Stat of the day: catchers lead the way

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Credit A.J. Pierzynski, Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters and even a little George Kottaras: catchers have the highest OPS of any position on the diamond so far this year.

Here’s how they ranked entering Thursday’s games:

C: .770 OPS
CF: .764
1B: .758
RF: .742
2B: .699
3B: .696
SS: .692
LF: .684

Yeah, that’s pretty unusual. Designated hitters do top catchers with a .791 OPS to date, but since they’re not actually on the diamond, I felt free to exclude them.

Obviously, this isn’t at all likely to keep up, but it is fun to see just how many catchers have started red hot. The Brewers have gotten a 1.226 OPS from Jonathan Lucroy and Kottaras. The White Sox, Tigers, Orioles and Cardinals are also above 1.000.

Last year, catchers had a .703 OPS, better than only shortstops at .697. It was the same deal in 2010. In 2009, catchers ranked last behind the shortstops in OPS.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”