If you’re a Royals fan you probably already know catcher Salvador Perez is going to be out for a while with an intercostal strain.
I’m almost 100 percent sure I don’t have them, but apparently people who are in shape have tiny muscles between the ribs, and if you’re unlucky you can strain one of them.
So it seems likely that Perez is going to be out for a while, and that means Drew Butera is going to be in.
If I were you I’d take anything I have to say about Drew with a grain of salt because Drew and I have been working together on the “Dining with Drew” video series and, while we don’t hang out at each other’s houses, we are friendly.
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That being the case I’ll try to limit myself to what others have said about Drew.
To be honest, most of us don’t know a lot about catching.
We know if a catcher hits and if he throws out runners, but the intricacies of pitch calling, pitch receiving, dealing with umpires and pitchers eludes us.
A lot of people inside the game do no not trust those strike zone grids we see on TV and websites, and there’s a good reason: If you compare different websites you can find the same pitch shown as a ball on one site and a strike on another.
A lot of people inside the game don’t trust “framing reports” either. They know a borderline strike might be called a ball for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with a catcher’s receiving ability.
If you’ve been watching the Royals all season you saw an umpire reluctant to ring up Miguel Cabrera in a crucial at-bat in Detroit. Stars – either at the plate or on the mound – often get star treatment.
So let’s move on to something we can measure with a little more accuracy.
After the Royals acquired Butera, one of the first things a Royals coach said about Drew was this: He threw well enough that the Royals didn’t have to wait to play a team from a retirement home to give Salvador Perez a day off.
If the backup catcher throws poorly, teams will wait until they face an opponent that doesn’t steal bases to put that backup behind the plate.
This season the American League caught stealing average is 27 percent. Drew’s career caught stealing average is 32 percent; although this year Drew is down to 23 percent.
So keep an eye on that.
But if a pitcher takes more than 1.4 seconds to get the ball to home plate, a stolen base is more on the pitcher than on Drew. If you don’t walk around with a stopwatch, just pay attention to how high the pitcher picks up his front foot; the higher it goes, the longer it takes to get the ball to the plate.
Butera’s pitch calling
While shooting the latest “Dining with Drew” I asked Drew and Peter Moylan who was in charge; if Drew called a pitch that Peter didn’t want to throw, who wins?
They both said the pitcher.
He’s the guy with the ball in his hand, and he’s the guy who has the best feel for what he can do on any given pitch.
Drew made an interesting point: He said the best pitch is a “well-convicted” pitch. If the catcher asks for a slider and the pitcher doesn’t want to throw it, there’s a good chance it will not be a great slider.
Drew said if he gives a sign and the pitcher shakes him off, he might give the same sign again. If the pitcher shakes him off two times on the same pitch, that gives Drew a good indication of how the pitcher is feeling; he definitely doesn’t want to throw that pitch and feels strongly about throwing something else.
Drew’s career batting average is .203, but this year he’s hitting .250; in 2016 he hit .285.
There are a couple possible explanations; maybe Drew has figured something out since coming to Kansas City or maybe Drew is getting to face the pitchers he hits well and skip the pitchers that give him trouble.
Starters don’t have that luxury; they have to face pretty much everybody and starting catchers often get worn down as the season progresses. So don’t be overly surprised if that .250 batting average drops.
On the other hand, if Drew maintains it or his average goes up, it might be the result of getting regular at-bats.
One more thing: Butera is one of the few major-leaguers you see choked up on the bat. That’s because Drew’s dad played in the big leagues and, as a kid, Drew would use his dad’s bats; they were too big for him, so he always had to choke up.
And now, even though Drew is a big-league player himself, that’s what feels comfortable. I don’t know how knowing that changes your life, but if you’re at the game it gives you something to say to the person sitting next to you.
Cam Gallagher has been in the minors since 2011, and the next big-league game he catches will be his first.
Gallagher was hitting .294 in Omaha and had five home runs, but fans probably shouldn’t get too worked up either way about what Gallagher does at the plate; it’s what he does behind it that matters.
Kansas City got hit by another rainstorm Saturday night, so Sunday they play a doubleheader. When playing two games in a single day, most of the time, a team will split catching duties; so Gallagher’s first big league start might come right away.
But if the Royals ask Drew to catch both ends of a doubleheader, that tells you something, too.
Drew Butera is considered one of the better backup catchers in baseball and a lot of people think he’d be a starter if he played somewhere else. I never heard anyone say that about Erik Kratz, so the Royals could definitely be in worse shape than they are.
First game is at 1:15, so if you follow me on Twitter, I’ll be talking to you soon.