Ideal Companions: Ranking the Best Pitcher-Catcher Combos in Baseball
The pitcher and catcher relationship is built entirely on trust.
The catcher needs to trust that the pitcher will put the ball exactly where he wants it, and the pitcher needs to trust that the catcher will call a good game behind the plate.
Once this trust is established, it is a thing of beauty. It seems as if the pitcher and catcher are operating from the same mind, and the results are often self-evident.
We are going to celebrate those relationships today with the 10 most ideal companions in Major League Baseball.
10. Jesus Flores and Stephen Strasburg
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A pair of youngsters lead off this list with Jesus Flores (27) and Stephen Strasburg (23).
The Washington Nationals have been one of the biggest surprises in baseball, and their pitching staff as a whole has been especially impressive. Flores has been behind the plate calling most of the games and definitely deserves credit.
Strasburg has been everything he was advertised to be so far this season even though he is working under a heavy pitch count. He is 9-4 with a 2.82 ERA and is leading the National League with 128 strikeouts in only 99 innings.
We can easily conclude that these two are connecting well and producing excellent results.
9. Brian McCann and Craig Kimbrel
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I only have one other relief pitcher on this list, but given the amazing success of Brian McCann and Craig Kimbrel over the past few seasons, they were obvious inclusions.
Kimbrel broke into the major leagues in 2010, and quite frankly, he has never looked back. His career ERA over three seasons is currently 1.65. That is unbelievable, and it emphasizes the fact that he never really hit any type of learning curve.
Brian McCann must have been part of that process. Having a catcher who can call a solid game helps any young pitcher start achieving right away.
8. Alex Avila and Justin Verlander
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There are many times when an experienced catcher is brought on to help shepherd a young and sometimes wild pitching staff.
As it turns out, Justin Verlander turned this trend over.
Last season, Buster Olney of ESPN reported on a dialogue between Verlander and catcher Alex Avila where Verlander actually gave his catcher advice on how to block breaking balls more effectively.
They have obviously had quite a bit of success together as Verlander won the Cy Young last year and was named the All-Star Game starter this season (even though that didn't go so well).
The fact of the matter is that the pitcher and catcher need to be able to help each other improve, and these two obviously do that well.
7. Miguel Montero and Wade Miley
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Wade Miley is the one of a few young pitchers on this list, but he has been impressive so far in 2012. He is 9-5, and that performance helped him make his first All-Star team this year.
Miguel Montero told Tyler Lockman of Fox Sports Arizona that he looks forward to "helping" Miley continue his outstanding success for the remainder of the season.
This is a sign of a very respectable relationship. Each part of the battery needs to help each other if they are going to be successful.
Miguel Montero is definitely helping Wade Miley develop into a great pitcher, and Miley is responding by pitching a series of solid games in the first half.
6. Yadier Molina and Lance Lynn
Yadier Molina is easily one of the best, and some would argue the best, catcher in all of baseball right now. He plays stellar defense, has a cannon for an arm and calls a strong game for his staff.
Lance Lynn seems to be making the transition from the bullpen back to the rotation with relative ease. So far, he is 11-4 with a 3.41 ERA. He is averaging more than one strikeout per inning, and he has done pretty well in terms of keeping runners off the bases.
Making this transition must have been difficult, and it required Molina and Lynn to realize that they needed a different strategy this year.
Since both have done that well, they deserve credit as an effective battery.
5. Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Cook
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Ryan Cook came to the Oakland Athletics as a small piece in the Trevor Cahill deal. His performance this year has been anything but small and resulted in his first All-Star appearance.
Even though Kurt Suzuki has struggled at the plate, the veteran catcher surely has been a major part of Cook's development. Having a steady signal caller behind the plate was probably a relatively new experience for Cook, and it has worked wonders for his game.
Suzuki also told Jane Lee of MLB.com that Cook has a great work ethic and now we're beginning to see the obvious results of that.
Certain catchers are especially adept at handling young pitchers, and it seems like Suzuki and Cook have been working together very well this season.
4. Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels
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This All-Star pair might not be together for very much longer with all of the trade speculation swirling, but for right now, Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels have had quite a bit of success together.
For his part, Ruiz is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball and has demonstrated that he can work with established stars as well as the up and comers.
Hamels is obviously one of the stars that he works with. The Phillies Ace is now 10-4 this season with a 3.20 ERA. He's averaging one strikeout per inning and is keeping runners off the bases with a 1.102 WHIP.
While the future is unknown, these two should continue to perform well even if the Philadelphia Phillies are spiraling out of the division.
3. Rod Barajas and James McDonald
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This is a relationship built around the seasoned veteran taking initiative and guiding the younger player toward success.
Rod Barajas has spent 14 years in Major League Baseball whereas McDonald is only in his fifth season.
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, after McDonald lost a game to Cleveland, Barajas confronted him and told him to essentially challenge himself more.
It takes a healthy relationship to be able to have those types of conversations. Barajas obviously wants to help McDonald become better, and McDonald seems to respect Barajas' opinion on how he needs to be pitching.
These two have accomplished great things for the Pittsburgh Pirates so far this year, and being honest with each other will help that success continue.
2. Josh Thole and RA Dickey
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RA Dickey must appreciate Josh Thole an awful lot as a few catchers are comfortable handling the knuckleball. There have been a few catchers who have learned how to corral the pitch, and Thole is making a strong case to join those ranks.
On top of actually being able to catch the pitch, he has been behind the plate helping Dickey put together a season that many thought was worthy of a start in the All-Star Game.
When asked by Fred Kerber of the New York Post about Thole, Dickey spoke about his outstanding attitude and commitment to being a strong catcher.
"Thole, he possesses the acumen and the ability to communicate well, and he works his tail off. So it came naturally for he and I. He's real selfless back there, he wants the best for you, doesn't have an ego about it."
Dickey is a veteran who had thrown to many catchers, so the simple fact that he reserved such high praise for Thole demonstrates the strength of their relationship.
1. Buster Posey and Matt Cain
There is no doubt that these two men have been successful together.
Matt Cain has been a great pitcher for several years, but 2012 is shaping up to be his best yet. He is 9-3 so far with a 2.62 ERA, and he's keeping runners off the bases effectively as demonstrated by his 0.956 WHIP.
When he threw his perfect game earlier this year, Buster Posey was obviously behind the plate for the San Francisco Giants.
While Cain was throwing the actual pitches, he held high praise for his battery mate when he spoke with Matt Crossman of Sporting News after his perfect game.
"I can’t thank Buster enough. I didn’t even question once what he was calling."
When two people are in the same mindset and produce such fantastic results, there is no doubt that they are the most ideal companions in Major League Baseball.
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