Let the frustration start again.
With Carl Pavano re-signing with the Twins, we will likely be treated to a weekly and sometimes bi-weekly appearance of Drew Butera as Pavano’s personal catcher. While this will allow Joe Mauer more off-days during the season, it also takes a former MVP out of the lineup and replaces him with one of the worst hitters in the majors. I admit, I’m one of the many that is frustrated by this move, especially since we saw last season that Pavano had roughly the same ERA with Mauer (3.79) as he did with Butera (3.65). However, I feel that I’m ok with this more than most people.
How is this possible? Well, I’m taking a step away from my traditional analysis and I’m going to ignore the stats. You may think, Ignore stats? You’re not sick, are you? Yes, I’m fine. I just feel that to understand and accept why Pavano wants Butera to be his personal catcher, we have to think like Pavano.
Do I know what Pavano is thinking? Of course I don’t, but I can take reasonable guesses. We already know that he’s more comfortable pitching to Butera, even though it severely weakens the offense. Hypothetically, if Pavano realized that he was getting shelled in his starts when he pitched to Butera, and he pitched much better when Mauer was catching, I’m sure he’d prefer Mauer even though he’d be more comfortable with Butera. But since his ERA was similar between the two catchers, I’m not surprised he’d pick Butera.
Think of it like this. You have to plan a surprise birthday party for your best friend. Do you team up with your friend that you’re very compatible with, or do you pick the friend that gets on your nerves every now and then? If you know that the party will get planned either way, you’d likely take the first friend.
I’m not saying that Mauer annoys Pavano, but my guess is that he’s on the same page with Butera more often than he is with Mauer. Besides, I’m willing to bet that Pavano knows full well that the team’s offense is worse with Butera in the lineup compared to Mauer.
Perhaps things will change this season, but I think we should just accept that Butera has a good chance of starting whenever Pavano will take the mound. At least it will guarantee some rest for Mauer, one of the most heavily used catchers in the game today.
Edit: I was asked by my friend Ramon about the run support Pavano received in starts by Butera compared to those by Mauer. Here’s what I found. Since there were some games that Butera started at catcher and Mauer was the DH, I also included run support where one played but not the other.
Butera starts: 4.47 runs per game (15 games)
Mauer starts: 5.35 runs per game (25 games)
Butera starts, no Mauer: 5.33 runs per game (6 games)
Mauer starts, no Butera: 5.06 runs per game (16 games)
Butera starts, Mauer DH: 3.89 runs per game (9 games)
We see the offense suffered when both Butera and Mauer were in the lineup, but apparently it was just fine with only Butera.