Much of the discourse regarding Joey Bart so far in 2022 is his production at the plate. However, there are a couple of concerning trends behind the plate that are beginning to emerge that the SF Giants will need to address if they are going to remain competitive.
Do the SF Giants have a problem at catcher?
Before we get started, we can take a moment to talk about how Bart is hitting at the plate. On the year, he is slashing .169/.314/352 (102 wRC+) with four home runs, seven RBI, and 11 runs in 86 plate appearances. This includes a 14 percent walk rate, which is good, against a 45.3 percent strikeout rate, which is tough to tolerate.
The right handed bat has posted a 90.2-MPH exit velocity, 13.2-degree launch angle, and a 9.4 percent barrel rate. Plus, he has improved his groundball rate from 51.6 percent in 2020 to 43.8 percent in 2022.
These are quality trends, but the ceiling on his production will be the frequency at which he puts the ball in play. Strikeouts will always be part of his game, but it is tough to have a hitter in the lineup who strikes out over 30 percent of the time unless he is compensating that with enormous power. There has been some good and some bat with his production at the plate.
However, it is the work behind the plate that is becoming concerning. This issue is compounded by the fact that Curt Casali was just placed on the concussion injured list. The hope is that it is a short stay, but it is difficult to know when it comes to concussions.
Let's start with a positive. Bart has been worth one Catcher Framing Run (CFR) in 2022, so he has done well in terms of framing and that is an important quality for a catcher.
However, Giants catchers have combined to prevent only 13.6 percent of base stealers in 22 attempts, which ranks as the second-worst mark in the National League. Opposing runners are beginning to take notice by running more aggressively.
Bart has nabbed only two base stealers in 15 attempts, whereas Casali has thrown out one base stealer in five attempts. Michael Papierski allowed two stolen bases in his debut on Saturday. For reference, the league-average rate is 27 percent, so the Giants are well below-average in this regard.
In fairness, pitchers play a huge role in preventing stolen bases as well. It is hard to pinpoint exactly who is contributing more to it, but the catcher is not the only one responsible for stolen bases.
In terms of blocking, the Giants have not allowed a passed ball yet in 2022, so that is encouraging. However, Giants pitchers have thrown 17 wild pitches, which is the fourth-highest total in baseball. Last season, they threw 44 wild pitches, which was the second-lowest in baseball behind only the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals at 43.
10 of those wild pitches have occurred with Bart at catcher, whereas the remaining seven were with Casali behind the plate. At this rate, the Giants will exceed last year's mark by a large margin.
In fairness, the increase in wild pitches could be a philosophical change if the coaching staff is asking pitchers to throw lower in the zone. Missing too low could result in a pitch deflecting off of the ground, thereby becoming a wild pitch.
Granted, wild pitches are attributed to the pitcher, but an above-average defensive catcher typically limits the number of wild pitches. Based on observation, Giants catchers have left a lot to be desired in terms of blocking.
There is still room for improvement. While much of the dialogue regarding Bart revolves around how he has performed at the plate, it is the work behind the dish that concerns me more. And, it is not just him, but the overall performance from the position.