In case you haven’t noticed, Ramon Hernandez is on an absolute tear right now. For the season, Razor Ramon is hitting .349/.393/.627 (AVG/OBP/SLG). He currently has 6 HR, more than Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, despite significantly fewer at bats. Impressively, Hernandez is putting up these numbers at the age of 35 and is coming off arguably the best season of his career. Many have speculated, myself included, that Hernandez would likely decline, given his age. His performance of late has certainly helped to dispel that theory.
Still, Reds management should not allow his hot hitting to alter the successful timeshare between Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan. When a guy like Ramon is putting up otherworldly offensive numbers, it’s easy to overlook the contributions that Hanigan offers. This is not an attempt to suggest Hanigan should take starts away from Hernandez. Instead, it appears clear that both Reds catchers deserve equal playing time. To his credit, Dusty has done a remarkable job splitting time between the two.
There are a couple of areas where Hernandez and Hanigan are similar players. Amazingly, these guys have the exact same career OPS of .752. If you believe that OPS is an accurate representation of a hitter’s production, as I do, this information would suggest that Hanigan and Hernandez are equally productive at the plate; though they produce in different ways.
Likewise, they both play tremendous defense. For their careers, Hanigan and Hernandez throw out 34% and 31% of attempted stolen bases respectively. Fielding percentage can be a bit misleading with regard to catchers. Still, the Reds catchers limit errors, as both sport career fielding percentages over .990.
In addition, both Hernandez and Hanigan avoid strike outs. While Hanigan is slightly better, striking out in only 9.4% of his at bats for his career, Hernandez is also very good, striking out in only 12.4% of his at bats. For comparison, Albert Pujols is regarded as one of the toughest hitters in the game to strike out. For his career, Pujols strikes out in 9.5% of his at bats.
The major difference that favors Ramon is his power. Using career numbers, Hernandez has a SLG% nearly 50 points higher than Hanigan. Hernandez collects an extra-base-hit in 7.8% of his ABs while Hanigan does so only 4.9% of the time.
There are two major differences that favor Ryan Hanigan. Throughout their respective careers, Hanigan has shown a greater ability to take a walk. Ryan boast a very impressive .377 OBP for his career, taking a walk 12.4% of his ABs. Hernandez on the other hand, owns a career .330 OBP, walking only 7.7% of the time.
Finally, we must examine the catchers’ impact on the pitchers. Most statisticians don’t view catcher’s ERA as an indication of a catcher’s ability to call a game. There are so many variables that can sway the information. However, in this situation, it is worth considering. So far this year, the Reds ERA is 3.70 with Hanigan behind the plate and 4.64 when Hernandez is catching. Surely, that’s not really fair to Hernandez considering he is the primary catcher for Edinson Volquez while Hanigan is Bronson Arroyo’s personal catcher. So we need more information. In 2010, the Reds ERA was 3.36 with Hanigan behind the plate and 4.80 when Hernandez was catching.
Again, ERA by catcher has its flaws. Still, I think there is enough information to at least suggest that Reds pitchers perform better with Hanigan behind the plate. Since Hernandez arrived in Cincinnati in 2009, Reds pitchers have put up superior numbers when throwing to Hanigan in every season.
In short, Ryan Ramon Hanigan Hernandez (R2H2) is a very good catcher. The current situation seems to be benefitting both the players and the team. My hope is that the recent hitting surge by Hernandez doesn’t inspire Dusty to break-up the timeshare, cutting into Hanigan’s playing time. Both guys help this team in their own way. Luckily, it appears as though the Reds’ manager recognizes both of their strengths.