Grading the Brewers: Catchers

Jason Kendall was a force behind the plate and helped the Milwaukee pitching staff through a rocky season of injuries. Meanwhile, backup Mike Rivera did the job the few times he was called into service. The report cards are in and ...

If fans didn't' know any better, they'd swear that the Brewers only had one catcher on their roster. Milwaukee might as well have for all Mike Rivera got on the diamond.

Rivera played in 21 games, only 13 behind the plate. That's because veteran Jason Kendall was signed as a free agent and started the other 149 contests plus all four games in the NLDS.

Whether it was the warrior Kendall or patient understudy Rivera, Milwaukee's pitching staff was in good hands, and both provided enough offense to help the team.

As soon as Kendall made his 110th start, he guaranteed the option on his contract, assuring that he'd be back at $4.25 million for 2009.

Well, it's time for report cards, and here are the grades:

Jason Kendall

The longtime Pirate catcher carried the team's offense during the first couple weeks of the season, which made former manger Ned Yost's unusual decision to bat the pitcher eighth in the lineup and Kendall ninth look ingenious, even if nobody understood the statistical reasoning.

However, that plan backfired when the team's No. 7 hitters, J.J. Hardy in particular, couldn't get untracked because opponents worked around him with the pitcher in the on-deck circle. So, Yost went back to the traditional order with Kendall in the No. 8 spot.

He responded with a .246 overall average with two homers and 49 RBIs. Despite striking out only 45 times compared to 50 walks, Kendall finished with a .327 OBP. But he was one of the team's only contact hitters and like Craig Counsell worked the count.

Mike Rivera

Kendall hit .301 in April but slipped to .218 in May before batting .312 in June. His roller-coaster campaign continued with a woeful 169 during July in which he had only three multiple-hit outings. Like the rest of the team, he rebounded with a .287 in August before slumping to .202 in September.

He participated in the postseason for a third consecutive season, batting 2 for 14 (.143) with an RBI against Philadelphia.

Defensively is where Kendall earned his salary, committing only six errors to tie his career-best .995 fielding percentage. He threw out 40 percent of enemy base runners, one of the best marks in the league. And every Milwaukee hurler praised Kendall's work behind the plate and his expertise in calling games. He allowed only four passed balls and participated in 13 double plays.

Final grade: B

Mike Rivera

The sample isn't large, but Rivera proved to be the ultimate team player in watching from the bench while many fans clamored for him to see more playing time.

But when called upon, Rivera produced 19 hits in 62 at-bats (.306), knocking in 14 runs with those hits, which included five doubles and a homer. His three-run double helped Milwaukee rally past visiting Washington during a four-game sweep in August.

Rivera committed three errors for a .976 fielding percentage at catcher and turned an unassisted double play at first base in a contest at Arizona in early July.

Final grade: B+


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