If you want to see all variants of human amazement in one face, you should take a look at these ten seconds after Martín Maldonado’s successful blow. First, the Houston Astros catcher gave an astonished “Oh” that he had actually hit the ball; Immediately afterwards an ecstatic “Ui” about the stupid mistake of the opposing Atlanta Braves, because of which a colleague Maldonados was able to score – and finally a delighted “O-ho” because he was allowed to move up on the bases himself due to the mistake. It was 4: 1 after this two-point blow from Maldonado. Even on the Astro bench, in thirty faces, nothing but amazement was reflected at that moment. The expression, for everyone: Maldonado of all people!
That’s because Maldonado has a reputation for being an incredibly bad batsman. His regular-time odds had been a measly 17.2 percent and things have only gotten worse since then. In the playoffs, before the start of the World Series, he scored only two times (6.8 percent) in 29 attempts; not at all in the final series against Atlanta before this hit. And yet Maldonado has a huge share in the success of the Houston Astros, who compensated for this final series with their 7-2 win in the second game: He is currently, with all due respect for JT Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies or Yasmani Grandal of the Chicago White Sox, the best man behind the plate in the North American MLB baseball league.
“The catcher is the general on the field,” says Astros trainer Dusty Baker
Being a catcher is one of the most complicated positions in sport – and in baseball, in which pretty much everything is measured and evaluated, this workplace is actually difficult to evaluate objectively. Surely there are statistics here too, for example Maldonado is in third place in the category that records catching opposing running players who want to daringly advance from first to second base – stealing a base, that’s what technical jargon means. The catcher has to throw from the stroke to this second base – in such a way that the teammate can catch the ball there and touch the approaching opponent with the glove.
Maldonado does this precisely and usually in just 1.6 seconds. In the semifinals against Chicago it was even 1.4 seconds – opponents caught, game section over. Now the interesting question arises: Who dares to steal a running mark against someone like Maldonado, who knows all the feint and is considered a walking lexicon of all stroke and run statistics of the opponents? Presence alone creates fear in the enemy, just as it creates trust in colleagues.
Maldonado, 35 years old, reassures young throwers like Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia by telling them the right throws; Pitcher and catcher coordinate by sign. So it’s not that bad anymore that the Astros are missing two of their best throwers (Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers) injured. He also directs the defenders into their positions before each new batsman, and perhaps that would be the apt description of Maldonado’s activity anyway: He is the conductor of the Astros defense, and when conducting an orchestra it would never occur to anyone to swing the To measure baton statistically. Of course, the sound of the interaction is more important.
“Everything is measured, but unfortunately there are no figures for leadership, meticulous preparation, serenity in hectic situations”, says Astros thrower Kendall Graveman, who caused the last out of the game on Wednesday and then got patted on the head by Maldonado: ” If there were statistics for it, Martín would be at the top of the MLB. ” He was describing the current strength of the Houston team: The Astros’ defense is also so good because the players know that behind the plate they have a veteran who they can trust in every situation. “The catcher is the general on the field,” says Astros trainer legend Dusty Baker, who at the age of 72 wants to win the first title of his 28-year career as a coach; as a player, he triumphed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981. “The value of a great catcher is immeasurable,” he explains: “That is exactly what Martín is for us.”
They appreciate Martín Maldonado as a catcher so much that they accept the terribly bad batsman Maldonado – and marvel at goals like the one on Wednesday, half ecstatic, half amazed. The best-of-seven finals series will continue this Friday, with the next three games taking place over three consecutive days in Atlanta. Behind the plate, as always, and therefore on the offensive now and then to the side: Martín Maldonado.