• Torey Lovullo after D-Backs' latest loss to Rockies

    Torey Lovullo after D-Backs’ latest loss to Rockies

  • Taijuan Walker after loss to Rockies

    Taijuan Walker after loss to Rockies

  • Patrick Corbin after being roughed up by Rockies

    Patrick Corbin after being roughed up by Rockies

  • D-Backs' Torey Lovullo on 'tough night' at Coors Field

    D-Backs’ Torey Lovullo on ‘tough night’ at Coors Field

  • Zack Greinke on impressive outing vs. Rockies

    Zack Greinke on impressive outing vs. Rockies

  • Manager Torey Lovullo after win over Rockies

    Manager Torey Lovullo after win over Rockies

  • Manager Torey Lovullo after D-Backs lose series vs. Nationals

    Manager Torey Lovullo after D-Backs lose series vs. Nationals

  • Braden Shipley after walking six in loss to Nationals

    Braden Shipley after walking six in loss to Nationals

  • D-Backs' Torey Lovullo after loss to Nationals

    D-Backs’ Torey Lovullo after loss to Nationals

  • Diamondbacks' Robbie Ray strikes out 10 in loss to Nationals

    Diamondbacks’ Robbie Ray strikes out 10 in loss to Nationals

  • Torey Lovullo on D-Backs' 6-3 win over Nationals

    Torey Lovullo on D-Backs’ 6-3 win over Nationals

  • Taijuan Walker on his short start vs. Nationals

    Taijuan Walker on his short start vs. Nationals

  • Shot Clock: Rockets sizzle, D-Backs fizzle?

    Shot Clock: Rockets sizzle, D-Backs fizzle?

  • A.J. Pollock on controversial play: "You guys saw the replay"

    A.J. Pollock on controversial play: “You guys saw the replay”

  • Descalso talks about walk-off home run over Rockies

    Descalso talks about walk-off home run over Rockies

  • Lovullo on pitching, more in D-Backs' wild win

    Lovullo on pitching, more in D-Backs’ wild win

  • Corbin discusses his scoreless outing vs. Rockies

    Corbin discusses his scoreless outing vs. Rockies

  • Fernando Rodney talks about his latest blown save

    Fernando Rodney talks about his latest blown save

  • Zack Greinke after outing vs. Rockies

    Zack Greinke after outing vs. Rockies

  • D-Backs' Shelby Miller to have Tommy John surgery

    D-Backs’ Shelby Miller to have Tommy John surgery

  • Diamondbacks fall 3-1 to Rockies

    Diamondbacks fall 3-1 to Rockies

  • Chris Owings on his two-homer night

    Chris Owings on his two-homer night

  • D-Backs' Taijuan Walker on his 11-strikeout performance vs. Padres

    D-Backs’ Taijuan Walker on his 11-strikeout performance vs. Padres

  • D-Backs' Shelby Miller considering Tommy John surgery

    D-Backs’ Shelby Miller considering Tommy John surgery

  • Fernando Rodney reacts to his blown save against the Padres

    Fernando Rodney reacts to his blown save against the Padres

  • Torey Lovullo reacts to Diamondbacks' 'heartbreaking' loss

    Torey Lovullo reacts to Diamondbacks’ ‘heartbreaking’ loss

  • Diamondbacks attendance hits new low

    Diamondbacks attendance hits new low

  • Diamondbacks pull away from Padres for 9-3 win

    Diamondbacks pull away from Padres for 9-3 win

  • Diamondbacks hold on for win over Padres

    Diamondbacks hold on for win over Padres

  • Shelby Miller on his injury, visit with team doctor

    Shelby Miller on his injury, visit with team doctor

  • Arizona Diamondbacks' Shelby Miller discusses arm injury

    Arizona Diamondbacks’ Shelby Miller discusses arm injury

  • David Peralta on his record-setting night

    David Peralta on his record-setting night

  • Robbie Ray reacts to Saturday's win over the Dodgers

    Robbie Ray reacts to Saturday’s win over the Dodgers

  • Diamondbacks use 9-run eighth to overwhelm Dodgers

    Diamondbacks use 9-run eighth to overwhelm Dodgers

  • Paul Goldschmidt on D-Backs' offense vs. Padres

    Paul Goldschmidt on D-Backs’ offense vs. Padres

  • Manager Torey Lovullo breaks down D-Backs' loss, road trip

    Manager Torey Lovullo breaks down D-Backs’ loss, road trip

When the Diamondbacks reshaped their catching core in the offseason, they expected some give and take when it came to the contributions they’d receive from the position. So far, there has been, and, so far, they say they’re pleased with what their three-headed catching core has given them.

On the one hand, they believe Jeff Mathis, Chris Iannetta and Chris Herrmann have provided leadership for the pitching staff and have smartly executed the club’s game plans, claims they say are borne out in the pitchers’ solid results through the first 33 games. They also believe the trio has done well blocking, throwing and framing, attributes that can be confirmed with advanced defensive metrics.

But on the other hand, the group’s offensive impact has been abysmal, as the Diamondbacks’ catchers rank at or near the bottom of the league in most major categories. But, the way General Manager Mike Hazen sees it, that’s not what they brought them in to do.

“That’s not really our emphasis and it hasn’t been,” Hazen said. “I think those guys can all handle the bat. And, yes, I do think there will be improvements from where we are at now. But that’s not something we’re overly worried about at this point.”

RELATED: D-Backs offense shut down again at Coors Field

In a surprise move in December, the Diamondbacks non-tendered catcher Welington Castillo, cutting loose their offensive-minded backstop while, on the same day, agreeing to terms with Mathis on a two-year, $4 million deal. A month later, they gave Iannetta a one-year deal with $1.5 million guaranteed.

In Mathis, they were getting a catcher with a reputation for being a strong defender but with a long track record of providing little offensively. Iannetta, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down career, both in terms of his on-base and power production but also in his ability to frame pitches, which he struggled to do in 2016 after excelling at it the year before.

Through five weeks, both have fared well behind the plate, according to Baseball Prospectus’ catching statistics. The site measures Fielding Runs Above Average, which for catchers includes framing, blocking and throwing.

Iannetta (11th) and Mathis (13th) both rank among the upper third of major league catchers seeing semi-regular playing time. With Herrmann, the lone incumbent from last season, his sample size is especially small – he’s started only six games behind the plate – but his numbers put him in the bottom half of the league.

Still, as a team, the Diamondbacks ranked fourth in the National League and eighth in the majors in catchers’ FRAA.

And yet from the Diamondbacks’ perspective, the more important numbers are those of the pitching staff, which so far has been much improved from a year ago. With a 3.87 ERA, the Diamondbacks rank fourth in the National League, all the more impressive given the hitter-friendly environment at Chase Field.

“It’s definitely an advantage to have those guys behind the plate,” pitching coach Mike Butcher said. “There’s a lot of trust. To have that trust, you have to have communication, and these guys communicate extremely well. And they prepare really well.”

More: Greinke’s slider a key to bounceback season for D-Backs

A year ago, Butcher joked about wearing out a path of dead grass from the dugout to the pitcher’s mound for all the visits he felt he needed to make. This year, however, he’s been a less constant sight.

“I think there’s a level of comfort with some of the guys we have behind the plate taking control of the game,” he said. “The guys we have pitching, there’s a little bit more experience out there. I think that helps out a lot as well. It’s not like a knock on last year, but the guys got some valuable experience under their belt last year, and I think that helps out moving forward.”

For the catchers, the offense has been another story. Mathis is just 7 for 55 (.127) with a .143 on-base and a .416 OPS. Iannetta is just 11 for 52 (.212), though he’s drawn four walks and hit a pair of home runs, giving him a .627 OPS. Herrmann is 8 for 45 (.178).

Their collective .542 OPS is last in the NL, and Baseball Reference pegs their total contributions to be at negative-1.2 WAR (wins above replacement). Their lack of production has been felt more outside of Chase Field, as the club has struggled to score runs on the road.

APRIL 21: Diamondbacks catchers deserve some credit for pitching success, too

Meanwhile, Castillo, who signed with the Orioles two weeks after the Diamondbacks let him go, had a .314 average, a .776 OPS and a 0.7 WAR before landing on the disabled list last week with shoulder tendinitis. He does, however, rate poorly in Prospectus’ defensive numbers.

Hazen knows how the offensive numbers look for his catchers, but he doesn’t think those are necessarily the most important ones.

“We’ve put a lot on their plate,” Hazen said. “From spring training on, we’ve asked a lot of them. We’ve asked them to sell out to the defensive side. They’ve done a good job of that. It’s been something that we’ve tried to stress because we feel it’s important.

“I think they’ve done a good job. The focus was on run-prevention and leading the pitching staff, and our pitching has done a really good job so far in the season.”

Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Tuesday’s game

Tigers at Diamondbacks

When: 6:40 p.m.

Where: Chase Field (Roof hotline: 602-462-6262).

Pitchers: Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray (2-2, 3.47) vs. Tigers RHP Justin Verlander (2-2, 4.21).

TV/Radio: FSAZ/KMVP-FM (98.7), KHOV-FM (105.1).

Ray was dominant in his outing last week in Washington, giving up two runs in six innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts. … He has struck out at least six in each of his six starts, reaching 10 strikeouts twice. … This will be Ray’s first time facing the Tigers, with whom he made his major league debut in 2014. The Diamondbacks acquired him in a three-team deal that sent SS Didi Gregorius to the New York Yankees. … Verlander has thrown well in his past two starts, giving up two earned runs combined in 14 innings against the Mariners and Indians. … He has thrown 107 pitches or more four times already this season. … He averaged 95.3 mph with his fastball in April, the highest it has been in the season’s first month since 2011.

Coming up

Wednesday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Zack Godley (0-0, 3.60) vs. Tigers LHP Matt Boyd (2-2, 3.78).

Thursday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.09) vs. Pirates RHP Chad Kuhl (1-2, 5.54).

Friday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m., Diamondbacks LHP Patrick Corbin (2-4, 3.89) vs. Pirates RHP Garrit Cole (1-3, 3.14).

Up next

Detroit Tigers

Tigers update: The Tigers enter the series with a 15-15 record. They haven’t won more than three in a row this season and haven’t lost more than four. They were beaten in walkoff fashion in consecutive games in Oakland over the weekend. They are averaging 5.0 runs per game, the second-best mark in the American League and fifth-best in the majors. Their pitching, however, has been the worst in the majors with a 4.83 ERA, numbers dragged down by the Tigers bullpen, which ranks last with a 5.93 ERA. While closer RHP Francisco Rodriguez has allowed 11 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings, several Tigers relievers actually have thrown well, including LHP Justin Wilson, RHP Shane Greene and RHP Alex Wilson. LF Justin Upton has the best numbers of any of the Tigers’ regulars, hitting .264/.385/.484 with five homers. 3B Nick Castellanos also is producing, with 16 extra-base hits, including 10 doubles.