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August 26, 2013

Overthinking It

This Week in Catcher Framing, 8/23

by Ben Lindbergh

Haven't done one of these in a while, but absence from framing makes the heart grow fonder. Time to play catch-up!

We'll start with Vin Scully, who just decided to return for season no. 65. If you don't follow me, you might've missed this, and we can't have that:

Welcome, rookie receivers
In mid-April, I emailed the BP Prospect Staff to ask about the best receivers in the minors. This was before Max Marchi debuted his method for estimating minor-league framing, so we were reliant on scouting info alone. I received three responses: Austin Hedges, Max Stassi, and Travis d'Arnaud. Hedges, who can do everything on defense, was promoted to Double-A early this month, so he doesn't have the sort of sample in the upper minors that would allow us to assess his receiving statistically. But both Stassi and d'Arnaud are in the majors as of this month.
We've seen Stassi make an embarrassing rookie mistake on the bases, and the next day get drilled in the head, but since he's only DH'd to this point, we've yet to see how he looks behind the plate. (Max had him rated as a run worse than average over 76 games for Double-A Corpus Christi.)

D'Arnaud is a different story. Not only has he caught, but his receiving skills have already received some serious praise from his pitchers. Matt Harvey went so far as to suggest that d'Arnaud has Molina-like qualities, and d'Arnaud himself revealed that he emulates Russell Martin's ability to make the low strike look good (something we've heard Martin describe). That jibes with what Jason Cole told me this spring: that a pitcher friend of his had raved about d'Arnaud having the strongest wrists he'd seen, enabling him to throw sinkers below the zone for strikes throughout the game. According to Max's method, he was two runs better than average in a combined 26 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season.

After his start against Atlanta on Tuesday, Mets starter Zack Wheeler said, "When the balls are down, he does something that makes them look like they're strikes. It's ridiculous. I had a couple that I threw and I knew they were balls, but they looked like strikes after he framed them up." This is what he was talking about: the lowest strike d'Arnaud has received so far.


And here's another, this time a little higher but slightly off the edge:


D'Arnaud is quick to bring the ball back into the strike zone, but he doesn't disguise that movement quite as well as Jonathan Lucroy (for comparison's sake, check out the third Lucroy GIF below). The snap back is slightly exaggerated, which is something an umpire could pick up on, but the body is still. We'll see what the stats say over a larger sample, but according to Brandon McCarthy, pitchers can get a good feel for a catcher's receiving skills quickly. And d'Arnaud's batterymates are already big believers.

2013 League Leaders (Out-of-zone strikes and in-zone balls, not adjusted for other factors)

The Best (min. 180 OZoneStrikes+ZoneBalls)

Ratio

Catcher

OZoneStrikes

ZoneBalls

Ratio

Yasmani Grandal

130

82

1.59

Jonathan Lucroy

540

356

1.52

Hank Conger

214

151

1.42

Martin Maldonado

170

127

1.34

David Ross

105

82

1.28

Erik Kratz

197

172

1.15

Chris Stewart

338

304

1.11

Evan Gattis

143

130

1.10

Jose Molina

282

259

1.09

Yadier Molina

415

382

1.09

The Worst (min. 180 OZoneStrikes+ZoneBalls)

Ratio

Catcher

OZoneStrikes

ZoneBalls

Ratio

Ryan Doumit

53

244

0.22

Jesus Montero

56

145

0.39

Rob Brantly

157

358

0.44

Anthony Recker

73

158

0.46

Kelly Shoppach

84

181

0.46

Henry Blanco

90

193

0.47

Carlos Santana

208

445

0.47

Gerald Laird

72

145

0.50

John Buck

254

507

0.50

Chris Iannetta

228

451

0.51

John Jaso

110

216

0.51

***

This Week(s) in Jose Molina, 7/25-8/21

Weekly Net Strikes: 5
Weekly Playing Time: 13 G, 12 GS, 106.1 innings
Yearly Playing Time: 76 G, 68 GS, 585.1 innings
Yearly Net Strikes: 23

3. Date: 8/17
Batter: Maicer Izturis
Pitcher: Roberto Hernandez
Umpire: Jerry Layne
Count: 2-2
Pitch type: 87-mph changeup
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.322 feet

That ball would have hit Molina's right foot if he hadn't intercepted it.

2. Date: 8/17
Batter: Edwin Encarnacion
Pitcher: Alex Torres
Umpire: Jerry Layne
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 95-mph two-seam fastball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.335 feet

The first of a few frames this week that make the batter freeze.

1. Date: 8/10
Batter: Andre Ethier
Pitcher: Roberto Hernandez
Umpire: Paul Nauert
Count: 1-0
Pitch type: 86-mph slider
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.395

I missed this series.

***

This Week(s) in Jonathan Lucroy, 7/25-8/21

Weekly Net Strikes: 32
Weekly Playing Time: 21 G, 21 GS, 182.0 innings
Yearly Playing Time: 99 G, 96 GS, 844.1 innings
Yearly Net Strikes: 184

3. Date: 8/14
Batter: Leonys Martin
Pitcher: Tyler Thornburg
Umpire: Bob Davidson
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 93-mph four-seam fastball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.393 feet

"Maybe if stay very, very still, he'll reverse the strike call."

2. Date: 7/30
Batter: David DeJesus
Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo
Umpire: Jim Reynolds
Count: 1-0
Pitch type: 77-mph curveball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.436 feet

Not quite the cleanest catch by Lucroy. When he's at his best, you can blink and miss all the movement. Speaking of which:

1. Date: 8/3
Batter: Bryce Harper
Pitcher: Rob Wooten
Umpire: Chris Conroy
Count: 1-0
Pitch type: 85-mph slider
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.507 feet

Yeah, that's the one.

***

Best Frames of the Week

5. Date: 8/7
Catcher: Hank Conger
Batter: Mitch Moreland
Pitcher: Nick Maronde
Umpire: Tim Timmons
Count: 2-0
Pitch type: 91-mph sinker
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.526 feet

Conger sets up at an angle here, almost Ryan Hanigan-style. That pitch is not suitable for Mitch Morelands.

4. Date: 7/31
Catcher: Wil Nieves
Batter: Desmond Jenings
Pitcher: Wade Miley
Umpire: Tom Hallion
Count: 1-0
Pitch type: 91-mph two-seam fastball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.536 feet

Nieves almost seems to frame this one the wrong way, pushing it back a bit toward the corner, but he doesn't move any more of himself than he has to.

3. Date: 8/18
Catcher: Tuffy Gosewisch
Batter: Charlie Morton
Pitcher: Wade Miley
Umpire: Mike Estabrook
Count: 2-0
Pitch type: 92-mph two-seam fastball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.542 feet

Gosewisch makes me pay for leaving him out of the "Welcome, rookie receivers" section. Just so we're all clear on this, there's now a major leaguer named Tuffy Gosewisch.

2. Date: 8/2
Catcher: Buster Posey
Batter: Kelly Johnson
Pitcher: Sergio Romo
Umpire: Andy Fletcher
Count: 3-0
Pitch type: 86-mph four-seam fastball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.549 feet

This isn't exactly subtle, but with the strike zone swollen on 3-0, it doesn't have to be. Still, the strike call sends Johnson staggering out of the batter's box.

1. Date: 7/25
Catcher: Austin Romine
Batter: Ian Kinsler
Pitcher: Hiroki Kuroda
Umpire: Vic Carapazza
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 84-mph splitter
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.593 feet

Romine gets low with a wide stance here, but he also does an almost Doumit-esque sweep of his throwing arm concurrent with the catch. Kinsler can only wonder what kind of screwed-up world would work this way.

***

Worst Frames of the Week

5. Date: 8/8
Catcher: Hector Sanchez
Batter: Juan Francisco
Pitcher: Tim Lincecum
Umpire: Adrian Johnson
Count: 1-1
Pitch type: 90-mph two-seam fastball
Distance from Center: 0.359 feet

This bears a certain resemblance to the Little League scoop frame.

4. Date: 8/16
Catcher: Welington Castillo
Batter: Rob Johnson
Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
Umpire: Ron Kulpa
Count: 1-1
Pitch type: 94-mph sinker
Distance from Center: 0.331 feet

Not sure what either of the people behind the plate is up to here. Close as I can tell, Ron Kulpa said "BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA," and Castillo got scared and slid to safety in the left-handed batter's box.

3. Date: 8/11
Catcher: Tony Cruz
Batter: Donnie Murphy
Pitcher: Joe Kelly
Umpire: Tony Randazzo
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 96-mph two-seam fastball
Distance from Center: 0.312 feet

Tony Cruz had to be taken out of cold storage when Yadier Molina got injured, so you can understand why he might look sort of stiff. This motion is too stabby to get the strike.

2. Date: 8/16
Catcher: Yorvit Torrealba
Batter: Matt Wieters
Pitcher: Rex Brothers
Umpire: Paul Emmel
Count: 1-1
Pitch type: 93-mph two-seam fastball
Distance from Center: 0.246 feet

Same as above, but worse. Torrealba looks like the ball caught him.

1. Date: 8/4
Catcher: Carlos Ruiz
Batter: Brian McCann
Pitcher: Cliff Lee
Umpire: Kerwin Danley
Count: 0-2
Pitch type: 76-mph curveball
Distance from Center: 0.246 feet

Getting crossed up is never fun, but it's worse than usual when you get a nasty curveball from Cliff Lee.

***

Bonus Worst Ryan Doumit Frame of the Week
Date: 8/4
Batter: Chris Carter
Pitcher: Mike Pelfrey
Umpire: Jim Reynolds
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 76-mph curveball
Distance from Center: 0.360 feet

A tentative attempt, but not as bad as some of the things we've seen Doumit do.

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

3 comments have been left for this article.

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