How will the Braves handle playing duties of the Murphy-d’Arnaud catching duo?

Braves injuries

The Braves had an absolutely loaded group of catchers to begin the offseason. William Contreras, Travis d’Arnaud, and Manny Pina would’ve been one of the best units in baseball, but Alex Anthopoulos saw an opportunity to upgrade the position in 2023 and beyond by acquiring Sean Murphy from the Athletics. So, how will the Braves handle the playing duties of its new catching duo?

d’Arnaud’s value lies in that he’s excellent defensively and also well-above average offensively for the position. He’s no slouch compared to all hitters, but he comes up a bit short as a full-time designated hitter. And even though he’s a more than reliable defender, Murphy is one of the best catchers in baseball. 

According to Baseball Savant, Murphy’s pop time to second base ranked in the 96th percentile last season, and it translates in real time. The former third-round pick threw out 19 would-be baserunners last season, tied for fifth-most in baseball while posting a third-best 31.1% caught-stealing percentage. He’s excellent at framing, calling games, and his 1.89-second average pop time trailed only JT Realmuto. There’s nothing he doesn’t excel at in that facet of the game.

Murphy will be catching most of the games, but if you needed more proof, the Gold Glove catcher is a much less productive hitter as a designated hitter. In 30 games last year as a DH, he hit .179 with a .584 OPS. In the 116 he caught, Murphy hit .269 with 16 home runs, an .805 OPS, and an eye-popping 142 OPS+.

d’Arnaud’s numbers don’t fluctuate as much between the two roles, despite such large discrepancies in the sample sizes. He has a career .255/.315/.430 slash line and .745 OPS when catching and .261/.320/.420 and .740 OPS as a DH.

According to FanGraphs’ 2023 projections, Sean Murphy is projected to take about 70% of the plate appearances for the catchers, and I think that’s dead on with what Brian Snitker will do. The Gold Glove winner is younger, more durable, a more productive hitter when catching, and a better defender. It will keep Travis d’Arnaud, a veteran with a lengthy injury history, fresh to start about 30% of games, and the Braves will always have an elite bat starting at catcher with both healthy.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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