So it may be a little bit early to discuss this, but the play that Treanor made on Austin Jackson at the plate on Friday got me thinking a little bit. If you didn’t catch it, well…you missed out. I can recap though.

Jackson was at second base in the bottom of the third when Brennan Boesch hit a single to right. Jackson headed for home. Franceour relayed to Hosmer who turned and tried to make a play at the plate. By the time Treanor turned to apply the tag, Jackson was already sliding past with his hand seeming to swipe the plate on his pass. I sighed and got ready to chalk up another run for the Tigers, when I noticed the home plate umpire calling Jackson out. I couldn’t believe it until I saw the replay. Jackson hadn’t been able to scrape the plate on his slide-by because Treanor had literally blocked the back of the plate with his foot. He had known where Jackson was going to attack the plate and he had made sure to deny him access to the coveted pentagon. He even pushed Jackson’s hand away with his foot as he turned to make the tag.

Now I’m not necessarily familiar with the defensive mechanics of being a catcher and I’m sure that every catcher in the MLB would have their foot planted there. Every catcher in the MLB might have even swept the runner’s hand away with his foot.*

*Though I’d never seen it before

Anyways, I was impressed to say the least. And I started thinking, what’s going to happen when Jason Kendall comes back? Will Jason Kendall come back? Why does Jason Kendall forgo the use of batting gloves?

If you’re a Royals fan you’ve probably thought about this before. Jason Kendall is a point of contention for most fans. We all know that management appears to love Father Jason.* Kendall has been recovering from offseason soldier surgery and his return date has been continually pushed back as the season has progressed. He’s now on the 60-day DL, can’t return to the active roster until May 30th, and is probably not going to be ready to play until June or July. But will the boat need to be rocked?

*One of his most avid supporters seems to be Brother Dayton

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been…well…content with the play behind the plate so far. The initial batting stats don’t look so great compared to JK’s:

Matt Treanor/Brayan Pena (2011): .214/.328/.324/.650

Jason Kendall (2010): .256/.318/.297/.615

The difference is that Brayan Pena really brings down the statline. Matt Treanor (24 games in 2011): .229/.379/.343/.722. Not exactly overwhelming, but it’s still something to look at. I like Matt Treanor’s ability to get on base compared to Kendall’s and I appreciate that Treanor is doing it primarily at the 8th spot in the lineup which is where he belongs. No more of this “let’s bat our catcher in the 2-spot” nonsense that we saw with JK last year.

Stat Highlight: In 2010 Jason Kendall had 37 walks. In 2011 Matt Treanor already has 15 in only 24 games. You know the soft spot I have in my heart for the walkers.

Now this wouldn’t even be an issue if Treanor had no ability as a backstop. Some key elements I look at when comparing catchers are the way they call games, how they seem to handle pitchers and how good they are at blocking the plate. Kendall has been around a long time and may or may not have the experience that makes him the league’s catching guru, but let me tell you something. Treanor is a brick wall with his catching gear on. He has proven that he is adept at blocking wild pitches as good as, if not better, than Kendall. He has, in my mind, called games as well as could be expected and has also done a good job handling our young pitchers. Besides that, the guy has already made several plays at home that have left me, well….flabbergasted. He’s proved that he won’t back down to anyone and has taken shots from baserunners that would break me in half, and still come up with the ball for the out. Friday was just another example of a heads-up play from a guy who has proved to this team that he could very well be a tougher, (gasp!) cheaper, (gasper!) dare I say….grizzleder (gaspest!) version of Jason Kendall.

Before you go check and see how their Caught Stealing Percentage rates, don’t worry. I’ve got it right here for you.

Matt Treanor (career): .275                    Jason Kendall (career): .276

Practically the same.

We hear and have heard over and over again about the leadership qualities of Jason Kendall and how much he can be a help in the clubhouse, but is this team in dire need of him as a leader? It seems that other players are stepping into that leadership role and fulfilling it more than adequately. I don’t know if we need to regain the “spunk” of Jason Kendall as a factor in our clubhouse. I really don’t know that it was ever a factor at all.

When JK comes back it will be interesting to see his role. Will he split time with Treanor, leaving Brayan Pena out in the cold? Will he be willing to split time with Treanor? Will he even be healthy enough to play this season at all?

I asked a lot of questions in my article last week and have done so again today. Sadly, like last week, your guess is as good as mine. All I know at this point is that I like Matt Treanor behind the plate better than Jason Kendall. The only thing I believe JK has to trump Treanor is that Rambo-like mentality not to wear batting gloves.

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Tags: Baseball Brayan Pena Jason Kendal KC Royals Matt Treanor

  • http://kingsofkauffman.com Michael Engel

    In comparing Kendall and Treanor, I’d consider what Kendall’s arm might be like after complete reconstruction of the rotator cuff. He had a noodle arm already – that might strengthen it … or it might make it useless.

    The one thing I notice about Treanor that bugs me is that the ball squirts out of his glove a lot. Not usually when it matters, but he has a lot of random 1-1 pitches that just go in and pop out. It hasn’t resulted in any problems yet but it could.

    I’d still go with Treanor myself. His OPS is actually pretty good relative to other catchers in the AL. It’s mostly walks but walks > outs.

  • jim fetterolf

    I would note that Treanor’s caught stealing is 8 of 19 this year, Pena’s 7 of 19; Treanor has zero passed balls, Pena one, and both have made manly put-outs at the plate, leaving foolish base runners crumpled and whimpering in disbelief.

    The way it is playing out now with Pena not performing with the stick and Treanor being an OBP producer, Kendall comes back as back-up catcher and Pena gets DFA’ed. Next year I think Kendall retires and becomes a roving catchers’ coach in the minors, probably starting where ever Perez is. Both Treanor and Pena have become much better defenders than before and Kendall should probably get some credit for that.

  • Ethan Evans

    I agree that it will be interesting to see what Kendall’s arm looks like once he’s back to full strength. As for those balls squirting loose, like you said, as long as it’s on a 1-1 count with no one on base I won’t say anything. Hopefully he can keep his glove on the ball in the crucial moments.

    Jim, I agree Pena’s paltry stick is not going to help him convince management to keep him on the big league roster if Kendall comes up. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.