In case some of you are wondering who the best is, they're up here on this plaque on the wall. The plaque for the alternates is down in the ladies room.
So let's figure it out, this here AL Central 2009. Position by position. We're starting with catcher.
unblurry version here
So What Now?
Behold: the notable catchers in the AL Central this season with projections for offense and defense, plucked from CHONE. Clarification: The "150" denotes that everything is denominated in 150 games played. R150 is offensive runs above average for all hitters. dR150 is defensive runs above average at that position per 150. pos150 is the Tango-derived position adjustment for catcher. WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement and I'm using a static 10 runs = 1 win conversion. If any of this looks weird or unfamiliar, go here and scroll down until you get to "Win Values". Fangraphs has basically codified this method of player analysis and Dave Cameron is exactly the guy to explain it.
The Twins and Indians clearly come out on top at this position. The Twins are billed as Mauer, Morneau and Co. but it's only Mauer that has a truly unique skillset. They've been about equal as hitters over the past three seasons, but Mauer is worth 20 runs more because of his defense and position. Martinez is back this year, but we'll see what kind of production he provides and where he does it. Health is going to be a concern and Ryan Garko is pretty useless as first basemen go. Quickmath say:
Garko+VMart = 7.5 + 46.5 = 54 runs
VMart + Shoppach = 19.5 + 31.5 = 51 runs
Basically a wash. Martinez can be either an average first baseman or an outstanding catcher. He's good enough to carry Garko's lack of contribution and still give them better than average production over the two positions (avg = 20 runs). Given the exorbitant cost of first basemen on the open market, this is likely the most cost effective play for the Indians.
Considering the in-division competition, AJ doesn't give the Sox much of a leg up in terms of talent. He's giving up at least a half win to the expected competition in the division. He's made up for this in the past by playing a ton of games relative to the average catcher, but it's certainly possible his legs could go. Either way, the only way AJ climbs the table by the end of the season is once again avoiding injury and other time off while those with less fortitude weaken and shrivel. There's basically no way the Sox will make up ground on their foes on this front unless AJ includes a tire iron with his tools of ignorance.