Paul Bako’s biggest moment as a Phillie came on July 11 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bako’s walk-off single capped an 8-7 come from behind win. Lou Marson’s biggest Phillies moment came on the last day of the 2008 season. He clubbed his first Major League home run, walking into the dugout only to receive the silent treatment.
With Chris Coste gone and Carlos Ruiz as the everyday catcher, Paul Bako has found himself a home as the Phillies backup catcher. However, is Lou Marson a better option?
Marson could find himself dealt by the trade deadline. Keeping him in Triple-A may keep his value higher in case he struggles in the bigs, but Marson is very close to being, if not already, Major League material. In addition, the Phillies might want him to get playing time instead of sitting next to John Mayberry Jr.
Marson does not hit for power, but his average is a solid .295 after returning from an injury. His on-base-percentage is an impressive .384, and he has shown his patience during his cup of coffee, drawing three walks in 17 at-bats (one which led to Shane Victorino’s grand slam against the Marlins).
Bako hasn’t done much at the dish. He is batting .195, and in 24 more at-bats than Marson had with the Phillies, Bako has the same amount of walks (3). Bako has not homered and has a total of four runs batted in. Bako isn’t there for his bat; he is there mainly for his defense.
Bako has called a good game; his catcher’s ERA is 3.74, but that stat is mostly dependent on the pitchers. Bako hasn’t done anything eye-popping which has stood out. He has made one error and threw out one runner in seven chances, but he doesn’t come close to Chooch behind the plate.
Don’t take away from Marson’s catching abilities. It’s not easy for a catcher to come up and learn a whole new set of pitchers, but Marson’s defense is impressive. In limited Major League playing time, Marson has already thrown out three runners attempting to steal. That may have to do with runners being unfamiliar with him, but he has a cannon. He has thrown out 18 runners with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
It isn’t like Marson is a stranger to the Phillies. Marson was found in the middle of the NLDS clincher celebration, in the bullpen catching various pitchers during the postseason, and in the World Series parade despite not being on the playoff roster. He knows what a playoff atmosphere is like, despite not playing in one. He also played in the Olympics, where he batted .308 against some of the world’s finest.
At 37, Bako has the experience over the 23 year old Marson. It has been a vicious cycle that the Phillies upper positional prospects are blocked and don’t make an impact until their mid-to-late 20’s (see Chase Utley being blocked by Placido Polanco). Is it time for the Phillies to go with a young guy? Who should the Phillies rely on as their backup catcher, Paul Bako, or Lou Marson?