Seattle Mariners‘ John Buck has a decade of experience in MLB across four different teams. The veteran journeyman catcher had his best statistical season in 2010 with the Toronto Blue Jays. While under the tutelage of manger Cito Gaston in that season, he posted a .281 BA, with 20 HRs and and 66 RBI. Not bad at all for a career .234 hitter who had never before reached the 20 HR mark in his career. Gaston gave him a few pointers here and there along the way to help him perform the way he did at the plate, and behind it.
Buck’s contributions at the plate that year with the Blue Jays was evident. But since joining the Mariners as a free agent for the 2014 season, it’s his work behind the scenes and mentorship of fellow rookie backstop Mike Zunino that has paid major dividends for Seattle. Buck claims that he has a gift for discovering when and how pitcher’s tip their pitches. It is something he learned from Gaston during his stay in Toronto, and that just about every pitcher in some way, shape or form tips their pitches to some degree. The tricky part is being patient and diligent enough to catch it.
Gaston did win back-to-back World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992 and ’93, and having a gift for being able to pick up on pitchers tendencies could have played a big part in acquiring those titles. He is the only MLB manager, aside from the New York Yankees‘ Joe Torre from 1998-00, to repeat as a World Series champion since Sparky Anderson achieved the feat with the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and ’76.
Buck has only appeared in ten games so far for Seattle this season. But he has done a great job of mentoring Zunino. Their partnership has helped the Seattle Mariners rotation out immensely. When they see their teammates doing things from the mound that can be picked up on by the opposition, they’re quick to address the situation and make changes. The evidence to support the edge Buck gives them is strong. The Mariners pitching staff has the fifth best BA against opponents in the league at .237, the eighth best ERA at 3.46 and the tenth best WHIP at 1.23. To be in the top ten in all those categories is a testament to Buck’s work.
For a team that has not been overwhelming at the plate all year and have gone through their fair share of injuries so far in 2014, the fact that the Mariners are above .500 and still very much in the hunt for the AL West crown is a testament to Lloyd McClendon‘s management, but also the work veteran Buck has done with the pitching staff and Zunino.