Fantasy Baseball – Jody Davis

Welcome to Monday and Fantasy Baseball….CCO style. Before we get to this week’s Fantasy report….just a few notes on the upcoming week. As we all know the Hall of Fame announcement is coming tomorrow and the CCO will cover the 7 former Chicago Cubs on the ballot. But most importantly the Cubs Convention starts on Friday, January 13th. The CCO was fortunate to conduct an interview with John McDonough, Vice President of Marketing and Broadcasting for the Chicago Cubs and Joe Rios, Manager of Special Events, Player Relations and Entertainment for the Chicago Cubs. John McDonough is the creator of the Cubs Convention and the notes from those interviews will be posted on the days prior to the Convention. The CCO will have a schedule of events and will have first hand daily recaps on the Cubs Convention, plus a look back in Cubs Convention history. This should be a VERY exciting week for the Cubs Faithful and the CCO. Now back to the CCO Fantasy Baseball Insider….

This week’s topic: Jody….Jody Davis!

“It took him a week-and-a-half to get to first base!” said Harry Caray after Jody Davis grounded out again. Maybe Harry was exaggerating a bit, but Jody was definitely not burning up the base paths with speedy feet during his tenure with the Cubs. Like many of the Cubs Faithful that remembers the magical 1984 season, I remember Jody as a HR-hitting, slugging catcher….but was he really, by today’s standards?

I don’t remember Jody for much other than his HRs….and also for his penchant of standing about 7 feet away from home plate, which practically guaranteed he would swing and miss any pitch that was slightly outside. So was Jody a strikeout machine that swung for the fences every time, and hit a ton of homers? How would he compare to the best catchers in the league today, including current Cub, Michael Barrett? As usual, CCO readers, we need to look at the numbers!

What is a lot of HRs for a catcher these days?
We are, possibly, fully emerged from the steroid era now. While it can be argued that many players may still retain some muscle gains they achieved, originally, through steroids, I believe the game is getting more cleaned up now. It will be interesting to see if there are more drops in production this year, possibly due to the amphetamines ban, as well as the tougher steroid penalties that go into effect for the 2006 season. With the demise of Mike Piazza, who had a great career, but is also mentioned in steroid whispers, are the true HR-hitting catchers gone? Here are the top producers of round-trippers in 2005:

Jason Varitek, Red Sox, 22
Rod Barajas, Texas Rangers, 21
Victor Martinez, Indians, 20
Mike Piazza, Mets, 19
Jorge Posada, Yankees, 19
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox, 18
Michael Barrett, Cubs, 16

What did Jody Davis hit in 1984? Jody hit 19 HRs, and a whopping 94 RBIs. In a 5-year period, from 1983 to 1987, Jody hit 100 HRs, for an average of 20 HRs a year. According to this, he would definitely be considered, among today’s catching corps, a solid HR hitting catcher.

What about RBIs….does Jody match up to today’s elite catchers?
Not surprisingly, a lot of the names on this list will be the same as above:

Martinez, 80
Posada, 71
Varitek, 70
Bengie Molina, Angels, 69
Piazza, 62
Barrett, 61

The newcomer to the list is Bengie Molina, and I was slightly surprised to see him on here, as the perception of the Molina brothers is that they are great defensive catchers, but not necessarily offensive threats. However, the past three years, Bengie looks an awful lot like Michael Barrett in terms of AVG, HRs, and RBIs. All of the other names are also on the HR list, so they are definitely your best bet, from a HR/RBI perspective, on your fantasy baseball team.

Jody Davis would have topped this list, with his 94 RBIs in the 1984 season, and his 5-year avg from 1983 to 1987 was 72 RBIs, putting him, again, comfortably among today’s elite.

How about batting AVG….and did Jody strikeout as much as I thought?

Martinez, .305, 78 Ks, 547 at-bats
Molina, .295, 41 Ks, 410 at-bats
Joe Mauer, Twins, .294, 64 Ks, 489 at-bats
Toby Hall, Devil Rays, .287, 39 Ks, 432 at-bats
Paul Lo Duca, Marlins, .283, 31 Ks, 445 at-bats

I only used catchers with a minimum of 400 at-bats as a cut-off line. In 1984, Jody hit a fairly low .256 with 99 Ks in 523, and his 5-year avg clocks in at .251 with an avg of 95 Ks over 494 at-bats each year. So Jody definitely was a classic swing-for-the-fences power hitter, and his only offensive attributes were his HRs and RBIs.

In comparison, Michael Barrett struck out 61 times in 424 at-bats this year, which is very respectable. Since Jody is a slugger, it is more fair to compare him to today’s sluggers, so I should note that Varitek led the league in HRs for a catcher, but also in Ks, with a whopping 117 in 470 at-bats.

More and more, it sure seems like Jody isn’t just a relic from the past, but rather is the type of player that could just as easily be playing in today’s era (and probably earning a heckuva lot more money now, too!). I have to point out that I used a 5-year average for Jody mainly because those were the only productive 5 years he really had, although 1982 was ok. So while Jody made a living in the majors for 10 years, he really only was a major starting catcher for 6 years. It is kind of funny to look back at the early 1980s, and realize that players like Jody Davis, Keith Moreland, and Leon Durham all lasted from about 1982 to 1987 with the Cubs, and really didn’t have careers to speak of with other teams. It is almost as if some greater cosmic power put these mediocre-to-good talents into Wrigley Field around the same time, so that magic could happen in one glorious season in 1984, only to let the magic fade away a couple of years later, along with the talent levels of those players. But ours is not to reason why, ours is but to root for the Cubs and die….or something like that, I suppose.

Which catchers also pulled a “Jody” and disappeared in 2005?
I have already mentioned the decline of former great, Mike Piazza….and while steroids could be the reason for his slide, it is even more likely that age is just catching up with him, after 13 or so fully productive ML seasons. One guy that either pulled a “Jody” or really is deflating from a lack of steroid use is Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. Pudge was implicated by Jose Conseco as a steroid user, and reports over the past two years have mentioned/whispered about how he has slimmed down quite a bit from earlier years. From 1998 to 2002, Pudge averaged .324 with 25 HRs a year! Pudge, like Piazza, has been playing for a long time, so his decline could be attributed to age as well. Since Pudge is with the lowly Detroit Tigers, and he isn’t getting any younger, his best days, statistically, are probably behind him now.

Who should have a resurgence in 2006?
I have mentioned in numerous posts that I would love for the Cubs to pick up Barry Zito, along with Jason Kendall, the catcher for the Oakland A’s. Kendall, I believe, gets paid around $10 million a year from a monster contract he received from the Pittsburgh Pirates years ago, and the A’s are always trying to save money, so I am hoping Hendry would swap out some prospects, maybe Jerome Williams as well, along with Michael Barrett for both Zito and Kendall. It is probably a dream, but that is what the off-season is for, right?!

Kendall has a career average of .302, and a career OBP of .382 (which explains why Billy Beane acquired him!) and I believe his sub par year last year may have been due to changing leagues and maybe injuries. Kendall also had 3 years in a row of 22 steals or more, from 1998-2000, but a catcher needs to save his legs, so I don’t think he will ever approach that again. Kendall makes a great #2 hitter, and I believe he will have a great comeback year this year. You shouldn’t expect any HRs or significant RBIs from Kendall, but on your Fantasy baseball team, he would provide you with a high avg and a lot of runs scored.

Who should I pick for my Fantasy team at catcher?
You may have noticed there has been no talk of defense so far in my column, and from a fantasy perspective, in most leagues I have come across, the defense of the catcher just doesn’t matter. So while the real world should take note of what pitchers’ ERAs are when a catcher is behind the plate, and how well he throws out would-be base stealers, in the world of Fantasy baseball you don’t have to care.

So with that in mind, here are my top Fantasy choices at catcher:

Victor Martinez
Jorge Posada
Jason Kendall
Joe Mauer
Michael Barrett

Martinez is young, and has great numbers in his first two full seasons in the majors. If he improves, that is just a bonus. Posada plays on a virtual all-star team, and should have plenty of RBI chances this year, as Johnny Damon is just one more guy that will be on base for Yankee sluggers to drive in. Kendall should rebound with a much higher average, and hopefully he will be traded to the Cubs! Joe Mauer is the catcher that was taken first in the draft by the Minnesota Twins; because they didn’t think they could afford to sign the best pitcher in the draft that year. That pitcher’s name was Mark Prior. So if the Twins had some money, Mauer would likely be a Cub today! I don’t put him on my list for that reason, as he really is a high-average hitting catcher, much like Jason Kendall, and he should only continue to improve his numbers in the HR and RBI categories as he is entering his 3rd year in the major leagues. Finally, Barrett is on my list….well….because he is a Cub! I always try to win my fantasy league with as many Cubs players on my team as possible, and Barrett is an above-average option for catcher, so you should feel good about having him on your Fantasy team, even if he isn’t quite as good as ol’ Jody Davis.

Final Thoughts on the Cubbies this off-season
Glad to hear Tejada doesn’t want to be traded, as that should keep Prior on our rotation where he belongs. Time for Hendry to stop trying to fill positions that he already has players at (such as Cedeno at SS) and start working on our 2B spot and get us another starting pitcher, or two! I keep reading in the papers that we are going to jettison Todd Walker and that Neifi Perez is our projected everyday 2B….what?!?! How is that an upgrade over last year’s lineup? Is Perez/Cedeno really that much better than Perez-Nomar/Walker? No, of course not. I feel like we are being sold Todd Hollandsworth/Jason Dubois/Jerry Hairston all over again. We haven’t spent any big money on above-average talent this year, yet. Jacque Jones is not above average, and Juan Pierre comes fairly cheap….so where is the Tribune spending all of our money at? Yes….I said “our money” as they only have a baseball team because of the Cubs Faithful, who pour money into Wrigley ever year, who listen on the radio every year, and who watch the Cubs on TV every year. The Cubs Faithful also pay higher ticket prices every year, and spend gobs of money on Cubs merchandise and at the Cubs Convention. So there are no excuses, Tribune! Go get me Barry Zito and a stud at 2B, like Alfonso Soriano! If that fails, maybe we should all lookup Jody, Trout, Sutcliffe, and Ryno, and see if they have anything left in the tank?

Jody Davis was named this week the Manager of the Class A Peoria Chiefs.

The CCO Fantasy Baseball Insider will return in 2 weeks in order to provide reports of the 2006 Cubs Convention.

Quote of the Day

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." - Albert Einstein