Jose Lobaton: Rays Most Improved Player
Through his first 10 games of the season Jose Lobaton, along with a host of other Rays hitters, was having a miserable time at the plate. He was hitting .160 (4 for 25), had struck out 8 times, and failed to draw a walk. After getting two days off he returned to the lineup on April 25th and went 2 for 2 with a walk against Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale and he has not slowed down since.
According to the Rays media notes his .311 (37 for 119) batting average since April 25th ranks 4th among all major league catchers with 125 plate appearances behind Yadier Molina (.358) of the St. Louis Cardinals, Buster Posey (.336) of the San Francisco Giants, and Salvador Perez (.313) of the Kansas City Royals.
In that same period of time his OPS (on-base% + slugging%) of .842 trails only the Astros Jason Castro (.849).
Improvement On Offense From 2012-2013
Overall on the season he has appeared in 52 games (159 plate appearances) has an OPS of .761 with a slash line of .285/.338/.424 and has hit 4 home runs with 19 RBI.
In nearly the same amount of plate appearances in 2012 (197 plate appearances) he had an OPS of .640 posting a slash line of .222/.323/.317 with 2 HR and 20 RBI.
The pitching staff appears comfortable with him behind the plate. He has started 39 games and the Rays are 24-15 in those games and while he is catching the pitchers have an ERA of 3.86. He has caught 366.1 innings while Jose Molina has caught slightly more at 383.0.
Controlling the Running Game
Although pitchers have a lot to do with controlling the running game the catcher shares some of the responsibility. The league average for caught stealing rate is 25% and he has only thrown out 16% (6 out of 37 ) of baserunners attempting to steal. His caught stealing rate in 2012 was also 16% (8 out of 50)
Blocking The Ball
Other than watching the opposition take liberties on the base paths there is nothing more frustrating than watching balls, whether scored a wild pitch or passed ball, get past the catcher and the runners taking an extra base.
In 2012 he caught 467 innings and allowed 20 wild pitches and no passed balls for a rate of 1 passed ball/wild pitch per 23.25 innings.
In 2013 he has caught 366.1 innings and has been charged with 2 passed balls and allowed 16 wild pitches for a rate of 1 passed ball/wild pitch per 20.35 innings.
It should be noted that like the stolen base much of the blame for wild pitches falls on the pitchers shoulders but the catcher shares a fraction of the responsibility.
Seeks Continued Improvement
The switch hitting Lobaton has shown great improvement with his bat from 2012 to 2013 and his bat alone should land him in the lineup with more and more frequency. This will lead to an increasing number of innings behind home plate in which time he is going to have to show a better control of the running game and help his pitchers out by limiting some of the wild pitches. With a strong finish both offensively and defensively the opportunity is there to elevate his stock from being labeled as a backup to an everyday catcher.