Framing-related link
As promised, Max Marchi followed up on his work on Retrosheet-based historical framing by applying the same method to the minor leagues. I was somewhat skeptical that the results would be useful, since there are a few aspects of minor league life that make receiving skills harder to assess: umpires call less consistent zones, pitchers have worse command, and because of the constant promotions and demotions, catchers are less familiar with their batterymates’ arsenals.

But Max found a fairly strong correlation between framing performance in the upper minors and the majors, so we know that by the time a catcher gets to Double-A, at least, his receiving talents are detectable. That’s a significant finding, and it’s possible that we could identify strong receivers statistically in the low minors or even at the amateur level, if we had access to reliable pitch-by-pitch data. If teams aren’t doing this analysis already, they will be before long.


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

The Best (min. 100 OZoneStrikes+ZoneBalls)






Hank Conger




Jonathan Lucroy




Martin Maldonado




Brian McCann




David Ross




Jose Molina




Yadier Molina




Francisco Cervelli




Erik Kratz




Evan Gattis




The Worst (min. 100 OZoneStrikes+ZoneBalls)






Ryan Doumit




Jesus Montero




Kelly Shoppach




Henry Blanco




Rob Brantly




Carlos Santana




Wilin Rosario




Gerald Laird




Chris Iannetta




John Buck





This Week in Jose Molina, 6/6-6/12

Weekly Net Strikes: -2
Weekly Playing Time: 4 G, 4 GS, 35.0 innings
Yearly Playing Time: 42 G, 36 GS, 306 innings
Yearly Net Strikes: 33

Molina had his least-impressive week since we started this exercise, and even the top three frames aren’t as far outside the strike zone as his usual highlights. But the technique is admirable, as always.

3. Date: 6/9
Batter: Matt Wieters
Pitcher: Matt Moore
Umpire: Gary Cederstrom
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 82-mph changeup
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.063 feet

Wieters is tall, so it’s possible to get called strikes pretty high when he’s at the plate, but Molina did all he could to bring this one down quickly and with a minimum of excess movement.

2. Date: 6/11
Batter: Stephen Drew
Pitcher: Roberto Hernandez
Umpire: Chris Guccione
Count: 3-1
Pitch type: 91-mph sinker
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.091 feet

Molina goes out and gets this pitch before it can fall any farther, and as soon as it enters his glove, it’s on its way up and over the plate. The timing is tough, but Molina makes it look easy.

1. Date: 6/9
Batter: Chris Davis
Pitcher: Matt Moore
Umpire: Gary Cederstrom
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 90-mph four-seam fastball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.158 feet

The classic outside strike to a left-handed hitter. Not an unusual occurrence, but still a frustrating one for Davis.


This Week in Jonathan Lucroy, 6/6-6/12

Weekly Net Strikes: 4
Weekly Playing Time: 6 G, 6 GS, 53.0 innings
Yearly Playing Time: 52 G, 49 GS, 437.0 innings
Yearly Net Strikes: 103

3. Date: 6/6
Batter: Freddy Galvis
Pitcher: Burke Badenhop
Umpire: Dan Iassogna
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 90-mph sinker
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.288 feet

Lucroy might be the only catcher whose glove moves less than Molina’s after he receives the pitch.

2. Date: 6/6
Batter: Michael Young
Pitcher: Wily Peralta
Umpire: Dan Iassogna
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 80-mph slider
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.303 feet

Lucroy doesn’t get crossed up here, which is often the case when a catcher fails to receive a pitch cleanly. I mentioned above that it’s tough to time a catch like Molina or Lucroy, and this is why. Lucroy tries to glove the ball and bring it up toward the zone at the same time, and in this case, the ball got left behind.

Everything looked like Lucroy until the ball popped out of the pocket, so the bobble didn’t cost him the call; Iassogna may not even have registered that the ball was dropped before his brain ordered his arm to signal a strike. Of course, as Young’s reaction reveals, hitters are never happy to see a strike called on a pitch the catcher couldn’t catch.

1. Date: 6/11
Batter: Ed Lucas
Pitcher: Wily Peralta
Umpire: Lance Barrett
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 94-mph four-seam fastball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.348 feet

Peralta semi-misses his target here, but Lucroy’s quick adjustment makes it difficult to tell.


Best Frames of the Week

5. Date: 6/9
Catcher: Buster Posey
Batter: Martin Prado
Pitcher: Chad Gaudin
Umpire: Hunter Wendelstedt
Count: 2-2
Pitch type: 93-mph four-seam fastball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.381 feet

This delivery by Gaudin has a lot of lateral movement on its way to the plate, but Posey sticks with it and presents it nicely, causing Prado to get gritty at Wendelstedt.

4. Date: 6/11
Catcher: Buster Posey
Batter: Starling Marte
Pitcher: Jose Mijares
Umpire: Wally Bell
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 91-mph four-seam fastball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.383 feet

A similar pitch that Posey framed a little less cleanly, getting the call nonetheless. Since this was the first pitch of the at-bat, Marte wasn’t as upset as Prado, but he wasn’t pleased.

3. Date: 6/9
Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Batter: Mark Trumbo
Pitcher: Ryan Dempster
Umpire: Marty Foster
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 89-mph four-seam fastball
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.389 feet

Saltalamacchia isn’t known for his defense, and there’s a little more glove movement here than we usually see from Molina or Lucroy, but he got the low strike on a big batter.

2. Date: 6/12
Catcher: Russell Martin
Batter: Nick Noonan
Pitcher: Jason Grilli
Umpire: Marvin Hudson
Count: 0-1
Pitch type: 82-mph slider
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.426 feet

Martin tugged this one up so quickly I had to watch it frame by frame to be sure it didn’t bounce. (It didn’t.)

1. Date: 6/11
Catcher: Brian McCann
Batter: Andrew Cashner
Pitcher: Tim Hudson
Umpire: Fieldin Culbreth
Count: 0-1
Pitch type: 91-mph sinker
Distance from Strike Zone: 0.440 feet

McCann’s wide stance lets him get low enough to catch pitches like this on the way up. This is the 0-1 pitch; the first strike of the at-bat looked like this:


Worst Frames of the Week

5. Date: 6/11
Catcher: Russell Martin
Batter: Hunter Pence
Pitcher: Gerrit Cole
Umpire: Wally Bell
Count: 1-1
Pitch type: 96-mph four-seam fastball
Distance from Center: 0.519 feet

Cole’s fastball has a reputation for being straight, but it showed some life in his debut start. Martin seemed surprised by how much this moved. This could be an example of a catcher’s lack of familiarity with a pitcher’s repertoire costing the pair a strike.

4. Date: 6/7
Catcher: Brayan Pena
Batter: Michael Brantley
Pitcher: Justin Verlander
Umpire: Sam Holbrook
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 96-mph four-seam fastball
Distance from Center: 0.497 feet

Verlander missed his spot, and Pena reoriented his glove rather than shifting it toward the outside part of the plate without turning it over (which isn’t easy, when a pitch is moving 96 miles per hour).

3. Date: 6/8
Catcher: Yasmani Grandal
Batter: Dexter Fowler
Pitcher: Luke Gregerson
Umpire: Jim Joyce
Count: 0-2
Pitch type: 82-mph slider
Distance from Center: 0.483 feet

Too much movement. Grandal’s leg drops, his glove darts out, and his non-glove hand does an unintentional fist pump.

2. Date: 6/11
Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski
Batter: Ryan Raburn
Pitcher: Derek Holland
Umpire: Mark Wegner
Count: 0-1
Pitch type: 81-mph changeup
Distance from Center: 0.470 feet

This pitch is more or less down the middle, but Pierzynski glove does an exaggerated dip.

1. Date: 6/12
Catcher: Rob Brantly
Batter: Carlos Gomez
Pitcher: Kevin Slowey
Umpire: Lance Barksdale
Count: 0-1
Pitch type: 91-mph four-seam fastball
Distance from Center: 0.356 feet

Brantly seems to show up in this section week after week. Granted, catching Marlins pitchers isn’t an easy assignment, but Slowey didn’t miss his spot by so much that Brantly needed to push the ball out of the strike zone in order to catch it.


Bonus Worst Ryan Doumit Frame of the Week
Date: 6/6
Batter: David Lough
Pitcher: Mike Pelfrey
Umpire: Tom Hallion
Count: 0-0
Pitch type: 75-mph curveball
Distance from Center: 0.868 feet

Doumit caught only 16 innings this week—which is still 16 too many—so we don’t have a huge selection to choose from. He doesn’t move that much here, but he still does his trademark head dip, even though the ball is barely below eye level.

Thank you for reading

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Two Brewers and two Braves in the leaders. Three straight Mariners in the trailers. Interesting.
If you thought that the results in the minor leagues wouldn't be useful, but they turned out to have a strong correlation with the major league numbers, how do we not know that the numbers aren't just bad to begin with?

tl;dr Could it be causation? Playing devil's advocate here.
If one sentence is too long to read, I'm in the wrong line of work!

Max's/Mike's previous research, and the independent verification of it that I've linked to in the past, makes me confident that the major league numbers are showing more signal than noise. As does the fact that teams have done similar research, and that catchers who rate well statistically tend to look like good receivers, and vice versa.
Sounds right, especially the part about the teams. I hate automatically giving the benefit of the doubt to the teams, but I don't see why people as informed as they are would take a chance with something that might not be accurate.

Has there been a study that has shown which umpires are the most susceptible to being tricked by framing and visa versa? If there's anything there, you could regress some of the numbers based on the umpire's "skill" or lack thereof.
There have been plenty of studies of umpire accuracy, but none that I know of specifically tailored toward framing.
Let me know if you decide to pursue this or not. I'd love to be a research assistant.