Cincinnati Reds Ryan  Haniganreacts after home plate umpire CB Bucknor calls Los Angeles Angels' Albert  Pujols safe at home during their interleague MLB game in Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Reds made a solid little pickup today, signing Brayan Pena to be their backup catcher, playing behind Devin Mesoraco. Pena is big and sort of okay as far as defensive catchers go.

The addition of Pena all but signals the end of Ryan Hanigan ‘s time in the Queen City, as he’s nearing an arbitration reward close to the price of Brayan Pena for two years. Hanigan is well-regarded for his catching prowess though he is no great shakes with the stick.

Obscuring Hangian’s shortcomings at the plate is an inflated walk rate from hitting before the pitcher for so long. It isn’t that Hanigan is bad player, but the instance that good teams should form a line to acquire the 33-year old career backup is seriously misguided.

 

There are many things Ryan Hanigan does well. He frames pitches with aplomb and works great with a pitching staff, we’re told. He caught two Homer Bailey no-hitters in a matter of months, which isn’t a tangible skill but it is testament to his ability to read his pitcher and the way hitters react to their game plan in real time.

What Ryan Hanigan does not do, at all any more, is hit. He can’t hit! He never really could but it’s especially bad now. He has no power of which to speak and his average plummeted thanks to a low in-play average last season. But he can walk. He has walked. He draws walks.

Drawing walks is a skill and Hanigan’s knowledge of the strike zone is not up for debate. But Hanigan’s plate discipline is not enough to overcome his inability to put the bat on the ball with positive results. Even the walks he draws are not the same walks as those issued to Hangian’s erstwhile teammate Joey Votto.

Last year, Ryan Hanigan put up a .198/.306/.261 slash line. Not a typo, .261 slugging percentage. Batting average on balls in play have a big impact on extra base hits? Because Ryan Hanigan only mustered 10 – total – in 260 plate appearances.

Then we get to the walk. 29 walks in 260 plate appearances is good for 11.4% rate, well above average. But nine of those walks were issued intentionally. 20 unintentional walks in 251 plate appearances is less good. 7.9% walk rate is less above average. It’s actually right on league average. Not all walks are created equal. Not all on base percentages tell the same story.

Many worse hitters got playing time in the National League as defense-first, “catch and throw” backstops. That’s fine. Ryan Hanigan is good at that. Let him do that. But to insist that Hanigan is anything more is fool-hardy. Misguided. A waste of everyone’s time. He is not a better option as an everyday catcher in the big leagues than Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Not in a vacuum which ignores the not-insignificant “every day” part of that equation.

Many teams would be well-served with Hanigan in their ranks – in the proper role. It says here that no team sees Hangian as another more than he is – a great mentor and defensive receiver who also creates world-beating gifs by the bushelful.