Why Steve Clevenger should be on the Orioles

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Clevenger, buried in AAA, should make his return to the O's sooner rather than later.

When the Orioles traded for Nick Hundley in the wake of Matt Wieters's injury, everyone expected the O's to option Caleb Joseph back to the minors after a brief stint in the majors. The O's instead chose to option Steve Clevenger and kept two right-handed hitting catches on the team. The move has not worked out for the O's. While Joseph and Hundley are hitting for wOBA of .212 and .154 respectively in the majors, Clevenger is destroying AAA pitching with a slash line of .393/.433/.525. Small sample size, of course, and we should not evaluate processes just on results. Yet there are plenty of reasons to prefer Clevenger over either Joseph or Hundley on the team.

The primary reason is simply the side of the plate the trio bat from. While the O's can run a platoon at catcher with Clevenger on the team, the duo of Joseph and Hundley only has the platoon advantage only about 30% of the time. Clevenger against a right-handed pitcher is always preferable to Joseph or Hundley at the plate. Clevenger might even be a better hitter regardless of which hand the pitcher throws with. Steamer projects Clevenger to post a wOBA of .307 for the rest of season, compared to .295 for Hundley and .280 for Joseph. Couple that with the platoon advantage Clevenger will receive, and the difference between Clevenger and Joseph at the plate is huge.

Clevenger might also provide an upgrade on defense. As I detailed in my article last week, all three O's catchers have been respectable and even exceptional (in the case of Joseph) on defense this season. However, Hundley has a long history as a terrible pitch framer, costing the Padres about 10 runs each season over the last 3 years. Clevenger might only be an average pitch framer, but that would save the O's 10 runs just by not having Hundley in the game. Clevenger is a downgrade from Joseph on defense, but he more than makes up for it on offense.

I don't see any reason to prefer both of Joseph and Hundley over Clevenger. The question should really be the choice between Joseph and Hundley. While Hundley has a sizable edge over Joseph on offense, the gap between the two might be even larger on defense, though in a less obvious way. There may not be a huge difference between Joseph and Hundley, but there is between Clevenger and the duo of Joseph and Hundley.

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