The offseason is unfortunately here and so we are simultaneously tasked with reflecting on the 2015 season and looking forward to next spring. As part of Rumbunter’s off-season coverage, we will be grading out virtually every member of the Pittsburgh Pirates who spent substantial time on the team’s 25-man roster over the past season. We will look at their seasons as a whole, show you their relevant stats, and assign a final grade to each player. Today’s entry: Chris Stewart
Francisco Cervelli got a lot of the ink for the Pirates’ catching position this season, but a plucky smart, singles hitter deserves a lot more praise than he probably receives. Chris Stewart was criminally underrated and under-appreciated for his efforts this season. He once again didn’t hit for a lot of power, but all he did was get base hits. He might not be a sabermetric darling, but he was a productive hitter and defender, which is all you can ask from your backup catcher.
Chris Stewart has yet to hit a single home run as a member of the Pirates and it’s almost comical how little power he has, he also only hit eight doubles in 159 at-bats in 2015. Because of the lack of power and only six walks, Stewart pretty much relies on singles and it seemed like every time he was up in a big spot, Stewart managed to find some grass. He had a .500 batting average as a pinch hitter in 2015 and was generally used in above average leverage situations. There is plenty of value in getting quality pinch-hit at-bats from your backup catcher.
Stewart has had two very good batting average seasons with the Pirates, following up a .294 season with .289. Stewart has easily seen his best career offensive seasons with the Pirates. He’s also had his two best BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) with the Pirates. Entering the 2014 season, his career BABIP was .253, but with the Pirates his BABIP is .356. Stewart has just been a substantially better hitter while wearing a Pirates uniform. He’s seen an increase in not only his batting average, but his slugging and on-base percentages. The Pirates know how to trade for ex-Yankees catchers.
Chris Stewart is a very simple offensive player, he doesn’t walk, but gets a ton of singles and if he were the regular starter, that be cause for concern, but he’s a backup and an imperfect, but effective backup player is better than a bad one. However, offense isn’t the main means to judge a backup catcher, defense is probably just as, if not more important.
Stewart was a slightly below average defender in 2015 for the Pirates. He was third in the league for errors committed as a catcher with nine, allowed 16 wild pitches and one pass ball. Nothing overly terrible, but nothing that stands out either. However, you do generally judge backup catchers a bit differently than starters. Despite the errors, Stewart did manage to be worth 0.4 dWAR, which was better than his 0.3oWAR, meaning Stewart provided more value with his glove than his bat.
Chris Stewart is far from a flashy player and that is perfectly acceptable from your backup catcher. He calls a very solid game and won’t hurt you too much defensively or offensively. He might not take over and win too many ball games for your team, but he also won’t cost your team many games either. In the end that’s exactly what you want from a backup catcher. When he’s in the game, he won’t hurt the team. By that metric, Chris Stewart did his job incredibly well in 2015.
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