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Braves 2009 Season in Review: David Ross

Guess who led the 2009 Atlanta Braves in OPS. Did you guess Brian McCann? How about Chipper Jones? Martin Prado? What about Adam LaRoche? Okay, it was actually LaRoche, but the guy who ranked second was David Ross with an .888 OPS. For all of our decent or good offensive players, David Ross was the second best hitter on the team.

Ross' good patience at the plate was complimented by his excellent power. His 7 homeruns rank second in the majors for any player with 160 or fewer at-bats. Add to that his 48% caught stealing rate (19 CS in 40 ATT) and he was truly the best backup catcher in baseball. And he may be the best backup catcher the Braves have ever had. Eddie Perez might have had a better offensive year in 1998 (.941 OPS), but Eddie wasn't as good at throwing out runners as Ross was. Eddie had a 29% CS% that year, which is far below that of Ross this year. So when we combine offense and defense, I think we can say that Ross' year was the best for any Atlanta backup backstop.

That 48% caught stealing percentage was the best in the National League for any catcher with more than three attempts against him. That's an impressive weapon to put into the lineup when your starting catcher is not available, and this is even more ammunition for the Braves to give Brian McCann more regular rest next season. This is also ammunition for the Braves to use David Ross as a pinch hitter more often.

Ross did not have a pinch hit in 2009, but he only got to the plate in that situation three times, walking once and making two outs. For his career, Ross has a .905 OPS when pinch hitting, showing off his plus power in the process with 3 pinch hit homeruns in 40 at-bats. We need to make him one of our featured pinch hitters next year. If the team is worried about not having a catcher late in the game in case of injury, then they can rely on an emergency catcher like Matt Diaz (who came up as a catcher), or the Braves can carry three catchers, keeping Clint Sammons on the bench. Sammons by the way, threw out all three of the baserunners who tried to steal against him this year.

Certainly a guy who hits as well as Ross did should be featured in the offense more. And his season was not a fluke. He's put up an OPS+ of 130 (like he did this year) or better in four of his eight big league seasons. I'd like to see the Braves carry three catchers next year and use Ross or Sammons every fifth day giving McCann regular rest, and use Ross as a pinch hitter three or four times a week.

2009 - David Ross 54 128 18 35 9 0 7 20 21 39 0 0 .273 .380 .508

Coming up tomorrow, the top-5 minor league catchers in the Braves system, and a catcher's roundtable between the bloggers here at Talking Chop.

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