The Little Stepbrother Gets No Respect

Lance Lynn got his 4th win yesterday.  He got his 3rd win in Milwaukee with Tony Cruz behind the plate.  It was Lynn’s best performance so far.  Many fans speculated then if maybe Lynn pitches better with Cruz behind the plate.  It seems like it should not be so, after all the Cardinals have the best catcher in baseball, Yadier Molina, well known for his ability to work with pitchers.  Perhaps there is something to it though, because Matheny again started Cruz yesterday with Lynn on the mound.  Lynn didn’t match his Milwaukee performance, not as many strikeouts, and he made one mistake pitch to Danny Espinosa for a solo home run.  Lynn appeared to run out of gas in the 6th and was taken out, but he pitched well, not having the frustrating “big inning” that often marks a Lance Lynn start.

Lynn was asked about working with Cruz in his post game interview.  He explained that he and Cruz have been together since A ball and that he was a good catcher.  He said he is the only one of the starting rotation who threw to Cruz in the minor leagues.  Perhaps that explains his apparent comfort with Cruz.  In any event, that battery appears to be working, so keeping it going may be worthwhile.

I will say it now, because I have said it before and I will continue to say it.  Tony Cruz does not get enough respect.  This guy has the hardest job in major league baseball—being the back up catcher for Yadier Molina.  Cruz is a good catcher, make no mistake about that.  He has never had enough playing time in the majors to show what he can do with the bat.  Many folks don’t seem to understand the concept that if you don’t play with any regularity, you are not going to hit.  When you don’t even pinch hit, the amount of ABs you end up getting is so miniscule as to make the idea of putting together any kind of hitting profile a near impossibility.  Yet Cruz manages to come through pretty well for someone who hardly ever plays.  Cruz was a decent hitter in the minor leagues, he had a career BA in the minors of .266 over 5 seasons.  On the defensive side, Cruz’s minor league career caught stealing percentage was 44%.  That is Yadier Molina territory.  With the tiny amount of playing time Cruz has received in the major leagues, he still has managed a caught stealing percentage  of 33%, which is well above league average.  The bottom line is that Tony Cruz could easily be the starting catcher on many major league teams.  Think about that.

As Molina ages, he is going to need more time off to stay fresh.  The Cardinals would be smart to start now giving him that time off and utilizing the talents of Tony Cruz.  Good back up catchers are hard to come by, and Cruz has the trust of the pitching staff and the skills to take the pressure off Molina.  As much as we all like to see Molina in the lineup every day, he is not going to maintain his level of excellence forever and it’s time to think about the future.  If the Cardinals want to get the most they can out of Molina’s remaining years, lessening his playing time behind the plate is the best way to accomplish that.  It’s time to stop being selfish about Molina and give Tony Cruz the playing time he has earned.

 

Thank you for reading.

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