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07-10

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9

The Call-Up: Christian Vazquez
by
Al Skorupa and Ben Carsley

05-19

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6

Overthinking It: The Way in Which the A's Are Still Old-School
by
Ben Lindbergh

03-31

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4

Framing the Future
by
Harry Pavlidis

02-27

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13

Skewed Left: What it Means to Move Off Catcher
by
Zachary Levine

08-29

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4

Overthinking It: Erik Kratz, and Another Thing About Catchers That We Can't Quantify Yet
by
Ben Lindbergh

05-01

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4

Scouting the Draft: Catchers to Know
by
Nick J. Faleris

01-07

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3

Wezen-Ball: Through the Years: Mike Piazza
by
Larry Granillo

11-30

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3

BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 92: Why the Twins' New Prospect Isn't Their Type/Why Didn't Russell Martin Make More Money?
by
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

11-13

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25

Overthinking It: The 50-Run Receiver
by
Ben Lindbergh

11-08

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22

Overthinking It: Why Nobody Gets Caught Stealing
by
Ben Lindbergh

09-14

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8

Raising Aces: The Man in the Ironic Mask
by
Doug Thorburn

09-14

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20

Pebble Hunting: The Best Story of 2012
by
Sam Miller

09-14

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4

Prospect Profile: Austin Hedges
by
Hudson Belinsky

09-13

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4

Head Games: Salvador Perez and the Art of Setting Up
by
Will Woods

09-10

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3

BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 38: The Greatness of Yadier Molina and the Not-So-Greatness of Omar Vizquel
by
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

07-20

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3

Wezen-Ball: The 1,000-foot Baseball Drop
by
Larry Granillo

02-20

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19

Prospectus Preview: AL East 2012 Preseason Preview
by
R.J. Anderson and Jason Collette

07-22

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20

Wezen-Ball: The Joy of Catching a Foul Ball
by
Larry Granillo

07-21

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5

Overthinking It: The Avila Advantage
by
Ben Lindbergh

06-03

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24

Baseball ProGUESTus: Can Baseball Expertise Be a Bad Thing?
by
Sam Miller

09-28

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5

Kiss'Em Goodbye: Los Angeles Angels
by
Tommy Bennett, Kevin Goldstein and ESPN Insider

08-29

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2

Between The Numbers: The PITCHf/x Summit Quasi-Liveblog
by
Ben Lindbergh

07-29

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8

Transaction Action: Podzilla Washes Up in Malibu?
by
Christina Kahrl

07-07

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19

Future Shock: Making a Match for Cliff Lee
by
Kevin Goldstein

07-05

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17

Under The Knife: Reactivation
by
Will Carroll

05-13

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24

Checking the Numbers: Caught Quantifying
by
Eric Seidman

05-05

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15

Checking the Numbers: Catchers on Catching
by
Eric Seidman

04-02

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7

Future Shock: Grapefruit League Scouting Notebook, Part 2
by
Kevin Goldstein

01-06

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1

Prospectus Q&A: Pedro Grifol
by
David Laurila

11-20

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1

Prospectus Q&A: Lou Marson and David Huff
by
David Laurila

07-12

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8

Future Shock: Futures Game Viewing Guide
by
Kevin Goldstein

06-14

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49

Prospectus Idol Entry: The Curious Case of Brandon Inge Battin'
by
Ken Funck

04-07

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19

Catcher Fatigue
by
Ben Lindbergh

03-13

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6

Prospectus Q&A: John Dewan
by
David Laurila

12-15

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4

Prospectus Q&A: Rico Carty
by
Carlos J. Lugo

09-21

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2

Prospectus Q&A: Butch Wynegar
by
David Laurila

08-11

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0

Transaction Analysis: Dunn Deal and Post-Deadline Detritus
by
Christina Kahrl

03-05

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0

Future Shock: Organizational Rankings, Part 2
by
Kevin Goldstein

02-29

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0

Transaction Analysis: NL East NRI Review
by
Christina Kahrl

11-18

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0

Prospectus Q&A: Andy Etchebarren
by
David Laurila

11-04

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0

Prospectus Q&A: Josh Paul
by
David Laurila

07-28

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0

Transaction Analysis: Swaps and Moves
by
Christina Kahrl

07-18

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0

Future Shock: Positional Rankings - Catcher
by
Kevin Goldstein

07-08

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0

Prospectus Q&A: Joe Mauer
by
David Laurila

07-08

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0

Wait 'Til Next Year: Cape Cod League Hitters
by
Bryan Smith

07-03

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0

Transaction Analysis Special
by
Christina Kahrl

06-07

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0

Player Profile: Russell Martin
by
Marc Normandin

04-06

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0

Future Shock: Double-A Preview
by
Kevin Goldstein

04-05

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0

Future Shock: Triple-A Preview
by
Kevin Goldstein

02-02

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0

Lies, Damned Lies: PECOTA Takes on Catching Prospects
by
Nate Silver

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July 10, 2014 6:00 am

The Call-Up: Christian Vazquez

9

Al Skorupa and Ben Carsley

The Red Sox replace A.J. Pierzynski with a talented defense-first catcher.

The Situation: A.J. Pierzynski and the Red Sox seemed like a nice fit over the winter, but neither his season nor Boston's season went as planned. Pierzynski’s free-swinging ways clashed with the selective lineup Ben Cherington assembled, and his glove was a weakness. As a result, the team grew increasing frustrated with the veteran backstop, leading to whispers that the Sox were contemplating jettisoning him as early as April. With Boston's catching prospects having fine seasons in the minors, the Sox finally pulled the plug on Pierzynski on Wednesday, calling up 23-year-old catcher Christian Vazquez. Vazquez’s breakout year at Pawtucket has tempted Boston to make this move for some time, and the hope is that he can inject a new energy with his impact defensive skills.

Background: The Red Sox took Vazquez in the ninth round of the 2008 draft out of Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and signed him for an $80,000 bonus. Even with a top-10-round grade, Vazquez was seen as a project on both sides of the ball, and his short, stout frame gave rise to concerns about his body, though those liabilities can sometimes turn into assets behind the plate in terms of durability. At the plate, Vazquez’s small frame isn't conducive to power. His bat speed isn’t a strength either, and swing-and-miss has been a big issue. Vazquez has always been able to throw, but the rest of his defensive game lagged behind. Concerns about his glove were such that in the low minors he saw time at third base, with a smattering of appearances at first and second. Over the last couple years, however, he's addressed many of these doubts.

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At one position, the A's are still Moneyballing like it's 1999.

For the most part, pitch receiving operates on a level that’s easy to overlook. Over thousands of pitches, certain catchers establish an edge, and those edges add up in a way we can’t see without looking at a leaderboard. Every now and then, though, framing on a small scale comes to the fore, usually when it leads to a larger event. Brett Lawrie, let’s say, strikes out looking out a pitch that appears to be outside, hurls his batting helmet at the home plate umpire, and gets ejected from the game. Our first impulse, like Lawrie’s, is to blame the umpire who blew the call. After reviewing the video, though, we realize that the real culprit was Jose Molina, in the catcher’s box, with the catcher’s glove. The ump was a red herring, a patsy, or maybe an unwitting accomplice.

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March 31, 2014 6:00 am

Framing the Future

4

Harry Pavlidis

The best receiving catchers (and the best receiving teams) of the upcoming season.

One of the benefits of our recently released catching defense metrics is they’re essentially ready-to-project, thanks to the regression feature of the model (the "R" in RPM). RPM also gives us two ways to assign value to framing, one using context (the ball-strike count) and one using a flat value (recently adjusted* to ~.155 runs).

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February 27, 2014 6:00 am

Skewed Left: What it Means to Move Off Catcher

13

Zachary Levine

How have players who've changed positions from catcher (like Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana) historically tended to do?

One of the favorite storylines this time of year is the positional change, whether it’s putting on an entirely different kind of glove or just moving over a few dozen feet to the left or right. Predicting performance changes is hard, but a positional change is something we can see, so it’s something we can write.

One of the least-favorite storylines—or at least most confusing—is when a positional change comes with a promise that the player will be able to improve on offense because he can spend more time working on it.

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Why "be quiet" might be the best advice for backstops.

Catchers’ contributions, more so than those of players at any other position, defy—or at least strongly resist—quantification. We’ve long had a handle on backstops’ ability to prevent stolen bases, block pitches in the dirt, and field batted balls. But that’s the low-hanging fruit and, unfortunately, a little less juicy than the revelations hiding on the higher branches.

We have made major strides in assessing receiving, which was almost impossible (statistically) before PITCHf/x, though some aspects of that skill remain tough to untangle. But there are still some significant unknowns. Game-calling, of course. Defensive positioning. And the nebulous, but probably important, art of “working with pitchers,” which can encompass everything from recognizing when a guy is gassed to knowing how and when to boost a batterymate’s confidence. (Confidence, of course, is another intangible quality, although if Gabe Kapler is correct, “there isn’t a factor more responsible for success.”)

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May 1, 2013 5:00 am

Scouting the Draft: Catchers to Know

4

Nick J. Faleris

Jon Denney heads a deep class of prep-school catchers in a draft for which the collegiate crop is thin.

The catching crop is deep at the prep ranks and light among the collegians this spring. Below is a look at some of the top names to know for the June draft, beginning with the cream of the catching crop.

Cream of the Crop

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A look at contemporary accounts from Mike Piazza's early career.

With the Hall of Fame announcement scheduled for this week, now is a good time to look back at the early careers of some of this year's most talked-about nominees. (And with the early exit polls looking as they do, it might be nice to remember just how great some of these players were.) Let's take a look back at some contemporary accounts of Mike Piazza's at-one-time obvious Hall of Fame career.

It's a famous story now that Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round and only as a favor to Los Angeles manager (and Piazza's godfather) Tommy Lasorda. It's a catchy story, after all. A man drafted that low isn't expected to amount to much of anything, let alone become a twelve-time All-Star or the career leader in home runs for a catcher. Today, for example, the draft doesn't even go to 62 rounds.

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Ben and Sam discuss why prospect Alex Meyer isn't the Twins' usual type, then wonder why teams didn't think Russell Martin was worth more than the Pirates paid him.

Ben and Sam discuss why prospect Alex Meyer isn't the Twins' usual type, then wonder why teams didn't think Russell Martin was worth more than the Pirates paid him.

Episode 92: "Why the Twins' New Prospect Isn't Their Type/Why Didn't Russell Martin Make More Money?"

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Is Jose Molina a stealth MVP candidate? Ben looks for photographic evidence.

The Tampa Bay Rays were eliminated from playoff contention on October 1st, falling short of their fourth playoff appearance in five seasons, but it wasn’t because of their pitching. The staff’s walk rate fell from 3.1 per nine innings in 2011 to 2.9 in 2012, and its strikeout rate rose from 7.1 strikeouts per inning to 8.5, good enough to set a single-season AL strikeout record. Granted, it wasn’t exactly the same group of pitchers in both seasons, and the strikeout rate rose across the league. But the pitching improvement wasn’t just maturation on the part of the pitchers or another manifestation of the game’s trend toward more strikeouts. There was also a Molina in the machine.

In March, I mentioned the Rays’ Jose Molina signing as one of my favorite moves of the offseason, writing “Molina for $1.5 million (plus an option for 2013 at the same price) might be the best value any team got from the free agent market this winter.” The month before, Max Marchi had summarized Molina’s weaknesses (hitting and blocking) and strengths (framing and throwing) in a piece called “What Are the Rays Expecting from Jose Molina?” Like Mike Fast, Max found that Molina was among the best backstops in baseball at the things he was good at and among the worst where he struggled. But according to Max’s calculations, Molina’s framing skill was so superlative that it made him the best pitch-for-pitch defensive catcher of the past 60 years, which more than made up for his flimsy bat. That’s why the Rays wanted him, and that’s why it looked like they’d gotten a good deal.

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Catchers can't throw anyone out anymore. Why is that, and should we be worried?

At the end of May, Rob Neyer wrote a piece about baseball’s ever-rising strikeout rate, which reached yet another new high this season. In that piece, he called Ernesto Frieri a canary in a coal mine—the coal mine, in this case, being the major leagues, and the toxic substance being strikeouts. Instead of keeling over in his cage, Frieri had started striking out everyone: when that piece was published, he’d struck out 23 batters in his previous 11 innings, without allowing a hit. For some, Frieri’s feat was just kind of cool. For Neyer, it was the latest reminder of a creeping strikeout menace that has already proved harmful to the health of the game. You can disagree with Neyer’s stance on the trend toward more strikeouts—Sam Miller and I did, on our podcast in September—but you can’t deny that the trend is there. Frieri is the face of it for Neyer; probably some other pitcher is the face of it for you.* It has many possible faces, which was precisely Neyer’s point. Ten years ago, there were 26 relievers who pitched at least 50 innings with at least as many strikeouts; this year, there were 61.

*The face of it for me was Jason Grilli, who struck out 1.5 batters per inning after striking out half a batter per inning six years ago.

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September 14, 2012 1:19 pm

Raising Aces: The Man in the Ironic Mask

8

Doug Thorburn

BP's mechanics guru takes a break from breaking down pitchers to analyze their brethren behind the plate.

If there is one thing I’ve learned to appreciate through my study of pitching, it is the value of a great catcher. Backstops are the rock drummers of baseball, hiding behind a mountain of equipment while physically working harder than their teammates and functioning as the glue that holds the group together. Catchers are also invaluable in pitching evaluation, as their actions provide deep insight into the skills of the pitchers they serve.

One of the greatest epiphanies of my career occurred the first time that I focused all of my attention on the catcher for an entire ballgame and discovered the amount of information that can be gleaned about a pitcher by observing the actions of his batterymate. That was the day that I finally understood the distinction between pitch command and control on my own terms, as I watched dozens of pitches that found the strike zone yet strayed far from their intended locations. Observing the catcher is now a standard part of my baseball experience, providing a channel through which to view a pitcher's in-game ability.

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September 14, 2012 5:00 am

Prospect Profile: Austin Hedges

4

Hudson Belinsky

The Padres' top catching prospect is superb behind the plate, but will he hit?

With the 82nd overall pick in the 2011 draft, the San Diego Padres selected Austin Hedges, a catcher out of Junipero Serra Catholic HS in southern California. While the story of his rise through the minor leagues begins there, his path to the majors started much earlier.

Brett Kay is the head coach at Junipero Serra. Kay caught in 142 minor-league games, making it to High-A before his career came to a close in 2003. He wasn’t a big leaguer, but his experience made him an excellent instructor. In 2006, Kay had the chance to coach a promising young catcher. The kid was shy and skinny, but his athleticism and skillset were obvious. Austin Hedges was already showing the makings of a top prospect.

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