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Statistically speaking: Mesoraco, Martin travel different paths to success

| Thursday, July 10, 2014, 9:27 p.m.

League-wide offense continues to plummet, with teams scoring the fewest runs per game (4.13) since 1992. But catchers, known more for absorbing foul tips than tallying extra-base hits, are stepping up. Backstops are enjoying their third-best offensive season in MLB history as measured by wRC+, a stat that calculates the run value of every batting event for a player and places his overall production on a scale where 100 is average.

Cincinnati's Devin Mesoraco and the Pirates' Russell Martin highlight this offensive evolution among catchers, but they're creating runs in vastly different ways. Mesoraco is making power-hitting history, while Martin is reaching base by any means necessary.

Mesoraco ranks second among catchers in home runs (15) and his league-leading .607 slugging percentage tops Johnny Bench's 1970 campaign (.587) for the highest single-season mark among Reds catchers getting at least 200 plate appearances. Martin isn't displaying nearly as much pop, but he's got the second-best on-base percentage (.404) at the position and has been plunked by 10 pitches.

The last time a Pirates catcher got on base at such a high clip was Jason Kendall (.412) in 2000. Mesoraco tops all catchers in wRC+, and Martin cracks the top five.

Batter Team wRC+

Devin Mesoraco Reds 170

Derek Norris Athletics 158

Jonathan Lucroy Brewers 153

Evan Gattis Braves 150

Russell Martin Pirates 131

MLB Avg. for C --- 95

Source: Fangraphs

Cincinnati's star backstop is hacking at 32.3 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone — above the 30.4 percent MLB average this season. Martin, by contrast, is venturing out of the zone just 24.3 percent of the time.

The Pirates could take advantage of Mesoraco's aggressive approach, as scheduled starters Jeff Locke (31.3 percent chase percentage), Charlie Morton (30.3) and Francisco Liriano (33.1) all induce chases at an above-average rate.

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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