It is generally understood that in the game of baseball, very few things are more important than having a reliable catcher. At this point in time, it looks like the Chicago White Sox will have two of those in the upcoming 2012 season.
As last season came to a close, backup catcher Tyler Flowers turned quite a few heads when he stepped in for A.J. Pierzynski during his injury. The White Sox were very much still in the pennant race with the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers. Even though the Sox didn’t end the season the way they would have liked, it was certainly not due to Pierzynski’s absence.
Flowers posted a .209 batting average during the 2011 season, but anyone who watched the White Sox play everyday would know that this stat is very misleading. Flowers routinely came in clutch in key situations and kept the team alive during big innings. Obviously it would have been ideal to have the veteran Pierzynski up to bat in those spots. However, the word “veteran” doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence as I’m sure fans would prefer Flowers batting as opposed to veteran teammates Alex Rios and Adam Dunn.
As adequate as Flowers’ hitting was, that isn’t where his true value lies.
Flowers all grown up
White Sox pitchers and coaching staff alike were surprisingly pleased with Flowers’ ability to call a game. After having especially good outings, White Sox starters Mark Buerhle and John Danks each gave credit to Flowers for being responsible for their success. They were also surprised that a catcher with such little big league experience exhibited his level of poise. The pitchers claimed that without his ability to call for the correct pitch and stay cool in tough spots, there is no way they would have brought home the win.
White Sox fans haven’t seen a promising young catcher like this in a while and it is a relief to know that should A.J. find his way to another ball club, this position is nothing to worry about. I’m not calling for Pierzynski to start packing his bags, and even if I was, A.J. holds full trade veto so he’s not going anywhere without his own permission. What I am saying is that Pierzynski better keep up that off-season training regiment he is so proud of if he wants to make sure his playing time is secure.
That being said, Pierzynski is a full-time player. He is a veteran who has won a World Series Championship with the White Sox and has been there through good times and bad. He has caught at least 1,000 innings in each of the last ten years and is known as one of the toughest, albeit hated, players in all of baseball. If Pierzynski’s quality of play starts to decline and new manager Robin Ventura decides to give Flowers more playing time, fans can be sure there will be drama in the clubhouse. Although it is highly unlikely, Pierzynski doesn’t work as hard as he does to watch a kid ten years younger than him take his place as he sits on the bench healthy as an ox. Hopefully it doesn’t come to this and Pierzynski continues to be the catcher Sox fans know and love.
I’m not saying we should look for Tyler Flowers to be the second coming of Sox legend Carlton Fisk. What I am saying is that in the uncertainty that is the baseball off-season. it is refreshing to know that our pitching staff is in good hands, whoever hands those may be.