Estimated 2012 runs saved due to pitch framing

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Quite a stir was made last offseason when former Baseball Prospectus-er and current Astros employee Mike Fast published a study quantifying the number of runs catchers saved with his pitch framing skills. That is making a borderline pitch look like a strike to the umpire and getting the call. Russell Martin rated very well in Fast’s study, as in second only to Jose Molina. Here’s a great example of Russ stealing a strike for CC Sabathia in ALDS Game One on Sunday…

At FanGraphs yesterday, Jeff Sullivan used PitchFX data to estimate how many extra strikes each team enjoyed this season, and the Yankees placed fourth in baseball (and first in the AL) at +5 strikes per 1,000 pitches. The league average is actually -5 strikes, not zero. Blame the umps. New York’s pitching staff threw 23,181 total pitches this season, so the pitching staff received approximately 232 more strikes than the league average. That doesn’t sound like much across 162 games, but it is. Past studies have calculated the difference in value between a called ball and a called strike at 0.13 runs, so Martin’s (and Chris Stewart‘s) pitch framing helped save the team a touch more than 30 runs this season. Roughly 9.5 runs equaled a win in 2012’s scoring environment, so those extra strikes were (theoretically) the difference between an AL East title and a wildcard play-in game.

It’s important to note that Sullivan’s estimations ares just that, estimations. Fast’s study was much more precise and comprehensive, and we shouldn’t attribute every single extra strike to the catcher and his pitch framing anyway. Sometimes the umpire was going to the call the pitch a strike without the catcher’s help. Even if that 30 runs saved number is off by as much as 50%, it’s still a lot of runs to save with a simple skill. Catcher defense is a very tough thing to quantify, but analysts have gotten better at it and pitch framing is one of those things that seems to impact the game much more than originally expected.

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  • dkidd

    bob boone was the best i ever saw at stealing strikes

  • Eddard

    I knew we should have kept Jose. Stewie is ok but Jose was the best backup catcher in all of baseball. If Jorgie were still playing I have no doubt he’d be at the top of that list.

    • MannyGeee

      you had me at Jose. I have an irrational love for all things Catching Molina.

      Except for that Gus guy. Creepy.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Gus wasn’t representin. He wasn’t keepin it real.

        I too love me some Jose Molina.

  • dkidd

    there’s also a “reputation” factor (aka rod carew factor) in getting favorable calls

    getting 232 more strikes might have more to do having 2 future hall of famers in the line-up than anything russell is doing

    • dkidd

      replace “line-up” with “pitching staff”

    • Yep’

      That’s only 40 of 162 games though.

      • Ted Nelson

        And maybe a bit over 2/3 of the inning in those games.

  • Rivera Venue Blues

    Hitter reputations definitely have to be factored into as well. A guy with a great patient reputation might get more strikes called for balls than others.

    • Mike HC

      Seems like nobody gets the calls like Jeter. Umps are straight up scared of calling anything borderline on Jeter.

  • MannyGeee

    This article = Re-sign Russell Martin… and then re-teach him to hit.

    • jjyank

      I’d welcome him back on a one year deal, for sure.

      • Mike HC

        He is almost sure to get at least a 2 year deal now that he has proven healthy for 2 straight years. Above average defender, well above average baserunner for a catcher, and probably around avg offensive catcher. One year deal is not realistic, most likely.

        • Yep’

          I’d still take him back on a 2 year deal. I think his value goes way more than his terrible batting average. He is near the top in league leaders in seeing pitches per plate appearance, he hit 21 homers, a few of which were in crucial spots. His opb is up to .311, which is not great by any means, but think about it, every walk needs at least 4 pitches, usually more. He works hard with his pitchers, and helps to wear down opposing pitchers.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I was pricing out a new back for Austin Romine on EBay. Not looking good. Monseiur Martin may ride again until Senor Sanchez graduates from AA.

        • MannyGeee

          *envisioning John Sterling’s home run call for Senior Sanchez, amidst chuckles*

          • Robinson Tilapia

            He could always go for the much safer “Gary on my wayward son….”

            Ok, fuck it. “DAT’S A DIRTY SANCHEZ OVER THE RF WALL!”

          • Robinson Tilapia

            I also find the Martin call to be one of Sterling’s classier calls. Maybe I just think any attempt at French is classy.

  • Marcy

    David Cone spoke about this in 1 of the games he did – he really likes the Russell catches and he’s really into stats-

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    I like the way the hitter (in this case Weiters) tries to “steal a ball” from the ump by digging his foot hole and pretending the pitch was an obvious ball.

    Works both ways….

    • Rivera Venue Blues

      And Jeter does the lean way over the plate on balls just outside. Everyone tries to get the calls their way.

  • Anthony

    Very interesting post, amazing how something considered so little can affect things in the long run.

  • Adam Parker

    So has Martin earned the right to throw the ball back to the pitcher yet?

  • Brian in NH

    Boras is going to start waiving this in owners/GMs faces now when trying to leverage contracts for his catchers.