Tampa Bay Rays Catching Woes: Rays' Future Uncertain Behind the Plate

Dustin HullAnalyst IJune 2, 2011

John Jaso's defensive liability has continued to cause problems
John Jaso's defensive liability has continued to cause problemsAndrew Burton/Getty Images

Simply put, yesterday was a downer for the Tampa Bay Rays. A great performance by David Price was wasted, thanks to an anemic offense and the same catcher troubles the Rays have had so far this season.

Yesterday only put an exclamation mark on what has become a weakness for the Rays. The guys behind the dish, whether it be John Jaso or Kelly Shoppach, aren't getting the job done. Not even close.

Jaso had five bases stolen off of him yesterday, while not throwing out a single Texas runner. That makes him 5-for-37 in the throw-out department. Five-for-37. Think about that number for a second.

The offense that got Jaso the praise in 2010 is no longer present. After another hitless day, Jaso's average has plumeted to .220, well off his .263 of last season. His on-base percentage has taken an even worse turn, having gone down to .280, a far cry from a fat .372 in 2010.

The key to that downfall in OBP is the fact that Jaso had only 39 strikeouts in 109 games last year, while he already has 15 in 39 games last season.

But however bad his numbers get, it'll be hard for him to keep up with Shoppach, who has fallen off the edge of the earth ever since arriving in Tampa Bay.

His 31 strikeouts in just 90 plate appearances are horrific; his .152 batting average is completely disastrous. The only thing he has going for him is his 47 percent success rate at throwing out runners, but that's only in 15 attempts.

For $3 million this year, he is an absolute joke for the Rays. He hit .196 last year, and is only taking steps back. He's struck out 31 times in 31 games.

Shoppach has always had problems with Ks though, having been punched out at the plate 441 times in only 404 career games. All these things add up to the easy conclusion that the Rays should take his $300 K buyout/bailout.

Any pitching success the Rays have shouldn't be shared with their catchers. Make no mistake, the hot starts of James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson should in no way be credited to the game-calling.

I still have faith that Jaso will come around in due time, but I thought he had already taken a step forward on defense last season, just to fall backward so far in this one.

The fact that the Rays could've had Buster Posey back in the 2008 draft still stings many around the area. But instead, their stuck with Tim Beckham, who's sitting on a $6.15 million bonus with the Biscuits in Double-A.

The fact that Tampa Bay could've taken a flier on Russell Martin and gotten nine homers and a .352 OBP already this season, also hurts. Oh, and he's only paid a million dollars more than Shoppach, and he was signed by the Yankees for that much. The Yankees.

But past the "wudda-cudda" talk, the Rays have to decide what they're going to do about the catching situation. One of two things has to happen, one of which is not keeping it like it is.

Jose Lobaton has thrown out eight of 24 runners, a much better clip than Jaso's, and hit .306, light years beyond both catchers. So the Rays, having nothing to lose when it comes to their catching situation, need to promote him.

The other option is waiting for Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit to get healthy, and then trading for him before the July 31st deadline. He's thrown out just as many runners as Jaso—just in 20 less attempts—and was hitting an above-average .269.

One or the other needs to happen. There's no risk in bringing up Lobaton at this point. The Rays also wouldn't need much to get Doumit, knowing the Pirates.

Any way you look at it, Shoppach needs to go and someone needs to push Jaso for time behind the dish. And it needs to happen soon.