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It's been a little over a month since I pointed out the turnaround in Austin Romine's offensive game. He started putting things together at the plate in July and finished with a stellar .333/.385/.500 batting line (.385 wOBA) in 26 plate appearances. That performance has earned him a little more playing time in August - 37 PA in 10 games - and he hasn't missed a beat production-wise, hitting .310/.417/.448 (.381 wOBA) this month. What's strange is that the dramatic increase in production at the plate has not earned Romine the same dramatic increase in PT. The bulk of the work is still going to Chris Stewart, even as the trends for he and Romine are moving in completely different directions.
Even in a 2-month sample size of less than 70 PA, it's clear that Romine is a better option as the everyday catcher right now than Stewart. Stewart appears to have hit the wall late in the season as he's racked up a career high in PA and games caught defensively. He posted a .416 OPS in July and currently has a .614 OPS in August, his 2 lowest monthly splits this season. Stewart is a lifetime backup who was supposed to continue on in that role this year, and there's no shame in the added PT that he's had to soak up taking its toll on him as we approach July. Joe continuing to give him the lion's share of the time behind the plate, however, is a problem and with a month left in the season and playoff hopes dimming that strategy has to change.
There's little that can be gained in 2013 from making the switch, but the Yankees will head into 2014 with the same questions behind the plate they had this year. Romine can be the answer to that question, at least in the short term, and the Yankees owe it to themselves to see how he fairs catching every day in the Majors. Even if he's not Yadier Molina back there, if he's good enough to be a serviceable everyday starting catcher, that's $10 mil the team doesn't have to shell out to Brian McCann in free agency.
Romine's pulled his season batting line up to .226/.280/.322 (.268 wOBA), which is almost better than Stewart's line in over twice as many PA (.226/.299/.294, .270 wOBA). He may not be the defensive catcher Stewart is, but it's not like that better defense is winning the Yankees a lot of games. Romine was a top 5-10 organizational prospect for years and is starting to show why. It's time to see if he can live up to that ceiling.