IT DOESN’T MATTER!
Whoever wins the backup catcher job until Jose Morales comes back, either Wilson Ramos or Drew Butera, will be in the majors for a max of two months, if we are really looking on the gloomiest possible side.
During that time, Joe Mauer will be the starting catcher probably 8-9 days of 10. Figuring on 3 at-bats per start, that means that whoever backs up Joe will get, well, 49-55 at bats per start. Lets add in another 20 at-bats to be really charitable, to include pinch-hitting. That gives us, say, 72 at-bats. Sound good?
Let’s also assume, just for the sake of argument, that Ramos would be worth the same amount per at-bat as Joe Mauer (which is a ridiculous assumption, but I’m being generous). Joe is projected to be 7.3 WAR this year by CHONE, in about 595 at-bats. So, let’s play those numbers a bit. By doing a simple comparison, Ramos’ bat would be worth .88 WAR in those 72 at-bats. Let’s round it up, again, being charitable and including defense, to 1 WAR. To be clear, this is making the assumption that Ramos will be a better catcher/hitter than JOE FRICKING MAUER. (For the record, CHONE puts Ramos at .6 WAR in 370 PAs. Where are they getting this number of PAs? No way the backup catcher appearance gets 250 at-bats all season.)
So, lets assume the opposite for Butera, and assume that he’ll be worth the same as the WORST catcher in the league. Rod Barajas was the worst catcher that got 400 PAs last season (415), racking up a .6 WAR. So, lets do the math, and we get .1 WAR for Butera. Again, with Butera’s defensive skill, we’ll round it up a bit, to .2 WAR, the same adjustment I made for Ramos. (In fairness, CHONE has Butera at -.5 over 272 at-bats, God knowing how he’ll get those 272 at-bats. But when I scale it down to 72 at-bats, it works out to just about -.1. So, still, really close to where I got).
So, being as charitable as I think I can be, the difference is .8 wins. If the Twins end up having their season decided by .8 wins for 1/3 of a season of a backup catcher that is not Jose Morales, who, in fairness projects to be worth .9 WAR by CHONE this season in 353 PAs (where the hell are they getting these PA numbers?).
So, to recap. Joe = 7.3 WAR. Based on two months of backup, Ramos would be worth 1.0 WAR (which I think is more than generous). Over the same period, Butera would be worth .1 WAR by my metric (which is admittedly crude, and I’m sure people will jump all over me for it), but -1 WAR by CHONE. So let’s take CHONE’s number.
Assuming Wilson Ramos is a better hitter than Joe Mauer during his limited at-bats, he would be worth 1.1 WAR over Butera. If, with all the changes the Twins have made this season, that’s what the division comes down to, the Twins will have had much, much bigger problems.
Others have put together takes on this, including Seth, who puts forth a highly unlikely scenario that would make it worth it to bring Ramos up. Taylor urges that Ramos be brought up. A great message-board discussion of the issue can be found here. TwinsTerritory has a poll up.
My vote, as everyone can probably tell by now, is that it simply doesn’t matter, so we should bring up Butera, because it would be better not to hurt Ramos’ development in the majors when his presence wouldn’t make that enormous of a difference anyway.
EDIT: Okay, so I figured out that the PA numbers from CHONE are based on minor-league at-bats. Which just seems to reinforce my point…