Why The Hate For Francisco Cervelli?

The Yankees' back-up catcher the last few years took a lot of crap this season. Some of it deserving, but a lot of it undeserving.

In 2011, Cervelli put up a .266/.324/.395 batting line over 137 PA, good for an 89 OPS+. Let me tell you who that was better than or equal to from among his teammates: Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner, Eduardo Nunez and Eric Chavez. AL catchers had an overall OPS+ of 90. So he was at least equal to two starters (Posada and GGBG) and just a hair worse than the average AL catcher... and he's a back-up. Why does his hitting get criticized so much?

It's fielding where he struggles. While most back-ups excel on defense, Frankie has labored over the last two years. He was great in a limited capacity in 2009, but has disappointed since then. For his career, he's an average catcher at best, ranging from 0 runs (Rdrs) to -8 runs (Rtot) over 1300 innings behind the plate. But I believe that, partly because of the passion he plays with, he tries too hard to make a spectacular play because he's a back-up. That certainly doesn't excuse his errant throws - he just has to learn to play "within himself" and not try to win the starting job, because, let's face it, he'll never (barring injury) be the best catching option for a $200M-payroll club. But I do think his defense would improve with more consistent playing time.

He's making the ML minimum and won't be arbitration eligible until 2013. He won't be a free agent until 2016. With all this talk of the Yankees trying to cut down on payroll, any place to save is a boon. A dollar saved is a dollar earned. He hit better than Jorge Posada and earned 1/30th of the salary.

He'll only be 26 next year and has hit better (albeit in a small sample size) each of the last three seasons. He should continue to improve through his late 20s.

From a purely emotional standpoint, I enjoy watching him play. As classy as Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are, there's something aloof about them ("been there, done that"). But I like, just as much, seeing players show raw emotion. Frankie (and Joba Chamberlain) fit that to a T and it's infectious.

If management truly doesn't think Jesus Montero can catch, then why not hang on to Frankie? Russell Martin looks entrenched as the 2012 starter, and if Jesus isn't the BUC, who is? We have a fun, solid, cheap one right now.

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