A Mariners beat writer explains why Ryan is the most interesting Mariner he's covered.
Most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Ryan Divish is in his seventh season of covering baseball and the Seattle Mariners for the Tacoma News Tribune. He played baseball collegiately at Dickinson State University in Dickinson, North Dakota, where he was recruited as a second baseman and ate himself into the starting catching position. Even now, he’s still better defensively and much faster than Jesus Montero. He is a drinker of Crown Royal and Maker’s Mark and a reader of Steinbeck. You can read his writing at The News Tribuneand the News Tribune’sMariners Insider blog and follow his snarky blatherings on Twitter @RyanDivish.
Do substitute defenders perform worse in the field than starters?
I have a fascination with super-utility players, the guys who can play anywhere on the diamond. Players like Tony Phillips, Ben Zobrist, or even Denny Hocking. They're so handy to have around because a manager can fill out a lineup with a little more flexibility and know that he has someone to fill whatever hole is left. He's a wild card that gives a general manager more choices when putting together a roster. He's the type of player who adds a little extra value that the box score— and WARP—don't really capture.
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Extending the quantification of catcher framing to a new frontier.
In my last article, I presented the results of using Retrosheet pitch-by-pitch data for measuring catchers’ framing performance. After showing that the alternate method fared quite well, despite not relying on pitch location data, I went on to provide historical leaderboards (Brad Ausmus is tops among catchers of the past quarter century) and explore the issue of aging (Father Time seems not to take much of a toll on framers).
I left you with one teaser: while it was nice to have some of the retired catchers ranked, the most valuable byproduct of that research was that it made ranking active catchers at lower levels possible. That’s the topic I’ll tackle today.
A video walkthrough of framing technique with two talented receivers.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a feature on framing for Grantland. I also spoke to Pirates catcher Russell Martin and Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan for a pair of Q&A companion pieces in which I showed the two catchers GIFs of borderline pitches that they'd caught over the past few years, and they explained their strategy for getting extra strikes. Martin's is here, and Hanigan's is here. The conversations ran so long that much of the text was left on the editing room floor. Rather than let it remain unread, I've collected the best previously unpublished excerpts below, omitting any material that appeared at Grantland.
Talking to Chris Stewart and Miguel Montero about framing pitches.
Yankees catcher Chris Stewart has never had the bat to be a first-stringer, though until a recent groin injury, he was getting the bulk of the playing time behind the plate for the Bombers with Francisco Cervelli out with a fractured hand. But when Stewart does start, he adds value on defense, combining a strong arm with excellent receiving skills. According to Max Marchi, Stewart’s framing over the past five-plus seasons has been worth nearly 20 runs, an impressive total considering his sporadic playing time. Stewart stopped reading A Storm of Swords on a couch in the Yankees clubhouse long enough to answer some questions about how he receives so well.
The Diamondbacks GM on the importance of catcher receiving skills.
A former minor league pitcher, pitching coach, and scout, Kevin Towers served as the General Manager of the San Diego Padres from 1995-2009. After spending 2010 as a special assignment scout for the Yankees, he was hired as the GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a role in which he remains today.
A former umpire and umpire supervisor weighs in on the influence catchers have over calls.
Jim McKean worked as an MLB umpire from 1973-2001, serving on three World Series crews. He became one of MLB’s umpire supervisors after retiring from active duty and has since served as an umpiring consultant for ESPN. He offered his thoughts on the influence a catcher’s receiving skills can have on an umpire’s calls.
The shift is here to stay, but to be embraced, it has to be rebranded.
In 50 years, and that may be a conservatively distant estimate, we will hear much less talk about defensive shifts.
First of all, there might not be baseball in 50 years. It’s why I’m always hesitant to answer questions that start with “will we ever see,” because “ever” is a really, really long time compared to the current lifespan of baseball (unless it isn’t).