Astros’ Evan Gattis: The Best Catcher in the League

cfarr
Jun 15, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Will Harris (36) is congratulated by catcher Evan Gattis (11) after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The Astros won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 15, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Will Harris (36) is congratulated by catcher Evan Gattis (11) after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The Astros won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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Houston Astros‘ catcher and designated hitter, EvaGattis, is somehow far better at the dish when he spends most of the game behind it.

Dallas-native Evan Gattis was traded to the Astros on January 14 of last year from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for right-handed pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, third baseman Rio Ruiz and right-hander Andrew Thurman. Gattis has since become a fan-favorite in Houston.

He played as a catcher and outfielder for the Braves, but, Houston fans have never thought of him as anything but a DH. That changed in 2016 as the team eventually sent him down to class-AA Corpus Christi for 11 games to get re-accustomed to catching before letting him take over the backup catcher duties for Erik Kratz.

But the 6’4″ 270 lb. the right-hander is impressing behind the plate so far this season. He has caught just 19 games and has already thrown out six runners stealing, while Jason Castro, the team’s “defensive catcher,” has thrown out just five runners in 63 games catching. His caught stealing percentage for the season is a whopping 43 percent which is third in the American League behind Brian McCann (57.7) and Salvador Perez (54.5).

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However, the amazing, anomalous stats are revealed when looking at the offensive side. Gattis is hitting .213/.280/.421 with 13 HR and 35 RBI this season, but as a DH he is hitting just .181/.284/.362 with five HR and 17 RBI. That accounts for 44 of his 63 games played.

In his other 19 games, as the team’s catcher, he is hitting .278/.325/.653 with eight HR and 18 RBI, making his OPS more than .300 points higher than when not playing defense. He has homered in 41 percent of games in which he has started at catcher, compared to just 14 percent of games started as the DH.

If you take the numbers from when he is catching and average them throughout an entire season of about 108 games played (which is how many games he played when he was the starting catcher for the Braves in 2014) he is on pace to have 120 hits, 48 HR and 108 RBI. In that 2014 season, he hit .263/.317/.493 with 22 HR and 52 RBI. Then, last year as the Astros’ DH, his slash line dropped to .246/.285/.463 in 153 games.

Clearly, ‘El Oso Blanco’ has been able to hit at a much higher level while being a part of the game defensively recently. But, this anomaly is not specific to this season. Here are Gattis’ career numbers while DHing next to his stats while playing defense:

It could be that when he is catching, he can keep his mind involved in the game and be better focused while at the plate, as opposed to shutting his mind off to the game and trying to refocus when he gets into the batter’s box.

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Whatever the reason for the huge split, it may be in the team’s best interest to find more playing time for Gattis behind the dish.

**Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com**

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