It’s been nearly a year since the Miami Marlins acquired catcher Rob Brantly from the Detroit Tigers.
While starting pitcher Jacob Turner, acquired with Brantly in the July 2012 trade, has thrived this year, flashing star potential, Brantly has taken a step back.
Brantly, who turns 24 on July 14, has struggled commanding games from behind the plate. His catcher’s ERA of 4.61 ranks 27th of out 29 qualifying catchers in the majors, and dead last in the National League.
In comparison, Brantly’s teammate Jeff Mathis has the best ERA among catchers since he returned from injury in mid-May. In his first 25 starts on the season, Mathis’ ERA was 2.49.
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Brantly knows he’s not playing up to his standards.
“It’s been a little bit of a grind early,” he said. “I’ve grown from it and become a better defensive player. I really think it’s starting to come together.”
Brantly’s manager Mike Redmond, himself a former catcher for the Marlins, has seen progress in the backstop’s game.
“Coming into the season, I hadn’t seen him play,” Redmond said. “He’s continued to improve. Parts of his game have gotten really good, like stopping passed balls or playing defense. A lot of it is just experience.”
Brantly has done his part to catch up experience-wise. In addition to his work on the field, Brantly switched his locker from the beginning of the season to the locker right next to Mathis. There, the two talk about planning for an entire game and look over scouting reports, as opposed to Brantly “shouting questions across the room.”
Preparation has become a vital part of Brantly’s quest to improve his numbers. He admits to some times doing things “on the fly” earlier in the season. But now, Brantly forms a plan of attack for each at-bat of the opponents’ lineup before a game.
“It’s called preparation and presentation,” Brantly said of his approach. “Presentation is what I’m doing during the game. Preparation is what we’ve been hitting the most. It’s about building consistency.”
Brantly is looking for more consistency at the plate as well.
After hitting .290 with three home runs in 31 games last season, Brantly has fallen back to a .242 average and only one home run in 52 games in 2013. Still, Brantly insists his defense isn’t affecting him in the batter’s box.
“It’s almost like two different games, both require meticulous focus and effort,” Brantly said. “It’s pretty obvious I’ve struggled. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t play up to my potential.”