Thursday, January 22, 2009

Henry Blanco

Yesterday the Padres announced the signing of veteran catcher Henry Blanco to a one-year deal.

Throughout the off-season we have been discussing the idea of bringing in a veteran catcher who could help mentor both our young catchers and our young starting pitchers. We feel that Henry fits the role perfectly, especially since he has maintained an 86.2 MR (mentor rating) over the past three seasons.

Known as a solid defensive catcher, Henry has thrown out more than 40% of runners throughout his career (45% over the past three years). As is often the case with catchers who throw that well, runners also don't attempt to run as much. Put those two together, and Henry has allowed an average of one stolen base per 18 innings caught throughout his career. As a comparison, our Major League team last year allowed one stolen base for every nine innings (Johnny Bench allowed one for every 24 innings). It's not just his throwing, either, as Henry has consistently been above average in virtually every defensive metric.

On the offensive side, Henry provides a little pop, hitting at least six homers in seven different seasons, including every season in which he's received at least 175 plate appearances. Last season Henry hit .292/.325/.392 in 128 plate appearances while backing up Geovanny Soto in Chicago.

We're happy to add Henry and believe that he'll be a stabilizing force at a critical position.

31 comments:

Paul DePodesta said...

Before anyone gets too worked up, the mentor rating is a complete fabrication... but it was fun to write. Let's make sure we don't take all of these stats (or ourselves) too seriously.

However, I don't the joke to take away from the importance of Henry's leadership ability and the impact that had on our decision. He will have a definite positive impact on our young players.

Aaron said...

I laughed at the Mentor Rating part. Good stuff.

Using mostly CHONE projections, I currently have Blanco as somewhere around 1/2 of a win over a replacement player. Added with his intangibles and (hopefully for you guys) teaching ability, it looks like a good deal for your team.

field39 said...

It is good to see that you can laugh at yourself. I am assuming that is how you got through the LA years, without strangeling TJ Simers.

Markl said...

Aw! Paul? You couldn't let the MR-thing go for a little while? :) After some of the Eckstein comments, I thought it was a great joke, and I was hoping to see some reactions.

That said, I understand why you'd want to head that off sooner. I thought it was funny, all the same!

neifichicken said...

I'm glad you guys ended up with Blanco over Ausmus. From 2005-2007 Ausmust sported an average Mentor Rating of 94.1, but it fell to a career low 72.3 in 2008 trying to mentor the promising JR Towles. At this stage in his career I just don't know if he can go back to being the elite mentor he once was.

Blanco on the other hand is fresh off of mentoring the Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto, which did wonders for his MR.

All kidding aside, in the past 3 seasons Blanco has gotten over 100 PA's he's been very solid on both sides of the ball, which is all you can ask for out of your backup catcher.

NEpadrefan said...

But Paul, don't you read the papers??? You and the others in the front office don't care about intangibles and are driven only by what those evil computin' machines tell you with their fancy numbers and things! You can't possibly have made a decision on "leadership ability" and clubhouse demeanor!!!

Clayton said...

I liked the MR stat. What do you think Greg Madux's rating was the last two years?

Paul DePodesta said...

Clayton,

Maddux has a Hall of Fame caliber MR (which, of course, is anything over 104.5). Over the past two seasons he was easily a 122, which is rarified air.

B.T. Charpied said...

Okay, fine. I won't talk about Eckstein mentoring Antonelli any more :-)

I like the Blanco signing. A real good value sign that should help out Nick Hundley big time.

Good work.

B.T. Charpied said...

I'd also like to know if Jeff Kent's MR of -106.7 is enough to keep him out of the Hall of Fame...

Floyd said...

Cubs fan here.

I want Hank White back.

FriarsN09 said...

I'm not sure why you're defending or explaining the signing of Blanco with more than one sentence. You should have just said:

"We needed a backup catcher who can play once a week and has more than X years of experience, while willing to play for the major league minimum as our budget requires."

Citing his statistics is useless. When a guy plays once a week, his ability to throw out runners is rendered useless by that small sample size, because it's all a product of what lineup the opposing team is throwing out there and whether the Padres pitcher keeps them off the bases once a week.

And citing home runs hit (wow, 6) for other teams (especially in Wrigley) has proven to be a completely meaningless forecaster of success in a Padres uniform.

See: Barrett, Michael or Giles, Brian or Payton, Jay or Iguchi, Tad or Edmonds, Jim (and so on).

Just say what it is... veteran at minimum salary.

BTW, great blog.

JD said...

As a Brewers fan I remember when we had Henry in Milwaukee. He is as solid a backup catcher as you can ask for. I hated seeing him on the Cubs the past few seasons, he always came up with big hits against the Brewers. Love the mentor raiting Paul.

Greg said...

Paul, I saw that to make room for Blanco, you guys designated right-handed pitcher Virgil Vasquez for assignment. What are the implications of that move?

mweldon said...

Excellent signing! I've always liked this guy for his ability to throw out runners. We could use some of that.

I was under the impression that the mathematical limit of MR was 100. Or am I thinking of the normalized MR? I'll have to check my notes.

Paul DePodesta said...

Greg,

We designated Virgil for assignment. That move immediately takes him off the 40-man roster, but it gives us 10 days to decide what route to take - trade, outright waivers, or release. More than 9 times out of 10 the player is placed on outright waivers. Should the player clear waivers and it's his first outright assignment, he simply continues as a member of the organization but is no longer on the 40-man.

ElSrBueno said...

I have a small problem with saying Blanco's great at throwing runners out.... as a general rule I tend to place most of the credit/blame on the pitcher (fairly or unfairly, I'd love to hear others opinions on this) and so I'm not sure how much credit Henry deserves. I have to admit I haven't actually watched him play all that much, so i have no "scouting" evidence, but here's a curious fact:

In 2001-2003, when he spent MOST of his time as Greg Maddux' personal catcher in Atlanta he was 32 for 102 in throwing runners out. (about 30%)

For his career, including his time in Atlanta he was 220 for 513 in throwing runners out (about 43%)....

I understand this is no way to generalize the argument that catchers have no ability to control a running game.... but it is something to think about. Perhaps Maddux is SO bad that he neutralized Hank's tremendous ability?

Just something to think about.

Tim

Tom said...

Maddux has said many times that he pays little or no attention to a runner. Being able to throw out 30% of basestealers with a pitcher who doesn't care is more evidence that Blanco can control the running game.

Still, a lot of the pro-Blanco talk sounds a lot like what we heard about Doug Mirabelli. His MR better be high, given that his career OPS+ is 65. That's a tick above what we got from Khalil last year.

Steve24 said...

Pepper Leach "Wish we had him two years ago"
Charlie Donovan "We did"
Pepper "Five years ago then"

(Granted we didn't have Blanco previously... and granted he never was an all star... He's just old and I love this quote).

howard said...

Paul,

While we are on the subject of catching I was wondering if AA catcher Colt Morton fits into the Padres plans at all. I have been able to watch him play alot while he was with LE, I noticed some things off with timing while at bat and had the chance to speak with him about that and offered some friendly advice, (as if I am a hitting instructor). I was able to witness back to back multi-homer games.

Daniel Yowell "San Diego Tax Center said...

Its hard to get excited about any of these garbage signings when Peavy's Padre tenure is in the balance. Eckstein would be a good bench player on an average team. Blanco is done. And to think I voted for the new ballpark. I have to say, if faced with that vote today it would be an emphatic no!

sdsuaztec4 said...

@ Greg

Vasquez was claimed by the Pirates and he will be added to their 40 man roster.

Steve24 said...

My thoughts on Peavy -

You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet.

The Padres has a good team for a few years there, now it's time to rebuild.

Peavy is a great pitcher, but will he still be healthy by the time this team rebuilds? That's a pretty big risk a few years from now. Just think of all the young pitchers who wind up having surgery in the late 20's early 30's. Prior, Wood, Pavano, Sheets, Mulder, Zito... Gooden was never the same after surgery. More often than not these bright flame throwers burn brightly for only a short period of time. Clemens, R.Johnson, these are the exceptions to the rule.

If there ever was a time to shop Peavy... that time is now!

In the meantime, the Padres have to still field a team. This is how it works in the smaller markets (yes, San Diego is a smaller market). Fans have nobody to blame but themselves for this. We don't support our team like East Coast fans support their clubs. If the Pads pulled 3-mil-plus in attendance each year and could cut a mega t.v. deal like Boston and the N.Y.Y, maybe they could afford to never rebuild.

But until that time, there will be peaks and valleys. We could get all butt-hurt about it, but lets be thankful we're not the KC's and Pitt's of the world. Remember, we've seen playoff games this decade.

I like the current front office we have. It might not always be the most popular way of thinking, but in the end dealing a Peavy, letting type-A FA's go so we can bring in some young talent is just what we need to do.

Look at the young cores being built in SF, Col & Arizona. Now look at the young talent LA has produced (M.Kemp, A.Either, C.Billingsley, C.Kershaw, B.Dewitt, J.Loney)... if we want to keep up with these teams, we need to commit to rebuilding!

In the meantime you have to support your team, go out and cheer these guys on.

Why?

Because thats what real fans do.

The Eckstein's & Giles' will help the young guys come along. As fans we need to show support by attending games, increasing profits so that they have no excuse but to go out and spend some money on above slot draft picks, maybe afford a few key long term FA.

Then in a few years, when the young guys start to mature, we'll be the ones adding the Manny Ramirez's (or Kevin Brown's if you remember the 90's).

The keystone guys who bring it all together.

The thing with a keystone is it means nothing if it doesn't have the solid wall foundation underneath it.

Right now this management team is building that foundation.

Give 'em a break. In the meantime enjoy the WBC and the young guys willing to sign autographs this year. Take advantage of season ticket holders giving away the good seats. Go out and see the other teams big stars up close and personal while we develop some of our own.

It's not gonna last very long.

neifichicken said...

For those interested, this article on fangraphs has a blurb praising the arm of Henry Blanco


http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/stealing-on-catchers-not-named-molina

Ryguy said...

There is a question on the Free Agent Quota on MLBTradeRumors.com. Link: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/01/yankees-reach-f.html

I was wondering if you could clarify the position that teams have a specific signing rule and can only sign up to a certain amount that they refer to. Thanks!

Patrick said...

Paul,
If a club gets an arbitration decision that they feel is unreasonable, can the player be released with only a portion of his salary being paid? Under what circumstances can a player be let go by certain dates and the club only has to eat a portion of his salary? Thanks.

Steve24 said...

Can we please sign Chuck James? He'd be a great fit for the direction we're going in. He might be a back end of the rotation type this year and with a little help, maybe Bud Black can work some of his magic, maybe he realizes his potential.

Maybe he moves to the pen.

Whats it gonna cost?

Please???

hector said...

Paul,

Is it possible that the Padres could get creative and sign Orlando Cabrera for 1 year + an option?

It would be for 1 million in 2009 and a buyout of 5 million.

By doing the buyout of 5 million you are basically back loading the contract.

The Padres would lose their #2 draft pick, but get 2 or 3 prospects coming back from the team that acquires him via trade.

It would be a financial wash because the pro rated salary of $1 million would be offset by the savings in the draft pick bonus.

However, the Padres would net more prospects via trade (2 or 3) than a #2 draft pick.

Paul DePodesta said...

Patrick,

No, the Club cannot release the player simply because they're unhappy with the contract. The Club can only release the player due to baseball reasons - diminished skills, other options at that position, etc.

I believe the NHL system allows for a release due to the salary award, but not in MLB.

howard said...

Paul,

While we are on the subject of catching I was wondering if AA catcher Colt Morton fits into the Padres plans at all. I have been able to watch him play alot while he was with LE, I noticed some things off with timing while at bat and had the chance to speak with him about that and offered some friendly advice, (as if I am a hitting instructor). I was able to witness back to back multi-homer games.

Steve24 said...

I know this is an old post, it's nice to see Blanco playing well for the Venezuelan team.

I'm Listening to the USA game vs Venezuela to determine the seeding in the finals and I see he's got a two run double off J.Guthrie.

We've joked about mentor rating, but with the right parts around him, Blanco can be a nice productive player.