No, New York Times, Brian Schneider is Not the Reason

At first glance, Schneider’s numbers are pedestrian at best, anemic at worst. In 30 games, Schneider, who was on the disabled list with a strained hamstring in May, has a .179 batting average and .255 on-base percentage with two home runs and eight runs batted in. He has not hit a home run since April 21 and has not had a multiple-R.B.I. game since he knocked in two runs 12 days before that . . .

But on a team with potent bats at nearly every other position, Schneider’s struggles are more than compensated for. With expectations set at a World Series championship, victories are what matter in Philadelphia, and when Schneider is behind the plate the Phillies win at an incredible rate.

In his 26 starts this season, the Phillies are 23-3; 24-3 if you add their win against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 27 in which Schneider entered the game in the first inning.

Jorge Castillo, New York Times

As the article notes, Brian Schneider has often worked with Vance Worley this season, and he’s caught Kyle Kendrick a decent number of times as well. (Also Cliff Lee four times.) So for the most part, Bry-Schny hasn’t caught Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Lee all that much, yet the Phillies are 23-3 in Schneider’s starts anyway.

But that doesn’t have a lot to do with Brian Schneider.

If you look at the numbers, you can find a bit more evidence that favors Schneider’s abilities behind the plate beyond the team’s record. Phillies pitchers have a 3.19 ERA with regular catcher Carlos Ruiz this season, and a 2.70 ERA with Schneider — even though Ruiz has thrown out a higher percentage of runners (27% to 12%) and has a better fielding percentage (.997 to .995). The ERA difference isn’t coming from their fielding and throwing abilities — because Ruiz has clearly been the better at both — so maybe you can attribute some to Schneider’s abilities as a game caller. Which is what The Times does here, only way, way over the top. Not to pick on them or anything, but . . . come on.

If you look a little deeper at the numbers independent of the fielders, Phillies pitchers have performed significantly better with Ruiz than they have with Schneider. They have a 3.47 strikeout-to-walk ratio with Ruiz catching, 2.58 with Schneider. They give up 0.68 home runs per nine innings with Ruiz catching, and 0.73 home runs per nine innings with Schneider. If you work it out, the Phillies pitchers have a 2.77 FIP with Schneider, which is excellent . . . but 2.41 FIP with Ruiz, which is even better. And this is what you might expect, given that Ruiz catches the Phillies’ great pitchers and Schneider does a lot of work with Worley and Kendrick.

The biggest difference in Schneider’s favor this season is that opposing batters have batted .250 on balls in play when he’s catching, while they’ve batted .299 on balls in play with Ruiz behind the plate. How much of that credit goes to Schneider, and how much goes to randomness and balls finding gloves? I don’t know. Maybe some credit to Schneider. But that’s probably not enough to outweigh his offensive deficiencies. My guess is that the Phillies are a better team with Ruiz behind the plate than Schneider, and they seem to agree: Ruiz has gotten 88 starts this year, and Schneider 26. The Phillies are a great team for a number of reasons, but Brian Schneider is not particularly high the list of reasons why.

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