How did the Houston Astros super catching duo do?
Before the 2017 season started, Houston Astros fans were raving about how good Brian McCann and Evan Gattis would be. As you look back at the history of catchers of old, it has been a relatively weak position. I looked at this before the season started, and I found that Mark Bailey and Alan Ashby in 1985 or Craig Biggio and Alex Trevino in 1989 were the best catching duos in history.
Now that the Astros are World Champions, how did the Brevan McGattis duo do?
After nine straight seasons of 20 plus homers, McCann fell two homers short of continuing this streak. McCann posted a slash line of .241/.323/ .436/ .759 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs. For the past three seasons, McCann has played in about 130 games each year. With the presence of Gattis and a few injuries, McCann was limited to 97 games.
Ironically, McCann had his highest OPS + since 2013 of 109 and cut his strikeouts down to 58 in 2017. McCann was the highest paid catcher in Astros history with a 17 million dollar salary, but the Yankees paid $5.5 million of the contract. His overall WAR was 1.2, but he struggled at the end the end of the season. He played every game in the playoffs, batting .175 with a homer and seven RBIs.
McCann got off to a strong start batting .265 with ten homers and 42 RBIs through June in 196 at-bats. From July on, McCann only hit .195 with eight homers and twenty RBIs in 164 at-bats. It looked like he should be starting the All-Star game, but he missed time and couldn’t keep up the pace.
What about Gattis?
Due to the presence of Carlos Beltran, Gattis’ at-bats dipped to a career-low 300. McCann was the better catcher, and his DH at-bats were limited. Gattis’ stats went down across the board, most notably in the homer department. He did have a career-high 22 doubles, tied with a .263 batting average, and only struck out 50 times. His WAR was only 1.2 as well.
Gattis took over for Beltran in the playoffs and performed well in 30 at-bats batting .267 with a homer and three RBIs. Like McCann, Gattis hit better in the first half, batting .284 with eight homers and 39 RBIs. In the second half, he batted .226 with four homers and 16 RBIs.
Comparing the stats.
There is a two-year difference between McCann and Gattis. McCann’s WAR did increase from 0.9 in 2016 to 1.2 in 2017 but is down from his 2.8 WAR. McCann could be at the downturn of his career, but he helped the Astros defensively and with his leadership. In his final season of his contract, we are not sure what to expect from McCann.
Gattis, however, his WAR dropped from a career-high of 3.0 in 2016 to 1.2 in 2017. Gattis may be 31, but he only has five years of service time in the big leagues. With more playing time in 2018, I can see him bouncing back with more at-bats as the designated hitter. The Astros have already announced that he will not be the backup catcher this year. But things can change.
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The Astros don’t have too many options outside of Max Stassi or Garrett Stubbs. They are rumored to be looking for a long-term answer at catcher in Jonathan Lucroy. If they don’t make any upgrades, I could see them using Gattis from time to time as the catcher when needed.
The combined WAR of 2.4 for Gattis and McCann doesn’t even top Biggio’s 1989 WAR of 2.7. While they may not have performed like the best catching duo in history, they didn’t embarrass themselves either. One can only think of what could have been without Beltran and the injuries, but then maybe they didn’t win the World Series.
This team will always be remembered for what happened on November 1, 2017. No one will care what McCann and Gattis did that season. They are both playing for a new contract this year, so expect them to try to have a great season. The good thing about the Astros is that they don’t need offense from the catchers, but it wouldn’t hurt.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***