August 26, 2013
This Week in Catcher Framing, 8/23
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)
The Worst (min. 180 OZoneStrikes+ZoneBalls)
This Week(s) in Jose Molina, 7/25-8/21
That ball would have hit Molina's right foot if he hadn't intercepted it.
The first of a few frames this week that make the batter freeze.
1. Date: 8/10
I missed this series.
This Week(s) in Jonathan Lucroy, 7/25-8/21
Weekly Net Strikes: 32
"Maybe if stay very, very still, he'll reverse the strike call."
Not quite the cleanest catch by Lucroy. When he's at his best, you can blink and miss all the movement. Speaking of which:
Yeah, that's the one.
Best Frames of the Week
Conger sets up at an angle here, almost Ryan Hanigan-style. That pitch is not suitable for Mitch Morelands.
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.
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.
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.
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
This bears a certain resemblance to the Little League scoop frame.
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.
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.
Same as above, but worse. Torrealba looks like the ball caught him.
Getting crossed up is never fun, but it's worse than usual when you get a nasty curveball from Cliff Lee.
A tentative attempt, but not as bad as some of the things we've seen Doumit do.