The Cubs’ Ross isn’t just Lester’s personal catcher
There is still a large contingent that believe the Chicago Cubs signed David Ross only to be Jon Lester‘s personal catcher. There is some truth to that, as for whatever reason, Lester and Ross work well together. One of the reasons that is becoming clear to many is how Ross manages the game, and controls the opponents run game. And the occasional inning out of the bullpen didn’t hurt his value either.
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Ross has only appeared in 100 or more games once in his career, and that was back in 2007 with the Cincinnati Reds. He’s only hit better than .270 twice in his career. And the power hasn’t been there for quite a while now, as he last hit more than 10 home runs back in the ’07 season. These stats wouldn’t necessarily “wow” you into wanting to sign him. But he wasn’t signed for his bat. That’s what Miguel Montero does. Ross is the closest thing to a defensive specialist behind the plate as you’ll get, and he’s a leader.
The issues of Lester and baserunners isn’t new, but now that he’s a Cub we see it plain as day. I’m actually sure that there’s a deep fear of throwing the ball based on how he comes off the mound to play defense. Ever notice how he rarely fields a chopper or a bunt? That’s another story. But somehow, Ross is able to help neutralize that weakness. No, Ross can’t catch him forever. But while he still has the arm and the knees to do it, he’s going to.
Ross has a career caught-stealing percentage of 36 percent. League average is 28 percent. The past two seasons have been some of his least impressive, with a 19 this year and 22 in Boston last season. Is some of that attributed to Lester? Possibly. He’s also 38 years old now. It could just be a natural decline. But he’s still doing the job he was hired to do, evidenced by Thursday night’s win at the Nationals.
First he caught two stealing out of three attempts. But the pickoff play to end the game is one of the little things Ross still does well that can change a game. It was his second of the season and his 12th of his career. It wasn’t a game-winner with his bat–which he just did the other day with a bloop single–but it’s a winner nonetheless. That’s two on the season for a guy that’s according to some just here to catch Lester.
And this is outside of his value that we don’t see. In the locker room, and what he brought to Spring Training to help players like Kyle Schwarber and Victor Caratini. These are the traits you can’t measure with metrics that are just as important as average and home runs. Ross isn’t going to win a Silver Slugger behind the plate, but his value is worth its weight in gold.