Baltimore Orioles: Creating the Best Batteries for the Birds

BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 06: Catcher Caleb Joseph
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 06: Catcher Caleb Joseph /

The Baltimore Orioles head into the 2018 season with the strong catching duo of Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco, but trends have emerged during past seasons and in spring training to determine which batteries are the best.

The Baltimore Orioles catching battle appears to be over as the team elects to go into the 2018 season with veteran Caleb Joseph and rookie Chance Sisco as their tandem behind the plate. There are some ways to use both Joseph and Sisco.

Sisco is superior offensively to Joseph, and Joseph has much more experience catching than Sisco. Beyond that, however, some key trends have emerged that we’ll explore to optimize the best pitcher-catcher combinations.

While Sisco has a minimal track record with the Orioles’ starters, Joseph has quite a lengthy history. Out of the current four starters to be locked in the rotation, Joseph has caught three of them:  Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman

Here’s how each pitcher has performed with Joseph behind the plate:

2017 with Joseph 
Dylan Bundy954.
Kevin Gausman19113.
Chris Tillman622.16.85.354.417.521.937
Career with Joseph
Dylan Bundy2586.
Kevin Gausman54282.
Chris Tillman31157.
Career with All
Dylan Bundy66281.
Kevin Gausman129639.
Chris Tillman2031118.

Statistics from

After seeing these statistics, we can see that Kevin Gausman pitches much better with Caleb Joseph behind the plate. The Orioles have seemed to notice this too because Joseph caught Gausman 19 times last season.

On the flip side, however, both Chris Tillman and Dylan Bundy have done worse in their careers with Joseph behind the plate.

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In the case of Tillman, last night’s game against the Twins showcased this as with Joseph behind the plate, and he had his worst start giving up six runs on seven hits with two walks in 5.1 innings. Tillman in his last start pitched five innings and only gave up one run with no walks.  Chance Sisco was his battery mate in that start, and Buck Showalter commented to MASNSports’ Steve Melewski that he liked the pitch selection Sisco had in that game with Tillman.

It would seem that based on this information, in general, Bundy and Tillman would likely perform better paired with Sisco and Gausman would be his best with Joseph.

With those three taken care of, that leaves Andrew Cashner and the yet to be named 5th starter who will be replaced by Alex Cobb.

Cashner has never pitched to either Joseph or Sisco before Spring Training, so how he’s performed this spring is the only data that we have to look at.

Cashner has only pitched in two Grapefruit League games, giving up only one run in nine innings and both games, Joseph caught him.

Cashner was very complimentary of Joseph after his first Grapefruit League start in a quote to  MASNSports’ Roch Kubatko:

"“That was the first time I worked with Caleb. I haven’t thrown anything to him yet, but great receiver. We talked about the game plan before the game."

The battery is working, so it would make sense to keep it intact.

As for the 5th starter, it seems like it’s a competition between Nestor Cortes Jr. and Mike Wright Jr. with the loser likely ending up in the bullpen.

Wright Jr. has a 5.97 ERA in 15 games and 57 innings with Joseph behind the plate, however, his only good start of the spring came with Joseph behind the plate. His last and only outing with Sisco was also a disaster, so it’s probably an easy call to go with Joseph as his catcher.

Nestor Cortes Jr. is a Rule 5 pick, so like Cashner, he has only pitched to Orioles catchers in spring training. He was paired with Sisco twice and had mixed results with a solid start on March 1 and a poor start on March 8.

However, with Joseph behind the plate in his first start, he only gave up one run, and the battery has shutout opposing batters since while Cortes Jr. has pitched in relief.

Based on his performance, if Cortes Jr. is the 5th starter, a pairing with Joseph would work well to start.

Alex Cobb has yet to make his debut in an Orioles uniform, so the first time we’ll see any battery will be when he makes his regular season start. With no data, fans will have to wait and see how he performs with both Joseph and Sisco behind the plate.

So to recap, these are the pairings that would seem to be optimal to start the 2018 season:

  • Bundy-Sisco
  • Cashner-Joseph
  • Gausman-Joseph
  • Tillman-Sisco
  • Wright Jr.-Joseph
  • Cortes Jr.-Joseph
  • Cobb-Joseph/Sisco?

This should give Sisco at least two starts behind the plate per turn of the rotation, and the Orioles can always keep his bat in the lineup via the DH when Joseph is catching.

In time Sisco will likely improve his familiarity with all of the starting pitchers, so in addition to Bundy, Tillman, and Cobb, he could also eventually catch Cashner and Cortes Jr. (if he starts). Joseph, however, should remain Gausman’s personal catcher.

Next: Projecting the Orioles Opening Day Lineup

This also means that Sisco, and not Joseph, should be catching Dylan Bundy on Opening Day. We’ll have to wait and see if the Orioles and Buck Showalter will come to the same conclusion.