Skip to content

All catchers are bastards in their fathers’ eyes

by on April 6, 2013

Hello, everybody. Perhaps I should introduce myself. I’m Dan Morris, lifelong Cubs fan, semi-pro statistician, and general dilettante living in an undisclosed megalopolis on the west coast. I’ll be contributing to The Drip from time to time, and for some reason, Fels has given me the keys to the blog. Which means I’ll be popping up in this space with more-or-less data-driven, sabermetrically-inclined musings, and I’ll try not to wreck the place too bad.

If you know me – and you really shouldn’t – you might know I’ve taken up the tools of ignorance periodically throughout my life and have a tender spot in my heart for catchers, bastards and broken things. So on opening day I couldn’t help but noticeRussell Martin doing a bit of high-grade framing and earning AJ Burnett a healthy slice of strike zone between the knees and ankles. If I recall correctly, this was even noticeable a few times during David DeJesus’s season-opening strikeout.

DeJesus’s incredulity at those called strikes half-confirmed what I thought I had seen, and I got to wondering whether Martin was known as an exceptionally adept framer. I knew he was a withdrew from the Canadian WBC team this spring with a case of the sads after he was informed he would not be allowed to play shortstop-and-only-shortstop for the Great White North. Is it possible that Ernie Whitt wanted Rusty behind the plate for his added value there and not just because oh my god why would you let him play shortstop?

Well, ask and ye shall receive: yesterday morning, Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus prefaced a lengthy and rhapsodic ode to Jose Molina (the generally-recognized top practitioner of the dark magick known as framing) with a brief summary of the literature on framing metrics.

The landmark pieces in this literature are a pair of 2011 analyses, by Mike Fast and Max Marchi, in which it’s apparent that yes, Russell Martin is very good at earning extra strikes for his pitchers and has been for some time. According to Fast’s calculations, Martin’s framing saved his teams a staggering 71 runs over the five years from 2007-2011, second to Molina’s 73, but far ahead of the next comers:

Catcher Called Pitches Total Runs R/120G

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Jose Molina

18788

73

35

10

15

15

26

7

Russell Martin

42186

71

15

15

10

20

14

11

Yorvit Torrealba

26306

41

14

5

14

3

11

7

Jonathan Lucroy

14205

38

24

17

21

0

0

0

Yadier Molina

39184

37

8

7

7

1

16

6

Of course, this is the cumulative measure, which can simply accumulate as long as his hitting was keeping him in the everyday lineup. But still, taken as a rate rather than a count, he stills fares pretty well – fourth place at 15 runs per 120 games – although clearly a tier below Molina (and Jonathan Lucroy for that matter), and just about on par with Yorvit Torrealba, the #3 man on the cumulative list:

Catcher Called Pitches Total Runs R/120G

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Jose Molina

18788

73

35

10

15

15

26

7

Jonathan Lucroy

14205

38

24

17

21

0

0

0

Gregg Zaun

17376

36

19

0

6

16

6

9

Russell Martin

42186

71

15

15

10

20

14

11

Yorvit Torrealba

26306

41

14

5

14

3

11

7

But compared with the other catchers who racked up similar innings during that 2007-2011? Among those who called at least 30,000 pitches during those years, no one was really close:

Catcher Called Pitches Total Runs R/120G

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Russell Martin

42186

71

15

15

10

20

14

11

Yadier Molina

39184

37

8

7

7

1

16

6

Geovany Soto

32705

24

7

14

11

7

-9

1

Brian McCann

42098

20

4

1

-3

11

9

3

A.J. Pierzynski

40828

12

3

3

3

3

2

1

Joe Mauer

30260

7

2

9

-7

4

1

0

Ivan Rodriguez

30558

5

2

1

5

-6

0

5

Kurt Suzuki

43225

2

0

-3

5

-9

11

-2

Miguel Olivo

30104

-2

-1

6

0

-3

-1

-3

Bengie Molina

30096

-14

-4

0

-3

1

-8

-4

Carlos Ruiz

32761

-23

-6

-13

-2

-6

-5

3

John Buck

31314

-25

-7

-11

-17

0

0

3

Jason Kendall

35772

-37

-9

0

-10

-19

-5

-3

Gerald Laird

30298

-52

-15

-2

-12

-16

-11

-11

All this is a long way of saying: Russell Martin adds at least one significant defensive contribution that most “everyday” catchers do not. Is he the best defensive catcher – or even the best framer – who happens to be valued primarily for offense? Almost certainly not (Mr. Lucroy comes to mind), but is he… oh fuck it. You get it, right?

(and I know I’ve given short shrift to Marchi’s series, but the gist of that too is that, yes, Russell Martin is a good framer. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic again sometime.)

So what’s the Cubs angle on all this? Well, watching Martin made me notice Welington Castillo’s more-pronounced glove movements, but whatever. I remain bullish on his defensive upside; Mr. Beef sure looked good almost nailing Andrelton Simmons at second yesterday. Yes I know “almost” only counts in horseshoes, but still

(but seriously, I do want to thank Fels for giving me this space to share whatever stupid thoughts I have. I look forward to confronting this potentially daunting season with y’all)
tl;dr

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: