San Diego Padres
But the Dodgers did get one player back who will have an immediate impact in catcher Yasmani Grandal.
ESPN Insider Mike Petriello wrote a piece recently extolling the virtues of Grandal as a potential breakout candidate for 2015.
What does Grandal bring to his new team?
In spite of the numbers, he can hit
Grandal’s offensive numbers look unimpressive on the surface (.225 with a .327 on-base percentage, .401 slugging percentage and 15 home runs in 128 games). But there are some bright spots to consider.
For one, he has hit well in the past. In his rookie season, 2012, he had a .297/.394/.469 slashline with eight home runs in 192 at-bats
For another, he closed 2014 very well – posting a .270/.373/.467 slashline with six home runs in his last 42 games (and 137 at-bats).
Lastly, Grandal does hit the ball hard at an above-average rate.
Inside Edge, which provides batted-ball data to teams and media, rates every batted ball as hard-hit, medium-hit or soft-hit.
Grandal registered hard-hit balls in 18 percent of his at-bats, 19 percent against right-handed pitching.
When he actually hit the ball, he hit it hard 25 percent of the time.
By comparison, Kemp’s overall hard-hit rate last season was 16 percent. And his hard-hit rate when making contact was 22 percent. Grandal rated better in each area. And he’s well ahead of his new backstop mate, A.J. Ellis, who had a 15 percent overall hard-hit rate last season.
Pitch-Framing: A coveted skill
One of the popular statistics in the sabermetric community (a group that would include the Dodgers new management team) relates to pitch framing: How well does a catcher do at making sure pitches in the strike zone are called strikes and how well does the catcher do at “stealing strikes” – taking pitches outside the strike zone and getting them called strikes.
How Often Was A Strike Called?
Simply put: This is an area in which Grandal has excelled.
Grandal rated best in the majors at getting strikes called when he should. Umpires called 89 percent of the pitches he caught in the strike zone as strikes, six percentage points above the major-league average.
Grandal also got called strikes on 10 percent of pitches that the Pitch F/X tracking system deemed to be out of the strike zone. That ranked eighth-best among the 40 catchers who caught the most pitches last season.
There is a significant difference between Grandal and Ellis, as noted in the chart on the right.
Grandal’s weakness: Doesn’t deter baserunners
Though Grandal does excel at one aspect of catcher defense, he struggles in another.
Opposing baserunners were caught only six times in 55 stolen-base attempts (11 percent of the time) against Grandal last season. You could argue that some of that is due to the Padres pitchers and that’s partly true. But consider that the Padres other catcher, Rene Rivera, threw out 33 percent of would be base-stealers last season.
Ellis has an edge here. Over the last two seasons, he’s thrown out 31 percent of would-be basestealers.
It will be interesting to see how Don Mattingly handles his end-game catching choice. Will he go with the catcher better at framing pitches (and thus keeping runners off base) or the one who rates better at holding runners once they reach?
Stat to Remember: A winning player?
The Padres have finished under .500 in each of the past three seasons, but when Grandal played, they were a considerably better team.
The Padres went 99-80 when Grandal started. They were 130-177 when he did not.