May 18, 2013
This Week in Catcher Framing, 5/18
Framing-related links of the week
Estimated historical framing: More great work by Max Marchi, who used Retrosheet pitch-by-pitch data to estimate framing performance going back to 1988. He also took a look at how receiving skills age. Next on his to-do list: estimated framing for minor leaguers, and the quantification of game-calling.
How teams are embracing framing: I did a feature for Grantland on what teams are doing to target and cultivate good receiving skills. After some background on the importance of framing, much of which would be familiar to BP readers, I got into how the Astros are focusing on framing thanks to our old friend Mike Fast, how the Yankees have made it a priority, and the degree to which it can be taught. Maybe the most interesting quote, courtesy of Yankees catcher Chris Stewart:
Q&A on framing with Russell Martin: I sat down with Pirates catcher and fine framer Russell Martin and showed him video of borderline pitches he’s caught over the past few seasons. He walked me through how he helped make them strikes.
I have another meaty Q&A with Ryan Hanigan coming on Monday at Grantland, plus several interesting framing-related interview excerpts at BP throughout the coming week, so stay tuned for those.
The Best (min. 50 OZoneStrikes+ZoneBalls)
The Worst (min. 50 OZoneStrikes+ZoneBalls)
This Week in Jose Molina, 5/09-5/15
An unremarkable week for Molina, albeit with a few pretty performances.
Another reason for Bautista to be angry at umpires.
Molina sets up way on the outside corner here so that the pitch off the edge is centered in his body. He also angles himself to give the umpire a good look. Ryan Hanigan uses this technique to great effect, as he explains in great detail in the Q&A coming Monday. Other people I spoke to pointed out that while this method this might work well, not every catcher is comfortable catching this way.
This isn’t a swinging strike, but I would guess that the check swing influences the umpire’s decision. Here’s how this Headley plate appearance ended:
Another check swing, and this time a high strike. Hard to isolate Molina’s influence here. The check swing might have the same effect as a good frame. (Check swings are one of the next topics I plan to tackle.)
This Week in Jonathan Lucroy, 5/09-5/15
Weekly Net Strikes: 0
An even more unremarkable week for Lucroy, who broke even. But he did manage to make Starling Marte’s week a little worse.
3. Date: 5/13
Far from the lowest pitch we've seen Lucroy frame this season, but nicely timed nonetheless.
1. Date: 5/13
The 2-0 count helped a bit here.
Best Frames of the Week
Welcome back, Brian. Ryan Hanigan told me that he makes a point of setting up low so that he can always get under the ball and bring it back up. McCann’s crouch is similar.
Stewart up to his usual tricks. In the Q&A with him I’ll be publishing at BP in the coming week, the 6’4” catcher talks a bit about the difficulty of framing low pitches. Stewart suffered a groin pull on Thursday, but his MRI came up clean, so he seems to have avoided the disabled list.
The reception looked a little tentative, and visibly clenching the non-glove hand while catching the ball is something I’ve seen Ryan Doumit do. But Ruiz does prevent the ball from moving any farther inside after he catches it, which is the crucial thing.
Shoppach caught that one as far forward as he could to prevent it from sinking too far to get the strike, and he did a good job of sticking it. That’s a difficult call to get on 0-2, when the strike zone shrinks.
This one was inside all the way, and it ended the game. Jerry Layne is fairly generous with his strike calls outside to lefties, which could help explain the previous pitch from Capps to Nix, but he doesn’t seem to have any particular tendency to call strikes inside to righties. Mariano Rivera lives on the edges and gets a wider zone than the typical pitcher, so that’s probably part of it, but Romine did a good job of getting inside the ball and catching it with his glove already moving back toward the plate. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if the Yankees replaced the injured Francisco Cervelli with another strong framer. Maybe we’ll have a better idea of Romine’s capabilities when Max finishes working on his estimated framing stats for minor leaguers.
Worst Frames of the Week
Pena was so sure he was going to get this strike that he immediately popped up to whip the ball to third. Maybe that cost him. The 0-2 count didn’t help.
Rodriguez wanted the call, but didn’t get it. McKenry has historically rated poorly as a receiver, but it doesn’t appear that he did anything awful here. Maybe he set up too far outside, so that the pitch didn't appear centered.
Wieters moved his glove quite a bit while that one was on the way.
See how Flowers reorients his glove at the last second and kind of cradles or scoops the ball? Hanigan told me how costly that can be. He tries to keep the glove from making any extreme movements, shifting his arm instead if he has to.
Is there a lesser known backup catcher on a contending team than Tony Cruz? A couple weeks ago, I did a guest post at McCovey Chronicles when Grant Brisbee was on paternity leave. The post was about how the Giants were carrying three catchers, and how one of them never played. I included some data on the players with the least playing time to that point who had been on a big-league roster since Opening Day, and Cruz was at the top of the list. One of Yadier Molina’s many skills is the ability to stay healthy and productive despite almost never taking an inning off. Poor Tony Cruz.
In the small sample that we have, Cruz rates as a below-average receiver, according to Max’s stats, but Miller missed his spot on this one. Baxter still took a strike toward the dugout, expecting to be rung up.