Maldonado is not well known for his bat, as indicated by his .212 career average. But Maldonado’s performance in Game 5 did not surprise Mike Scioscia, who managed Maldonado in 2017 and most of ’18 when both were with the Angels.
Scioscia went so far as to say that Maldonado was never an easy out regardless what the batting average says. One of Maldonado's best years at the plate was in 2017, when he reached career highs in home runs (14) and hits (95).
“One of his skill sets -- as he did last night -- was he walked with the bases loaded. He never really chased out of the zone very often,” Scioscia said via telephone. “He commanded the zone. You look at some of the baseball numbers, he wasn’t elite in a lot of areas. He was always a tough at-bat.
“If you made a mistake, he had enough power to drive the ball out of the park. He was always [capable] of putting the ball in play when he had to. He was good at hit-and-run. There’s a lot of things that Martín brings on the offensive side that will not show up in a lot of overall numbers.”
From a defensive standpoint, Maldonado won his only Gold Glove in 2017. But awards don’t tell the whole story. The Astros love the way he handles a pitching staff, and Scioscia felt the same way when he had Maldonado on the Angels' roster.
“Martín is an elite defensive catcher for a number of reasons," Scioscia said. "It’s easy to look at his arm. It’s easy to look at his mobility, the way he handles the catching box back there of blocking balls and shifting, and the way he receives.
“The biggest impact he has on a ballgame is his ability to bring a game plan into a game and make the adjustments you need to for each given hitter. If something is working better or not working for a pitcher. He was incredible with us at understanding the importance of pitching ahead in the count. I can’t speak enough for his mental skills. He is an intelligent catcher. His baseball IQ is tremendous."
When told he sounded like Astros manager Dusty Baker in describing Maldonado’s skills behind the plate, Scioscia said, “I kind of grew with the game the way Dusty did on some positions. If you have an elite defender at shortstop, center fielder and catcher, you want those guys in there every day because they are going to have an impact on your season than someone with a little more bat, but a lot less defensively.”