We all know Austin Nola entered the season as the starting catcher for the San Diego Padres. And he should be by the way—he caught every postseason game for the Friars in 2022. It’s very reasonable to think he should remain the starter because it’s very early in the season and the pitching staff is more comfortable with him over backup catcher Luis Campusano.
But Nola should not be the starter nearly every single day the way he’s playing right now. Campusano deserved to be starting behind the plate in more than four of the Padres first 13 games (30.7%).
Here are Luis Campusano and Austin Nola’s statistics through the Padres first 13 games:
9 G, 3-for-29 (.103), .188 OBP, .103 SLG, .291 OPS, 2 RBI, 0 R, 15 SB allowed, 1 caught stealing
5 G, 4-for-16 (.250), .235 OBP, .313 SLG, .548 OPS, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB allowed, 0 caught stealing
Looking at those numbers—yes, there’s a difference in sample size—who helps the Padres win more? It’s Campusano.
It’s understandable for Nola to catch for Yu Darvish, who has at least 11 pitches and usually throws to one catcher. But Snell isn’t pitching his best with Nola behind the plate and pitched six scoreless innings to Campusano in his final Spring Training start vs. the Los Angeles Angels on March 24.
Will it hurt to try Campusano behind the dish when Snell takes the mound next time out? No. What about for Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo and Nick Martinez? No. Heck, Campusano helped get Ryan Weathers and Steven Wilson out of jams on Tuesday night. He can do the same for other pitchers.
I’m not saying Campusano should immediately get more starts than Nola but he deserves to get more starts than he is getting. Campusano’s manager, Bob Melvin, knows it too.
“...he’s been doing a nice job for us behind the plate, “ Melvin told Kevin Acee after Tuesday’s win over the New York Mets. “Every game he has started at this point we’ve won. Those games, getting through games like that are going to be big for him. I’ve been impressed.”
Melvin’s right: San Diego is 4-0 with Campusano starting and just 3-6 with Nola, who is currently in a 19 at-bat hitless streak.
“Yeah, we might do things a little bit differently,” Melvin said about the catching situation after today’s loss where Nola went 0-for-3 before being pinch hit for by Nelson Cruz. “He had a really good spring swinging the bat. Then he had the nose issue and has not swung it as well since. … We’ll see how it breaks up as we go forward.”
Doing things a little bit differently hopefully means starting Campusano behind the plate more often. We’ll see if that begins tomorrow when the Padres return to Petco Park.