I would love to see Ryan Hanigan retire as a Red. HowÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s that for an opener?Ã‚Â If either Devin Mesoraco or Yasmani Grandal can live up to the hype, Hanigan should never be the number one guy, but I would love to have him as a backup forever. Now let me tell you why.
Though heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s had a rough first half this year, we know Hanigan can at least put the bat on the ball. He wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hit for power, but neither will he embarrass himself. For his career, he is just a slightly below average hitter (97 wRC+).Ã‚Â ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s totally acceptable for a catcher. However, it does figure to get worse. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to turn 31 this year, and is already past his peak. Catchers also age poorly. Really poorly, so donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t count on him hitting for much longer.
But man, can he catch. We are just beginning to understand and properly quantify the effect catchers have on the defensive side of the game. Lately, Max Marchi has posted some excellent articles on pitch framing over at The Hardball Times. If you havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t read the articles, I highly recommend it.Ã‚Â In any case, what we are finding out is that the best catchers have a huge effect on which pitches are called strikes (as do the worst). Hanigan is showing up as one of the best.
In fact, you can reasonably add an extra win for every eighty or so games he plays. That is how big of an impact he seems to have. For the record, that takes him from a solidly average backstop to nearly all-star level. At least it would, if he could play a full season.
Hanigan does wear down over the course of the season. The numbers back that up, but when heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s out there, he really helps the team, which is why I think he is the perfect backup catcher. Get him into forty or fifty games and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll get you 1.0 to 1.5 WAR. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ask for more than that. Not to mention, he can work with the young guys and show them what he does.
Ryan Hanigan is not a starting catcher, but he is a valuable asset, and the organization would do well to turn him into one of those grizzled catching veterans like Brad Ausmus who stick around forever. Heck, when he gets too old, make him a coach if heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so inclined. Just keep him around.