This is Part two of my installment about the relative worth of Reds position players. You can see the first part, about Reds 1B Sean Casey here.

This time, the target in the crosshairs is starting catcher Jason LaRue. I've attempted to put LaRue's season into a fair perspective, and that perspective is measuring his stats against those of his compatriots, the starting catchers from around the MLB.

As of August 4th, 26 MLB Catchers have had at least 250 Plate Appearances at this point in the season, a little more than 2 a game to ensure status as an "everyday" catcher. The four teams who did not were Baltimore, Seattle, Colorado and Pittsburgh.

Batting Average

LaRue's MLB Rank - 14th (.268)

Among the 26, LaRue places almost smack in the middle. Players with similar averages are Michael Barrett (.268) and Mike Piazza (.268). His 62 overall hits puts him dead last, probably due to his 231 PA, also dead last overall among every day catchers.

On Base Percentage

LaRue's MLB Rank - 4th (.364)

If the whole goal of hitting is not to make an out, than Jason is one of the best backstops at doing that. No doubt his high amount of HBP (11) contributes to this. His OBP is higher than other well known "hitting" catchers like Paul LoDuca (.359), Jason Kendall (.351) and Victor Martinez (.352). LaRue's OBP makes him an even more valuable weapon, when you realize that the .96 bump between his average and OBP, is bested only by Gregg Zaun(.274BA/.376OBP). This helps LaRue, who is a notoriously streaky hitter, still be a valuable hitter even when the hot streak goes cold. In fact, the only other catcher with a differential over .90 is Jorge Posada (.250AVG/.340OBP).

Slugging Percentage

LaRue's MLB Rank - 6th (.459)

This is where LaRue shows off his value. His .459 slightly trails Ivan Rodriguez (.461) and Mike Piazza (.468), two of the most well known power hitting catchers of the last generation. Also in front of LaRue is Michael Barrett (.461), Jason Varitek (.552) and AJ Pierzynski (.480). LaRue's 17 Doubles help buoy this, as Jorge Posada, Bengie Molina and Rod Barajas all have more home runs than LaRue but far less doubles and have a lower slugging percentage.

On Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage

LaRue's MLB Rank - 2nd (.823)

So take LaRue's high slugging and high OBP and what do you get? A player who ranks second among everyday catchers in OPS, behind only Jason Varitek (.936). AJ Pierzynski (.808) is the only other player who tops out over 800. This puts LaRue ahead of vaunted rookie Joe Mauer (.794), Michael Barrett (.791) and Mike Piazza (.799).


LaRue's MLB Rank - 11th-Tied ($3.00Mil)

Here are the 26 everyday MLB catchers and their 2005 salary, per

Mike Piazza - $16.07Mil
Jorge Posada - $11.00Mil
Jason Kendall - $10.57Mil
Jason Varitek - $8.00Mil
Pudge Rodriguez - $8.00Mil
Mike Lieberthal - $7.50Mil
Paul LoDuca - $4.60Mil
Ramon Hernandez - $4.31Mil
Damian Miller - $3.25Mil
Michael Barrett - $3.13Mil
Jason LaRue - $3.00Mil
Brad Ausmus - $3.00Mil
Bengie Molina - $3.00Mil
AJ Pierzynski - $2.25Mil
Brian Schneider - $2.00Mil
Mike Matheny - $2.00Mil
Toby Hall - $1.95Mil
Rod Barajas - $1.85Mil
Greg Zaun - $950K
Victor Martinez - $700k
Johnny Estrada - $460K
Jason Phillips - $339k
Joe Mauer - $325K
Yadier Molina - $323K
John Buck - $318K
Chris Snyder - $318K
So LaRue is near tops of every major offensive category, while pulling in a salary that is just slightly above the middle of the pack as far as salary goes. Even in comparison to the rest of the division, the Cubs and the Brewers pay their backstops more and have less of an output than what the Reds receive. The Reds also don't have the same problems that the Yanks and Phillies do, with catchers who have inferior numbers than guys like LaRue while pulling in nearly four times the salary. So it appears that far from being too expensive. LaRue is a relative bargain, in comparison.