At the end of the day, hitting is typically what receives the most attention. However, it is what SF Giants catcher Patrick Bailey is doing behind the plate that is making the biggest impact.
SF Giants catcher Patrick Bailey impacting game on both sides of the ball
Catcher is arguably the most important position in baseball. So, it is no surprise to see that the Giants have gone 25-11 since Bailey was called up on May 19. Casey Schmitt and Luis Matos have both had nice moments in 2023, but Bailey finding ways to help the team win each and every game.
On the surface, the 24-year-old is slashing .323/.352/.535 (141 OPS+) with four home runs, 22 RBI, and 11 runs in 107 plate appearances. This includes a 3.7 percent walk rate against a 24.3 percent strikeout rate.
Bailey is a switch-hitter, but he has typically performed better from his left side. Surprisingly, he has hit better from the right side with three of his four home runs so far in 2023. Can he sustain these numbers? Well, he is benefitting from a .400 BABIP, so that should regress somewhere closer to the league average BABIP of .297 at some point.
He has been very clutch at the plate. And, despite the fact that he has hit well, it might overshadow just how important he has been behind the plate. His pitch framing has been excellent as he has posted a 51.6 percent strike rate and has been worth +3 framing runs according to Baseball Savant. His strike rate ranks as the fourth-best mark in baseball among qualified catchers.
Framing plays a huge role in terms of how a catcher performs and generates value. Nevertheless, managing the running game is another quality. The former first-round pick has thrown out 10 runners in 27 opportunities. His 37 percent caught-stealing rate is well above the league-average rate of 19 percent.
How does he do it? Well, he has an extremely fast pop time and throw. His pop time to second base averages 1.86 seconds, which is second behind only J.T. Realmuto (1.82 seconds). The clip below is an example of why he is so successful. His footwork and transfer of the ball to his throwing hand are both efficient. And, a perfectly-placed throw helps as well.
Not surprisingly, Bailey's overall work behind the plate is regarded as some of the best in baseball. According to Baseball Prospectus, he has been worth +6.4 Catcher Defensive Adjustment (CDA), which ranks as the fourth-best mark in the league. CDA combines pitch framing, throwing, and blocking into one metric.
The three catchers ahead of him have all had substantially more work behind the plate in 2023, meaning more opportunities to rank in this metric. To put it differently, it would be like a batter being one of the top hitters in terms of home runs, but doing so with far fewer plate appearances.
Plus, it is hard to ignore that pitchers just like throwing to him. Giants pitchers have a 3.31 ERA when Bailey is behind the plate. That is not the best metric to use when looking at a catcher, but it means something.
Bailey's career is off to a nice start. He is hitting well, but defense never takes a day off. And, the rookie catcher is finding ways to help his team win each and every game so far.