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May 10, 2013

Overthinking It

This Week in Catcher Framing, 5/10

by Ben Lindbergh

No intro section this time; I should have a couple framing-related features on the way early next week, which I don't want to tease too much. Let's get right to the leaderboards and frames of the week.

***

League Leaders

The Best (min. 40 OZoneStrikes+ZoneBalls)

Ratio

Catcher

OZoneStrikes

ZoneBalls

Ratio

Jonathan Lucroy

146

72

2.03

Hank Conger

44

28

1.57

Carlos Corporan

61

43

1.42

Yadier Molina

139

105

1.32

Jose Molina

90

69

1.30

Evan Gattis

95

73

1.30

David Ross

58

47

1.23

Martin Maldonado

39

32

1.22

Francisco Cervelli

73

62

1.18

Michael McKenry

30

26

1.15

 

Runs

Catcher

OZoneStrikes

ZoneBalls

Runs

Jonathan Lucroy

146

72

9.6

Yadier Molina

139

105

4.4

Evan Gattis

95

73

2.9

Jose Molina

90

69

2.7

Carlos Corporan

61

43

2.3

Hank Conger

44

28

2.1

David Ross

58

47

1.4

Francisco Cervelli

73

62

1.4

Martin Maldonado

39

32

0.9

Erik Kratz

76

69

0.9

Michael McKenry

30

26

0.5

 

The Worst (min. 40 OZoneStrikes+ZoneBalls)

Ratio

Catcher

OZoneStrikes

ZoneBalls

Ratio

Ryan Doumit

13

55

0.24

Jesus Montero

41

113

0.36

Kelly Shoppach

31

74

0.42

Yan Gomes

22

50

0.44

Wilin Rosario

60

128

0.47

A.J. Pierzynski

53

106

0.50

Matt Wieters

90

179

0.50

Rob Brantly

65

129

0.50

Henry Blanco

20

38

0.53

John Buck

67

125

0.54

Chris Iannetta

67

124

0.54

 

Runs

Catcher

OZoneStrikes

ZoneBalls

Runs

Matt Wieters

90

179

-11.6

Jesus Montero

41

113

-9.4

Wilin Rosario

60

128

-8.8

Rob Brantly

65

129

-8.3

Nick Hundley

85

149

-8.3

John Buck

67

125

-7.5

Chris Iannetta

67

124

-7.4

A.J. Pierzynski

53

106

-6.9

Carlos Santana

71

120

-6.4

Kelly Shoppach

31

74

-5.6

Ryan Doumit

13

55

-5.5

 

This Week in Jose Molina, 5/02-5/08

Weekly Net Strikes: 6
Weekly Net Runs: 0.78
Weekly Playing Time: 3 G, 3 GS, 27.0 innings
Yearly Playing Time: 24 G, 20 GS, 170.3 innings
Yearly Net Strikes: 21
Yearly Net Runs: 2.7

Molina had another nice week and survived another knee scare. He's also hitting .167/.225/.242. If there was any doubt about how highly the Rays value his defense...

1. Date: 5/7
Batter: Edwin Encarnacion
Pitcher: Roberto Hernandez
Umpire: Marty Foster
Count: 1-0
Pitch type: 85-mph changeup
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.162 feet

This one is pretty impressive. That pitch was moving sharply inside, and Molina relaxed his glove, snagged the ball, and reversed its direction before it could move any farther away from the plate. Encarnacion showed his admiration in his own way.

2. Date: 5/7
Batter: J.P. Arencibia
Pitcher: Roberto Hernandez
Umpire: Marty Foster
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 85-mph slider
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.201 feet

The movement after it passed the plate makes it look farther outside than it was, but that's still a call that not many catchers could get.

1. Date: 5/7
Batter: Adam Lind
Pitcher: Cesar Ramos
Umpire: Marty Foster
Count: 3-0
Pitch type: 92-mph sinker
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.204 feet

This looks inside, but it's a 3-0 pitch, which raises the strike probability considerably. Molina caught it very casually, as if he didn't expect to get the call (or, I suppose, as if he was sure he would).

This Week in Jonathan Lucroy, 5/02-5/08

Weekly Net Strikes: 11
Weekly Net Runs: 1.43
Weekly Playing Time: 4 G, 3 GS, 27.0 innings
Yearly Playing Time: 26 G, 24 GS, 217.0 innings
Yearly Net Strikes: 74
Yearly Net Runs: 9.6

3. Date: 5/3
Batter: Allen Craig
Pitcher: Kyle Lohse
Umpire: Dale Scott
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 84-mph slider
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.316 feet


2. Date: 5/8
Batter: Ian Kinsler
Pitcher: Alfredo Figaro
Umpire: Tim Timmons
Count: 2-1
Pitch type: 96-mph four-seamer
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.317 feet

1. Date: 5/5
Batter: Pete Kozma
Pitcher: Michael Gonzalez
Umpire: C.B. Bucknor
Count: 0-1
Pitch type: 83-mph changeup
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.422 feet


This is the second-best frame of the week (by anyone, not just Lucroy). Just like last week, all of Lucroy's top three receptions came on low pitches. One of these weeks, I'd like to look at whether the Brewers throw especially low as a staff to capitalize on his talents.

Best Frames of the Week

1. Date: 5/2
Catcher: Yadier Molina
Batter: Alex Gonzalez
Pitcher: Jake Westbrook
Umpire: Todd Tichenor
Count: 2-2
Pitch type: 91-mph sinker
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.381

Big Bro would've been proud.

4. Date: 5/6
Catcher: Derek Norris
Batter: Jason Giambi
Pitcher: Jarrod Parker
Umpire: Angel Hernandez
Count: 3-1
Pitch type: 90-mph four-seamer
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.392 feet

It has to be gratifying when a frame brings a bat flip to a halt. Giambi tries to play it off as if he wasn't halfway into his trot toward first base.

3. Date: 5/2
Catcher: Martin Maldonado
Batter: Matt Holliday
Pitcher: Alfredo Figaro
Umpire: Todd Tichenor
Count: 1-0
Pitch type: 96-mph four-seamer
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.409 feet

Lucroy isn't the only Brewers catcher who can make low pitches look good.

2. Date: 5/5
Batter: Pete Kozma
Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy
Pitcher: Michael Gonzalez
Umpire: C.B. Bucknor
Count: 0-1
Pitch type: 83-mph changeup
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.422 feet

This is the best Lucroy frame we saw earlier.

1. Date: 5/4
Catcher: Martin Maldonado
Batter: Matt Carpenter
Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo
Umpire: Bill Miller
Count: 1-1
Pitch type: 77-mph curveball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.517 feet

Aaand another by a Brewer. The top three frames of the week all came courtesy of Brewers catchers. Milwaukee's staff is spoiled.

Worst Frames of the Week

5. Date: 5/7
Catcher: Miguel Montero
Batter: Andre Ethier
Pitcher: Brandon McCarthy
Umpire: Paul Emmel
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 92-mph sinker
Distance from Center: 0.467 feet

Arencibia-esque. (See below.)

4. Date: 5/4
Catcher: Nick Hundley
Batter: Wil Nieves
Pitcher: Joe Thatcher
Umpire: Dan Bellino
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 85-mph four-seamer
Distance from Center: 0.405 feet

Hundley probably could have done a better job of reaching out for that pitch to intercept it before it swept all the way across the strike zone.

3. Date: 5/5
Catcher: J.P. Arencibia
Batter: Kendrys Morales
Pitcher: Brandon Morrow
Umpire: Lance Barksdale
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 84-mph slider
Distance from Center: 0.309 feet

I wrote about Arencibia getting crossed up and costing his pitchers strikes last week, and he's still at it. "There's a pitch right there that J.P. just, again, took away from Brandon Morrow," said Blue Jays broadcaster Jack Morris. "It's a ball right down the middle, but the way he caught it is killing the pitcher. That's a strike all day long, but the way he caught it, the home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale is not going to call it a strike."

Arencibia didn't receive the next pitch cleanly, either, and he went to talk to Morrow on the mound. That gave Buck Martinez a chance to chime in:

"Mike Sciosciaand I believe Mike Scioscia is one of the best guys that understands catching, he did such a great jobsaid the most important thing for him, as far as what he wants from his catchers, is to receive the ball in the strike zone. And Scioscia always felt that was the no. 1 priority." Arencibia has already been banned from catching the knuckleball, forcing the Jays to pair R.A. Dickey with light-hitting Henry Blanco. Not being able to catch sliders would be a bigger issue.

2. Date: 5/7
Catcher: Chris Stewart
Batter: Carlos Gonzalez
Pitcher: Hiroki Kuroda
Umpire: Ron Kulpa
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 90-mph four-seamer
Distance from Center: 0.300 feet

I said nice things about Chris Stewart last week. I still say nice things about him, but not about that pitch in particular.

1. Date: 5/4
Catcher: Tyler Flowers
Batter: Salvador Perez
Pitcher: Dylan Axelrod
Umpire: Kerwin Danley
Count: 1-1 
Pitch type: 81-mph slider
Distance from Center: 0.276 feet

That one was on the stabby side.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

BayCityM

What I am still trying to reconcile is how many in the zone balls the best catchers rack up. It seems to me that in order to win a large amount of pitches outside the zone you have to give something up inside the zone. It just strikes me as odd that the best catcher outside the zone would not also be the best catcher inside the zone.

May 10, 2013 14:51 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Well, I'm not sure that's not the case. On pitches inside the zone but within two inches of the zone edge, Jose Molina has the lowest rate of called balls (49/390, 12.56%), followed by Lucroy (50/396, 12.63%) and Yadier (75/572, 13.11%). The best catchers in the league in terms of the percentage of all in-zone pitches called strikes are Hank Conger, Lucroy, David Ross, Erik Kratz, Jose Molina, Evan Gattis, and Yadier Molina. (Thanks to Ryan Lind for those numbers.)

So, for instance, Yadier Molina has 105 ZoneBalls on that leaderboard, which looks like a lot relative to everyone else on the list. But that would only by good for 19th place on a ZoneBalls leaderboard. And it's only that high because Yadier plays so much. He's caught all but nine of the Cardinals' innings, about 10 more than any other catcher, and way more than anyone else on the Ratio leaderboard.

Let me know if that answers your question.

May 10, 2013 22:29 PM
 
NeauxBrainers
(108)

I'm in an extrapolation mood. Trying to evaluate Dickey moving forward in a Rotisserie league. Comparing 2013 to 2012, how much is the Toronto catching/framing impacting his performance so far? As compared to his great success with the Mets last year?

May 11, 2013 06:19 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Not very much, I don't think. Maybe if Arencibia were still catching him. Knuckleballs are tough to frame. They're hard enough to catch, period. I'd like to see Molina catch a knuckleballer.

May 11, 2013 07:59 AM
 
SaxonB

I know that Conger's sample size is smaller than everyone else's but it has made me pay attention more to his framing of late when watching Angels games and it does seem, from the comfy confines of my couch, to be much stronger than Chris Iannetta. Its a bit of surprise also since Conger's defense has never been considered his strong point. Then again, I probably shouldn't be conflating defense and framing...?

Frieri's strike out pitch to end the game in the Bottom of the ninth against the white sox on 5.10 is a good example. I humbly submit it for Best of the Week next week.

It's a borderline pitch according to Brooks, ( http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/numlocation.php?pitchSel=457117&game=gid_2013_05_10_anamlb_chamlb_1/&batterX=79&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=3) but Conger does a good job framing it.

Also, I wonder if this at all as to do with Conger's increased playing time. Iannetta has been struggling at the plate so that could easily be the reason...buuuut a catcher struggling at offensive has never stopped Scioscia from running him out there on the daily in the past (Mathis, Wilson, etc).



May 11, 2013 11:35 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I think it's fair to conflate framing and defense, although maybe historically framing has tended to be overlooked relative to other aspects of catching. And you're right, Conger/Iannetta could be the new Mathis/Napoli.

May 11, 2013 12:15 PM
 
John Carter

For those who weren't convinced statistically that pitch framing exists, these gifs of Molina surely must quell those skeptics.

May 11, 2013 12:03 PM
rating: -1
 
sbnirish77

This is like a Who's Who of bad umpires. Confounded results? Or the best catchers just get the worst out of the bad umpires?

May 12, 2013 06:43 AM
rating: 0
 
soBC

The pitch to Morrow is the damning evidence. If umpires need more than a plate in the ground and a batter to determine whether its a ball or a strike is the nail in the coffin. The fact that they can be at best biased - or at worst fooled - by a catcher (or any other distraction) is just another data point for using technology to accurately call balls and strikes.

Players and coaches may not like it, but as I recall they have been initially against all kinds of things over baseball's history: PED testing and desegregation come to mind. Two extreme examples to be sure, but the fact is that Ted Williams was right about the strike zone. When Brandon Morrow throws a pitch down the middle of the plate and it's not called a strike, everybody loses in the long run. We need umpires behind the plate, but leave balls and strikes to the electrons.

May 12, 2013 07:47 AM
rating: 1
 
DABanales

Ben, is there an existing article about catcher framing calls in relation to umpires? Are there any umpires that are not as easily fooled the by greatness of Molina? Are there some umpires that are consistently fooled by likes of Molina and Lucroy?

May 12, 2013 20:27 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Certain umps have smaller zones, of course, but I'm not sure whether certain umps are less susceptible to persuasion by certain catchers--haven't really seen anything on that subject. I would guess yes, but that the sample sizes might be too small to say anything conclusive.

May 12, 2013 21:49 PM
 
DABanales

Molina in the Ramos/Lind gif: Is standing up after a pitch up in the zone part and getting it quickly back the pitcher a framing trick?

May 13, 2013 01:19 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I don't think so, or at least I haven't noticed him doing it regularly. Normally you want to minimize movement. I've seen him set up higher than normal for a high pitch, but the standing up looked to me like some sort of response to the baserunners.

May 13, 2013 01:23 AM
 
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