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10/14/09 3:38 AM ET

Angels-Yankees matchup: Catchers

Backstop platoons give clubs options for offense, defense

Heading into the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Angels, beginning Friday at 7:57 p.m. ET on FOX, MLB.com looks at the position-by-position matchups and dissects which team has the advantage.


Mike Napoli
.272, 20 HR, 56 RBIs

Jeff Mathis
.211, 5 HR, 28 RBIs

Similar to the Yankees, the Angels have a catcher who is clearly superior at the plate -- Napoli, just like Jorge Posada -- and a catcher who is better behind the plate -- Mathis, much like former Angel Jose Molina.

Napoli is an offensive force with the ability to drive the ball to all fields, while also taking his fair share of walks because of his patience at the plate. He's the Angels' all-time leader in career home runs by a catcher with 66 and has hit exactly 20 home runs in each of the last two seasons.

It's simply not much of a comparison at the plate, as Napoli this season batted .272 with a .350 on-base percentage and .492 slugging percentage while Mathis' numbers were .211, .277 and .320 respectively.

So while Napoli provides the offense, Mathis is a much better defensive catcher because of his athleticism and is better at throwing out runners. Mathis had a higher fielding percentage than Napoli and threw out 26 percent of runners trying to steal, while Napoli threw out 22 percent.

But the biggest difference comes in the ERA of the team when the two are behind the plate. The team's ERA of 3.99 when Mathis catches is far better than the team's ERA of 4.86 when Napoli is behind the plate.

That's the main reason why Mathis will start in Game 1 with John Lackey on the mound, with Napoli likely catching fellow starters Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver and Scott Kazmir as the series progresses.

And if the Angels come up in a situation where Napoli isn't behind the plate and they need a pinch-hitter behind the bench, they can do it with steady backup catcher Bobby Wilson on the playoff roster.


Jorge Posada
.285, 22 HR, 81 RBIs

Jose Molina
.217, 1 HR, 11 RBIs

With a mainly set lineup, the catching spot is the only one that seems up for debate. Joe Girardi has not said yet how he intends to split up the playing time behind the plate between Posada and Molina.

In the ALDS, Molina started Game 2 with A.J. Burnett on the mound, while Posada started the other two games, as well as pinch-hitting for Molina in the sixth inning of Game 2 and getting three at-bats.

Offensively, Posada is clearly the better of the two. As the team's primary backstop, he had an outstanding year at the plate and hit .364 in the ALDS. Posada is not as highly regarded defensively as Molina, but is not a liability behind the plate, his cross ups and passed balls in Game 1 with CC Sabathia notwithstanding.

Molina, however, developed a good rapport with Burnett catching the right-hander's final six regular-season starts as well as his lone playoff appearance. A good defender, Molina does not bring much to the table offensively. Whether Girardi feels Molina and Burnett's comfort level is enough to sacrifice some offense in Game 2 of the ALCS will be a storyline worth watching.

Both Posada and Molina threw out 28 percent of the runners trying to steal against them, an important factor given the Angels were third in the AL in steals this year and are aggressive on the basepaths.

The Yankees carried a third catcher in the ALDS in Francisco Cervelli and are likely to do so again in the ALCS, given the way they utilize Posada and Molina.

Edge: Even

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.