Rich Hill Has Confidence in Austin Barnes, and So Should You


We’re down to two days left of this boring, non-transactional offseason. Two days left before pitchers and catchers put on those gorgeous Dodger Blue jerseys and report to Camelback Ranch in Arizona. Two days left of winter.

Okay, so obviously that last one wasn’t true. But pitchers and catchers reporting does give one hope that spring is just around the corner, and maybe give us writers hope that soon there will be actually be something new and interesting to write about.

But, since there is not, let’s revisit our (not so) favorite topic of the off-season—how will Austin Barnes handle the job of being full-time catcher. Offseason projections from several outlets are pretty solid on Barnes. We all know that he had a sub-par year in 2018 that saw him go .205/.329/.290 with four home runs. While Baseball Prospectus doesn’t project Barnes to replicate his career high 2017, it does predict a nice rebound season with a .244 batting average, 10 homers and a 3.8 WARP. Not great, but definitely better than last season.

David Vassegh of AM570 caught up with Barnes at Justin Turner‘s golf tournament a while back, asking him about his off-season workouts and mind set.

“Obviously, I’ve been working on my swing, trying to get it right. Last season was pretty tough, but I’m feeling confident. I’ve been working with Rob a lot, been going up there and working with him a lot.”

When asked about going through last season, Barnes responded, “Well, I needed to reset. You know it’s hard to make change midseason…..I think we’ve identified some things, and are trying to chip away at them.”

The Dodgers have a pretty deep lineup, and if Barnes hits right where he’s projected, all will be fine. I feel more important is his handling of the pitching staff. Dodgers fans are very aware of the frustration of Yasmani Grandal letting all those balls get passed him last year in the playoffs.

In another episode of Dodger Talk, Vassegh chatted with Rich Hill and asked to to relay to fans how comfortable the pitching staff is pitching to Barnes.

“I think his name has been mentioned over and over again consistently as the number one framer in the game. The way he works and the ability he has to go out there and orchestrate a pitching staff is huge. Everybody’s extremely comfortable with Austin, everyone is extremely comfortable throwing to him, understanding that his game calling, and this is one thing, I don’t know if the fans know, just an inside, sometimes when a guy is going through a game, and the pitcher is out there, they have the feel, behind the plate, like Austin does, they have the confidence to call a pitch that might necessarily not be popular, maybe with the staff or anybody watching the game, but he knows that the picture has ultimate confidence in that pitch, on that day,” Hill said.

“So for him to call that and have that kind of sixth sense, if you wanna call it, to understand his pitcher, and his ability to understand his feel, on that specific day…..he definitely has that ability to do that, and that’s why every guy on the staff has ultimate trust in Austin.”

High praise from not only a veteran but cerebral pitcher.

All winter long, many fans wanted the Dodgers to trade for J.T. Realmuto, and with good reason. But the front office deemed the ask from the Marlins to be too high, and I agree. Jon Heyman is reporting that once the Dodgers gave a hard no on Cody Bellinger being involved, the Marlins wanted three high prospects from the Dodgers. Gavin Lux, Dustin May and either Will Smith or Keibert Ruiz. Way too much to give for two years of Realmuto.

So many times what one worries about during the offseason isn’t even an issue during the regular season. Even though we’ve spent so much time worrying about the catcher position this winter, if the pitching staff has high confidence in Barnes, then that’s good enough for me.


19 thoughts on “Rich Hill Has Confidence in Austin Barnes, and So Should You

    1. His arm is good. He has a quick release and a strong arm and I totally believe you are underestimating his bat. You are basing everything on last year. Before that Barnes was a very good hitter in the minors. His MLB experience is very limited. He only caught in 61 games last year. Everything else was on the infield. His TOS percentage was not great, but he did not have that many attempts against him. That has to factor into that stat. His OBP is very good. He was close to a .300 hitter in the minors. He does not have Grandal’s power. But his bat has always been more consistent and he is more of a contact hitter than Grandal, plus, he is a much better defended. He blocks the plate better. Grandal had more than twice the attempted steals against him than Barnes did. And his TOS percentage was not that much better. Grandal made 7 errors catching. Barnes made 1. Barnes had 1 passed ball..Grandal had 9. Case closed. He hits .260 with 10 homers and better defense. He has been working on his swing all winter.

      1. He’s our #8 hitter. Yeah, it would be great if our catcher was a middle order hitter, but like Bear said, his OBP is decent, career .364, and he’s a positive dWAR player. We should be fine with him behind the plate.

  1. Sorry bear I have to differ with you about Barnes arm. It’s not strong and he only threw out 5 of 23 base stealers last year. He really has to revamp his swing from last year and improve his plate discipline. He has a lot of work to do this spring!

    1. You cannot lay all the blame on the catcher for that. He only played in 61 games. Grandal barely threw out the league average. He made more errors, and had more passed balls. Just for his defense alone, Barnes is a better option. And you are ignoring the fact that he has hit at every level he has played at. He has also been working on his swing this winter. Throwing out runners has a lot to do with the pitchers and whether or not they are good at cutting down leads. Kershaw does not allow a lot of steals because he is one of the best there is picking runners off. Baez is not good at it, and neither is Jansen. Barnes has a strong arm, otherwise he would suck as an infielder. You said Barnes only threw out 5 of 23 runners. Grandal only caught 20 of 52. There were 8 wild pitches when Barnes was catching and 1 passed ball. By comparison Grandal had 9 passed balls, and 31 wild pitches. It stands to reason that Barnes is the superior defensive catcher. His projections over a full season have him hitting .240. Thats 35 points higher than last year, and the same BA with less power of course that is projected for Grandal. I believe he will hit a lot better than that. He was injured last spring and it set him back. He is a contact hitter, something that Grandal was not, and he is not the big strikeout guy Grandal was. He had a bad year. Yep, it happens to all of them. But I have faith that he will be a lot better hitter this year.

  2. AJ Ellis is retiring and taking a position with the Padres. AJ was never much of a hitter, but the guy was a great game caller. He also did something Grandal has never done and never will. Throw out 40 percent of the runners trying to steal on you. He finishes his career with a 33% caught stealing percentage.

  3. Oh, by the way, Campy’s career caught stealing percentage was 57%. Only in his last 2 years in the majors did he fall below 50%. He 4 times in his career topped 60%. Russell Martin is at 31% for his career.

  4. Here is another little tidbit about caught stealing leaders. The highest rated player of this era……Ivan Rodriguez at 45.68%……Thats 86th all time. Today’;s catchers are just not that good at throwing out runners. The only active catcher on the list is Yadier Molina at 40.70%…..and that’s good enough for 200th all time. So, I would not worry too much about Barnes not throwing out runners. Pretty much no body out there today is very good at it at all.

    1. Does it matter? Nobody runs anymore.

      Houston Mitchell has some questions about the Farmer trade:

      “Trading Kemp, Puig and Wood is what convinced me that the Dodgers had something bigger in mind. Otherwise that trade doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yes, Kemp had a brutal last couple of months last season. But he always, always starts a season red-hot, so what was the rush to trade him right now? Puig may be toxic in the clubhouse, but he wasn’t toxic on the field. He wasn’t perfect, but he had a 120 OPS+ last season and plays solid defense. That’s not easy to replace. Wood gave the team pitching depth. He wasn’t as good as he was in 2017, but he was never going to be that good again. He was still above average. To get two low-level minor leaguers for those three players (and Farmer) is thievery by the Reds.”

      He goes on quite a bit. If Pollock and Ryu play all year we should be ok.

      1. I think it matters. When as a team, you throw out less than 30% of the runners stealing on you. that’s pretty bad. When your closer does not have a single man thrown out when he is pitching, you are going to give up runs late. Kemp was not brutal his last couple of months. He had his worse month in August when he only hit .214 and it was the only month in which he did not drive in double digits in runs. He hit .339 over September and October. He only played in 20 games in that time period because that is when Roberts began platooning him instead of starting him almost every night. A decision that kept Kemp from driving in 100 runs, which he undoubtedly could have done easily had he gotten more AB’s. Bellinger had 2 horrific months. May where he hit only .180, and July where he hit .228. He also went a month without hitting a single homer. That is pretty pathetic. So when people say how bad Kemp was the last couple of months I have to laugh at what they are saying because it is pure BS. Over September and October Kemp had 1 less homer than Bellinger, but more RBI’s Kemp also hit the Dodgers first homer in the series in Boston. Then was pretty much unceremoniously benched for most of the series. Another blunder by Roberts benching the hitter with the best BA with runners in scoring position on the team. We all pretty much knew they were going to try and unload Kemp anyway they could and they did the salary dump trade with the Reds. But it did not turn out the way most Dodger fans expected. Most wanted, and still do, for the team to sign Harper. But as we all know, Kasten and the owners are committed to keeping salary’s beneath the CBT.

      2. I wouldn’t put steals on the closer on our catcher. I could steal on Jansen.

        I hear you on Kemp. I don’t know how other players felt about him, Puig and Grandal, I just know they, along with Wood and Farmer are gone and replaced by Martin and Pollock. It’s logical to think that when that trade was made space was being cleared for another player. I, along with many others, assumed it was done for adding Harper. And why wouldn’t we think that? Two starting outfielders are gone, money is freed up and a 26 year old perennial All Star WANTS to play here. Of course we will figure out a way to make that happen … right? And that Reds trade looked like the start of the way to make it happen.

        It’s still up in the air. Harper hasn’t signed yet and I think it’s because he and Bora$$ are waiting on ‘drew.

  5. I would have to agree with you on Harper. But I think the decision is not on Andrew. i think it is on ownership. Do they want to go over the line and pay a small fine this year, and then be fine next year with all the salary coming off the books. Who knows.

  6. I haven’t heard anything anything connecting us to Harper, but with our money we should be in the middle of this. It’s a little disappointing when players of Harper, and Stanton’s stature want to play for the dodgers, and FO takes a half hearted interest in them, making low ball offers.

    1. I read a story today on yahoo sports where Harper said he is not going to sign a short term deal. I believe that right there takes both the Dodgers and the Giants out of the picture. No way the Dodgers offer him a long term deal, and DC’s 10 year offer is supposedly still on the table. At this point Keith, I care less about the whole Machado – Harper circus. They can go where ever someone wants them. The Dodgers obviously do not want them.

      1. Define “short term”. The Dodgers could offer 5, even 6, filled with options and incentives. He wants to play here. If Andrew wants him it could happen. Unless of course ownership says no. I would not be surprised if that’s the case.

      2. And there Scoop is where you are wrong. It is not going to be up to Andrew. He can go to ownership and get the ok, but if they do not want to spend the money, Andrew could want anyone he likes and it is not happening. Every story we have read this winter has stated the fact that ownership wants to stay under the CBT. Short term means in this case whatever Harper wants it to mean.

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