Talk about a pair of unlikely walk champions.
George Kottaras entered the season entrenched as the Milwaukee Brewers’ backup catcher. The Brewers had signed Gregg Zaun during the off-season, and his whose ability to switch hit canceled out Kottaras’ left-handed bat. Zaun recently went down with a torn labrum and in the meanwhile Kottaras has filled in beyond admirably. In a little over 100 plate appearances, he’s walked roughly a quarter of the time – something that’s simply unheard of.
Kottaras is hitting for power that he hasn’t flashed since hitting 22 home runs for Pawtucket in 2008 – blasting five long ones with an ISO more than .100 points over league average. Truly the only knock on Kottaras to date has been his inability to handle the running game – he’s let 22 of 26 thieves swipe successfully. When one writes that Kottaras is unlikely to continue this performance, it’s not an insult; instead it’s a statement made of disbelief at Kottaras’ .390-plus wOBA in light of a BABIP in the low-.200s. That’s insanity.
The real question is whether Kottaras will break the 100-walk mark down the stretch – something only 16 full-time catchers have done during a season – or if by then he’ll be bored walking like Uncle Pennybags.
Speaking of radical happenings, John Jaso opened the season in Triple-A and yet there he was on the first weekend of June leading off while being the Rays’ designated hitter. Jaso the batter has always passed the smell tests, unlike Jaso the catcher. He’s worked hard on improving his catching game, but there are still some kinks when it comes to receiving the ball.
The most ridiculous aspect about Jaso’s game also involves walks – namely, his 1.8 walk-to-strikeout ratio, thanks to Jaso walking in more than 15% of his plate appearances. Why is that statistic notable? Because, since the 1990s, Joe Mauer has been the gold standard for catchers with impressive walk-to-strikeout ratios; in fact, his 2008, 2006, and 2009 seasons rank as the top three during that timeframe, and yet Mauer’s career high is 1.68, well below Jaso’s mark.
Jaso is doing his best Mike Scioscia impression and should knock Dioner Navarro off the roster when Jason Bartlett returns from the disabled list. Jaso is unlikely to continue hitting this well, but he walked 12% of the time in Triple-A last season and walked around 15% of the time during his Double-A stint. Unlike some other minor league walk hogs, like say A.J. Ellis, he’s not without other offensive skills. He can put the bat on the ball and doesn’t appear to be the typical catcher with legs made of lead.
It seems highly unlikely either will continue to perform like this, but hey, who saw Kottaras or Jaso being worthy of such praise three months ago?