J.P. Arencibia is tough to figure out. I've come to quite like him this year, his power is as legit as advertised. I was weirdly down on Aaron Cibia this spring but he's doing a fine job as a rookie catcher - playing every day for the first time at the big league level.
Looking at his tendencies a few weeks ago I found he has trouble with right-handed pitching. This obvious deficiency still didn't sour me, even though his numbers are slightly terrible.
It is true - Arencibia's putting up some rather unsightly offensive numbers (.222/.287/.427 for a .311 wOBA). The home runs are not only nice, they're his only saving grace. If I were an unfair man, I'd point out JPA's crazy Vegas stats and suggest anyone wondering why David Cooper isn't on the next flight back to Toronto do the same.
Luckily, I'm all about fairness. Fairness and balance. Which is why I'm prepared to make boatloads of excuses for Aaron Cibia, but with handy charts to make it seem like I'm not groping for a reason to defend him. Below you see a rolling 10-day wOBA of the Jays catcher's first half. You may recognize this goofy chart from Getting Blanked last week and Travis Snider this winter.
What this rolling weighted on-base average (calculated with 2010 linear weights, for which I apologize but can't do much about) shows is a rather distinct drop off when Arencibia took his first (of many) pitches to the hands. Catching's hard, y'all!
Again, each bar indicates a 10 game chunk of Arencibia's season. The orange line is his wOBA as I calculated it (.303) while the black lines indicate one standard deviation above and below that figure.
The magenta section is the first to include the games after taking foul balls off his thumb and knuckles. The red section is the first to include only games after that injury. The green section indicates games after the incident captured above, when he took a pitch thrown by Jonathon Papelbon to his gnarled fist.
Thoughts? Tools of ignorance, indeed. The beating taken behind the plate is nearly inhuman. Arencibia is a good hitter (for a catcher) and was likely to slow down slightly after a decent start but it seems like his slide began immediately after his hands started looking like an old dock worker's.
One source of concern that might not be injury related: when he went into the tank in June, JPA took his patience with him. Monthly walk rates of 8.4%, 8.5%, 4.1% scare me some. He did, however, manage 4 walks in 8 games in July (compared to just three in June.)
On the whole, I am pleased with Aaron Cibia as an everyday catcher. He's good...enough. But he's young and homegrown and soon to be pushed by Travis D'Arnaud (listen here as Keith Law suggests D'Arnaud is the better prospect). Competition is good because catchers are rare. Other than the bumps and bruises, JPA seems healthy enough to maintain his value until D'Arnaud (or Carlos Perez?) comes for his job.
Reuters image courtesy of Daylife