Although they have won the American League West the previous two seasons, the Oakland Athletics have not been able to win a playoff series since 2006, losing the ALDS in five games to the Detroit Tigers in both 2012 and 2013. One reason why they haven’t been successful in the postseason is the play of their catchers. In five games in the 2012 playoffs, Oakland catchers hit just .077, going 1 for 13 with no runs or RBIs. They fared a tad better last year, hitting .188 in five games with 2 runs and 1 RBI. Obviously, if the Athletics wish to advance further into October this season, they will need more consistent play out of their catcher position. Derek Norris is trying to provide just that.
Yesterday afternoon, Norris led his Athletics to a 9-1 victory over the Washington Nationals. Norris blasted two three-run homers to left field off of 2-time All-Star Gio Gonzalez. The home runs, coming in the first and second innings, helped the Athletics to seven early runs and made the start for Scott Kazmir, who threw 7 shutout innings, much more relaxing. Norris has been on fire this season, hitting .385 in 78 at-bats with 4 home runs and 19 runs batted in. If he qualified for the batting title, he would lead every other catcher in the Majors by 77 points. Unfortunately, due to the presence of John Jaso, Derek Norris does not have the at-bats required for the batting title.
After yesterday’s game, the A’s have played 38 games. Norris and Jaso have each started exactly half of them. While the first-place Athletics aren’t complaining about their catchers’ production with their three game lead over the Angels, it’s time for the A’s to make a decision and pick a full-time starting catcher. While neither catcher has shown outstanding proficiency behind the plate, Derek Norris has shown his far-superior hitting abilities in the early going this season. With more than double the career at-bats than Norris, the only stat in Jaso’s favor is his career .366 OBP, much better than Norris’ .337. Norris has shown hints of power that Jaso simply doesn’t have, evidenced by his two mammoth home runs yesterday, as well as his 20 career home runs in 551 at-bats compared to Jaso’s 26 in 1,176 at bats.
With the 30 year-old Jaso eligible to be a free agent after next season and the 25 year-old Norris not even in the arbitration stages of this career yet, I’m surprised the A’s haven’t already named Norris the starter. Perhaps they don’t want to fix what isn’t broken, but, if history is any indication, platooning players rarely reward their clubs with efficient play. If Norris is named the starter and can continue hitting the way he has shown in the first month and a half this season, he can absolutely be the catcher that the A’s desperately need to bring a world championship back to Oakland.