July 29, 2013
This Week in Catcher Framing, 7/26
We were off last week because of the All-Star break, so this edition will cover the two weeks since last time.
As luck would have/not have it, Arencibia shows up in both this week's best and this week's worst frames, so while he may be better, he hasn't perfected his new technique.
2013 League Leaders (Out-of-zone strikes and in-zone balls, not adjusted for other factors)
The Best (min. 180 OZoneStrikes+ZoneBalls)
This Week in Jose Molina, 7/11-7/24
Over the last month, Molina has hit .152/.245/.261, spoiling what was until that point a pretty productive season at the plate. Maybe he's wearing down, or maybe it's just a slump, but either way, it raises some conflicting feelings. We don't talk much about Molina's offense in this space, since "This Week in Molina Hits Groundballs and Fails to Beat Them Out" wouldn't have the same appeal, but I'm always torn between two wishes. On the one hand, I want him to hit well, both because I want him to keep catching and because once you've watched one man catch baseballs and move them slightly up or down or to the side enough times, you start to feel a certain fondness for him. On the other hand, I want to know how bad he'd have to be for the Rays to stop starting him, because that would tell us where they think the breakeven point is for a great framer who can't hit (and by extension, what they think the skill is worth). Sure, one of those options involves Molina losing his livelihood, but either way, we learn something!
Borderline low and borderline outside, but Molina sets up low and outside himself, which helps him get the strike.
2. Date: 7/20
Second verse, same as the first (except on the inside corner this time).
Price misses his spot by quite a bit here. Molina seems to be expecting something on the outside corner, but the pitch cuts across the plate and ends up inside. Some catchers would react late and stab at the ball, drawing the umpire's attention to the pitch's distance from the target, but Molina keeps his glove loose and makes it look like a minor adjustment. "It just seems like every pitch you throw, he's able to catch it clean, frame it, and make it look like a strike," Price said recently. "We love him for it." This is why.
This Week in Jonathan Lucroy, 7/11-7/24
Net Strikes: 14
You're about to see some of the best moments of Jonathan Lucroy's last couple weeks. But first, one of the worst:
He looked like that for a minute or two more. And according to Yahoo! Answers, this wasn't the first time.
The low Lucroy specialty, with the traditional token of appreciation from Hechavarria.
Even lower, and Pennington's look back might be a top-10 framed batter reaction of 2013.
Trying to catch Lucroy's glove closing is like trying to watch a hummingbird's wings beat once.
Best Frames of the Week
Buck rates pretty poorly as a receiver, but he does a nice job with this low offering from Burke.
Once you've caught R.A. Dickey, Aaron Loup is easy. Thole's glove almost seems to circle toward the ball, but he holds it steady after he catches the pitch.
Flowers rates well as a receiver, and a Chicago radio host told me that he's focused on his receiving skills even more since coming across online analysis of its value. This is the way to do it.
Here's the new Arencibia, showing very little pre- or post-pitch body or glove movement. Impressive, right? One of the questions I tried to answer in my feature on framing at Grantland was whether a bad framer could become a good framer, and if so, how long it might take. The consensus was that it was possible, but that it's generally not something that happens overnight. Arencibia might be an exception.
Is it just me, or is the camera at Target Field a little on the high side? I like a direct center-field angle as much as the next guy, but this one makes me think every pitch is low. Gomes does a good job here of making the umpire think the opposite.
Worst Frames of the Week
Ramos has historically rated well, and Strasburg's fastball is far from straight, but this one likely clipped the outside corner.
Compare this reception to the Price pitch to Molina above. It doesn't miss the target by more, but Rosario makes it look like it does, stabbing at the last second rather than smoothly shifting the glove to meet the ball. Then he holds the ball in place for a beat until he remembers, "Riiight, I'm Wilin Rosario, and I'm not going to get this call."
A lot of excess movement here. Hundley never stops sliding toward the outside corner.
2. Date: 7/22
Okay, so Arencibia is still a work in progress.
This is Harvey's "I would've preferred to get that call" face.
I can't think of another catcher who clenches his throwing hand directly between the ball and the umpire while receiving the pitch. On the bright side, Doumit has perfected his staredown of the runner on third.