Today many of us were sad. Not necessarily because Chris Carter will no longer thrill us with three-week stretches of Ruthian power - because those three-week stretches were always belied by 23-remote-breaking/laptop-throwing-week stretches marked by a complete inability to make contact - but because of a backup catcher.
Thirteen months ago the Astros traded catcher Carlos Perez and pitcher Nick Tropeano to the Angels for Conger. Perez - a projected backup catcher at best - hit for some average, got on base a little, and had no power. But he could throw some dudes out, that's for sure - 48% of baserunners were caught stealing by Perez in 2013, 32% in 2014. So apparently the cost of upgrading from a backup catcher who had never played in the majors to a backup catcher who had played fairly well in the majors was a projectable pitcher who had never pitched in the majors.
As many of you have noted at me on Twitter, Conger threw out an impossibly small number of baserunners in 2015. 43 runners tried to steal the next base while Conger was behind the plate and only one - former Astros great J.B. Shuck - was thrown out. One out of 43. 2%. League-average was 32% in 2015. Hell, that's only one more baserunner than Carlos Lee threw out from behind the plate in 2015. I don't know if that's telling of regression, or just fluky bad luck, but it's not a question that if you had any speed at all with Conger behind the plate, you could probably steal a base.
Of course there's more to catcher defense than being able to throw out baserunners, but if you can't even do that on the semi-reg, then you better make up for it in other places. One of the allures of Hank Conger was reportedly how good he was at pitch-framing.I link to this with all the caution in the world, because I'm not exactly sure how it works, but Conger was above average in that department in 2015, but Castro was better.
Could it be that the Astros decided to simply allocate the $1.8m they were projected to have spent on Conger in 2016 elsewhere? In the alternate universe that is baseball economics, $1.8m is not a lot of money. Luhnow already said as late as last week that the Astros could afford all of their arbitration-eligible players, if they wanted to. The Astros saved the $1.8m on Conger's 2016 salary plus whatever amount of cash comes back from Tampa Bay to complete the deal. How much is clubhouse chemistry worth?