickey & J.P. Arencibia – Before R.A. Dickey was up for Cy Young consideration in New York, he was a beleaguered fan favorite in the great state of Texas. This was sans knuckleball (and confidence). Everyone loved the guy because of his work ethic. R.A. Dickey was a work horse at his craft but it never quite clicked. In his five years with the Rangers, Dickey hurled 266 innings and secured a not-so-much ERA of 6.23 (largely thanks to his injury plagued year of 2006 where he was honored with a crap 18.9 ERA). Then Seattle. Then Minnesota. And then paydirt at Citi Field. Now that he has north of the border, he needed a catcher that understood the laziest pitch in baseball, next to the near mentally challenged Eephus. And so the story goes Arencibia offered to play catch with Dickey – with no cup, and I’m not talking coffee at Starbucks. Moral of the story: Trust a man with your nuts and he will trust you with his balls.
4. Stephen Strasburg & Wilson Ramos – Remember that Cubs pitcher? I believe his name was Greg Maddox. Dude had more control over his pitches than a porn addict surfing the Web at a hotel, and only checking sports. Although “personal catchers” have been traced back to 1966, pitchers and catchers have found success in pairs as long as baseball has been. Maddox found his battery mate in Eddie Perez, whom without Maddox may have best known as an overnight stocker at the local Kroger store. Enter Stephen Strasburg and the revolving door this NL East torchbearer sees as catchers. A recent story in the Washington Post asked the same question: “Does Strasburg Need a Personal Catcher?” In 52 starts, Strasburg has had seven catchers, and the best without question is Ramos who has provided the ace with a 1.80 ERA. Like Maddox, the answer is ‘Yes’. You know, to whatever he wants.
3. Justin Verlander & Alex Avila – This is an admirable pitcher and catcher duo, because you would think Verlander could make a monkey look good behind the plate. He’s pretty much the best arm on the planet but the 26-year-old Avila calls a great game and isn’t starstruck who is throwing a 99-mph fastball straight at his crotch. While Joe Mauer of the Twins is definitely the premier backstop in the AL Central (if not, one of the best in the American League), name the pitcher who compares to Verlander in that division. Yeah, can’t do it. They won the Cy Young…together. Ask Justin, he’ll tell you that too. This is a pitcher and catcher duo that rely upon each other the way Doc Gooden counted on Gary Carter. Maybe not that way but you get the idea.
2. Adam Wainwright & Yadier Molina – I hate these guys. I should just end it right there. Why? My Texas Rangers lost its World Series dreams thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals, but I’ll be impartial…kinda. Wainwright is known for being a horse – a guy who can pitch all nine innings and still have something in the tank. Yes, his arm is made from titanium but also Molina, and his All-Star big brain, can call a smart game and maximize Wainwright’s arm. Yadier Molina can do it all behind the plate – block, frame, judge, throw. Name it and there’s a highlight out there with Yadier Molina doing it. Add to that Wainwright is coming back from Tommy John, and you have a man that needs his pitcher versus just wants a pitcher. That’s a battery.
1. Buster Posey & Matt Cain – I realize I twisted the order here, but come on, it’s Buster Posey. In 2012, Matt Cain added a perfect game under his belt. Guess who called it? Posey. Most pitchers would have thanked a spouse, a deity or even a coach. Cain? He thanked Posey. He said, “I can’t thank Buster enough. I didn’t even question once what he was calling.” During the perfect game, Cain knew if chicks weren’t going to dig the long ball, dudes would dig the fast ball. Catching a perfect game is just as rare as throwing one. Think about Carlton Fisk: his longevity included more than 2,200 games and he didn’t catch one perfect game. Posey was the NL MVP in 2012. He is one of the best catchers in the game. And he makes his pitchers some of the best as well.