• Is Ryan Doumit's Catching A Critical Liability?

    Could Ryan Doumit's inability to frame pitches be a liability that overrides his value?"I don’t say this about many decisions, but starting Doumit at catcher might be a fireable offense. In 60 games at catcher for Pittsburgh in 2011, his framing cost the Pirates 20 runs. In 59 games for Minnesota in 2012, his framing cost the Twins 21 runs. All told, his framing has subtracted 98 runs over the past five seasons, on top of the damage from the other things he does poorly behind the plate, which wipes out his offensive value."
    - Ben Lindbergh, Baseball Prospectus

    It has been difficult on this site to state concerns about Ryan Doumit and the Twins extending him. In a debate last week, I was told 28-29 teams would love to have Doumit and he was more valuable than ever.


    Let's look at two teams attempt to fill out a bench.

    Last fall the Twins and Rays were both seeking catching help. The Rays signed Jose Molina and the Twins signed Doumit.

    The Rays signed Molina for 1.5 million and picked up his option for 2013 at 1.5 (also reported 1.8) million. The Twins have invested 10 million in Doumit over three years.

    For several years catching performance has been evaluated using pitch f/x. The results seem to be reliable as the catchers who perform at the top or bottom of the list remain relatively stable.

    This information and study by Mike Fast was available to both teams. Aaron Gleeman referenced it at the time of the Doumit signing.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/ar...rticleid=15093

    Molina was the best catcher at saving runs through framing pitches over a 5 year period. Doumit was at the bottom of the list. They were at the extremes both in total and average per 120 games.

    How did it work out for both clubs?

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/a/18896

    If the metric is accurate, Molina saved his team 50 runs in 80 games. Doumit cost the Twins 21 runs in 59 games. Molina's value is all defense but those 50 runs saved represent 5 wins. Doumits -21 represents a loss of 2 wins and completely wipes out his contribution to the team as a hitter. Molina and Doumit took there familiar positions at the top and bottom of the list. A result that could have been easily projected.

    28-29 teams would love to have Doumit? Must be everyone except the Rays.

    It couldn't be more clear that the Twins evaluation differs greatly from the Rays. One other quote from the first article about the Twins management and pitch f/x

    "...Ryan Doumit, the patron saint of poor receivers. Except that Doumit hasn’t exactly been blacklisted behind the plate: in fact, he caught more innings for Minnesota in 2012 than he did as a Pirate the season before. Well, okay, you might say, but that was the Twins, the one team you could almost persuade yourself hasn’t heard about PITCHf/x yet. (“Wait, you mean all this time all of our pitchers were throwing really slowly?”)

    I am assuming you stopped reading this a long time ago if you join the Twins management in skepticism about pitch f/x.

    If not, what should the Twins do about Doumit?

    Doumit's only value as a catcher is on someone's fantasy baseball team. In that realm, Molina isn't even an afterthought.

    Doumit does have value. He can platoon at DH and pinch hit. While I question whether that role merits an extension, the real concern is the Twins management understanding of the impact of defense on wins. The Twins should not enter the season with any plan of using Doumit as a catcher. Anything more than a late inning emergency replacement can not be justified. Our young and struggling pitching staff must be given any edge the Twins can provide.

    There has been much discussion about the Twins carrying 5 catchers. It is really 4 if Doumit is rightly moved into a Jim Thome role. It is 3 if Butera does not return. One of the three, Pinto, is not near ready for the majors. That leaves Mauer and Herrmann.

    The bigger question must be asked about the Twins management. From the outside, it seems like they are taking a long time to embrace some of the metrics of the last decade.

    One roster decision about a back up catcher speaks volumes about the two teams. One team commits 3 million to get two years of top ranked defense. The other commits 10 million over three years for an above average bat without a position.

    Let's hope the Twins are right and the metrics of the last decade are poor indicators of how to build a roster and win ball games.

    This article was originally published in blog: Doumit, Molina and Pitch f/x started by jorgenswest
    Comments 56 Comments
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Honestly, the only way to put any type of stock into catcher ERA is to look at how the same pitchers perform over a few years with the same catchers... If there was something to this, I'd imagine that over a large enough sample, you could determine that the catcher made the pitcher X amount of runs better... but this would essentially have to be done with the same group of pitchers pitching to the same catchers over several years to get enough data to be remotely conclusive...
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Honestly, the only way to put any type of stock into catcher ERA is to look at how the same pitchers perform over a few years with the same catchers... If there was something to this, I'd imagine that over a large enough sample, you could determine that the catcher made the pitcher X amount of runs better... but this would essentially have to be done with the same group of pitchers pitching to the same catchers over several years to get enough data to be remotely conclusive...
      This isn't catcher ERA.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Perhaps Jorgenswest forgot the key point in the article he referenced


      And finally, before we get started, the disclaimer. These splits are not necessarily indicative of skill. They measure less than one full season and include many other factors that should be corrected for. As time passes, we should be able to complete more technically rigorous analysis (that's the royal we, as in someone else who knows more about statistics) that may begin to clarify what percentage is skill and what percentage is unexplained/random variation. Until that time, I strongly recommend not using this information for anything more than entertainment purposes.
      Even the author did not believe his numbers.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      I wonder where Mauer ranks in this statistic.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      Perhaps Jorgenswest forgot the key point in the article he referenced


      And finally, before we get started, the disclaimer. These splits are not necessarily indicative of skill. They measure less than one full season and include many other factors that should be corrected for. As time passes, we should be able to complete more technically rigorous analysis (that's the royal we, as in someone else who knows more about statistics) that may begin to clarify what percentage is skill and what percentage is unexplained/random variation. Until that time, I strongly recommend not using this information for anything more than entertainment purposes.
      Even the author did not believe his numbers.
      The author earned a job in major league baseball.

      One year later catchers who did well or poorly, still do well or poorly.

      Do you want the Twins to continue to ignore the data?

      Do you think the Rays are paying attention?

      It appears that many would join the Twins in discounting this study.

      It is my hope that the Twins have someone or a group they have hired in the front office responsible for seeking out these studies and evaluating the impact on the team. Minimally this work deserves lengthy study on the part of the Twins management.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Honestly, the only way to put any type of stock into catcher ERA is to look at how the same pitchers perform over a few years with the same catchers... If there was something to this, I'd imagine that over a large enough sample, you could determine that the catcher made the pitcher X amount of runs better... but this would essentially have to be done with the same group of pitchers pitching to the same catchers over several years to get enough data to be remotely conclusive...
      This isn't catcher ERA.
      I should have used a different term, yes I understand that... my point is that the only way to quantify the catcher's impact on runs allowed is a long term study on the same catchers and the same pitchers...
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      I have always believed that Catchers have huge influence on games in ways that are hard to quantify. Things like the calling of pitches, framing to a lesser extent, Quarterbacking the Defense.

      I don't know enough of this data and the conclusions drawn from it but a couple of incomplete thoughts jump to mind right away.

      A. The Run differential seems excessive. If you see something this excessive. It's probably a red flag just like Brock said.

      If the data and result was solid. Molina would be negotiating for a fairly large contract right now because there are enough teams that follow metrics and look for edges like this especially something this large.

      B. I haven't read all of it and it looks like it will take awhile to get through it all but I'm wondering how a called strike can be quantified into Runs. The Difference between a 2-0 count and a 1-1 count is important but how do you quantify the rest of the at bat and the result based upon one strike or ball.

      C. I've done a little umping behind the plate. Some Parents and Coaches say I suck at it and I probably do... I know that proper technique for umpires is to watch the ball from Pitchers Hand to Catchers Glove and that's easy enough understood as it's written. However, Catchers don't always sit still behind the plate. They move around and the Glove ends up being be blocked from view by the catcher a large percentage of times. Even if they sit still they block the view of the glove. The Ump is positioned behind the Catcher and for that reason it is very difficult to see the glove and if you can't see the glove consistently. It's very difficult to be influenced by framing.

      If you look at the Video examples of Lucroy and Veritek shown in the example. It looks to me that the Umpires would struggle to see the glove but who knows cuz MLB umps are the best of the best. Maybe they can and I just haven't figured out how to position myself properly.

      All in all... I'm a little skeptical.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Yup, I still struggle with defensive metrics as a whole. I have 0 confidence in this stat. The Butera negative numbers tell me that this stat means pretty much nothing.

      I don't think anyone would say that Doumit's some great catcher defensively, but having watched most of the games, I didn't see anything that was overly alarming.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post

      B. I haven't read all of it and it looks like it will take awhile to get through it all but I'm wondering how a called strike can be quantified into Runs. The Difference between a 2-0 count and a 1-1 count is important but how do you quantify the rest of the at bat and the result based upon one strike or ball.
      I think this is an article about counts and impact on runs

      http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/200...e-a-nibble-the
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Another thing to add from an umpire perspective. When I can see a glove... The Movement of a glove in an attempt to frame after the catch could be seen by the ump as the catcher believing that it was a ball.

      If the pitch is a strike. A good Catcher will catch and hold it in position. If it's a ball... They will attempt to frame by moving it. If the Ump has any doubt. The actual framing movement from the catcher is a tip that it was a ball.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post

      B. I haven't read all of it and it looks like it will take awhile to get through it all but I'm wondering how a called strike can be quantified into Runs. The Difference between a 2-0 count and a 1-1 count is important but how do you quantify the rest of the at bat and the result based upon one strike or ball.
      I think this is an article about counts and impact on runs

      http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/200...e-a-nibble-the
      Thanks Jorganswest... I will read through it when I get some time. I'm definitely curious but it does look to be a little time consuming to comb thru it unless I just take it at face value.

      No matter my first blush opinion... Keep posting this stuff... It is very interesting. The Game has changed so much over the decades and metrics are at the forefront of that change.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      I had an opinion going in and now have a different one after reading. That alone makes it a good article for me. I never considered this and want to see him DH and play RF a little more.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      It appears that many would join the Twins in discounting this study.
      Because when you claim outlandish things, people tend to treat them outlandishly. The underlying point has merit; good catchers positively impact a pitching staff.

      But when you come at us with "a good catcher is worth nearly one run a game compared to the worst", you're going to get laughed out of the room. And for good reason. It's an absurd statement.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Well, half the stuff on this site is absurd so I wouldn't worry too much about that.

      But I do thank the OP for the post -- at least it is thought provoking. And while the impact may not be as significant as jorgenswest would suggest, it certainly appears that there is enough "smoke" to merit further examination.

      I also found the "head bobbing" part of the original article very interesting. It took me back to discussions we had earlier this year about mechanized ball/strike counts and umpire bias. As I recall, that discussion had to do with the strike count and how it affected the umpires zone. And now it looks like its not just the strike count but the stability of the catcher. Funny to think about how many little factors can affect the call -- and how much an "automated" system would change that. (And possibly change the game as we know it.)
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      It appears that many would join the Twins in discounting this study.
      Because when you claim outlandish things, people tend to treat them outlandishly. The underlying point has merit; good catchers positively impact a pitching staff.

      But when you come at us with "a good catcher is worth nearly one run a game compared to the worst", you're going to get laughed out of the room. And for good reason. It's an absurd statement.
      Would you want the Twins management and share your attitude?

      My hope us that the study (not mine) will lead them to go through the data. They can take the same approach. They have the capability to look at every pitch that Doumit, Butera and Mauer received with pitch f/x.

      I hope they did that before signing Doumit and extending him.

      All of the new game data available in the last several years will lead to new understanding of the impact of defense on winning baseball games. My hope is that the Twins are not behind the curve.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Interesting. This from the first BP article is encouraging:

      Doumit dropped his head on 11 of the 12 pitches I reviewed on video. On the one pitch where he did not do that, he got a strike call. Molina dropped his head to follow the ball into the glove on two of the 10 pitches I reviewed on video, and both of those pitches were called balls.
      Lucroy’s head was stable on all seven pitches I reviewed, and he got seven strike calls. Varitek’s head was stable on all six pitches I reviewed, all called balls, but his exaggerated glove movement may have cost him those strike calls.
      It would seem there are some simple things Doumit could do to improve.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      It appears that many would join the Twins in discounting this study.
      Because when you claim outlandish things, people tend to treat them outlandishly. The underlying point has merit; good catchers positively impact a pitching staff.

      But when you come at us with "a good catcher is worth nearly one run a game compared to the worst", you're going to get laughed out of the room. And for good reason. It's an absurd statement.
      Would you want the Twins management and share your attitude?

      My hope us that the study (not mine) will lead them to go through the data. They can take the same approach. They have the capability to look at every pitch that Doumit, Butera and Mauer received with pitch f/x.

      I hope they did that before signing Doumit and extending him.

      All of the new game data available in the last several years will lead to new understanding of the impact of defense on winning baseball games. My hope is that the Twins are not behind the curve.
      As do I; the Twins should be using every ounce of data available to them to make an assessment on a player.

      The overarching point has merit; the interpretation of that particular data does not. There is simply no way that a good catcher is worth 20% (or, in the case of the Rays, considerably more than 20%) of a team's allowed runs. To even the most casual observer, the metric is horribly flawed... Even the creator of said metric says that it is basically useless at this point.

      It's not as if the Twins are extraordinarily high on Doumit. Ryan has said that he hopes to see Mauer behind the plate more often in 2013. That doesn't devalue Doumit in any way. He's a poor catcher; nearly everyone admits that. But the point of a backup catcher is not to catch 50 or 60 or 70 games and that's where Doumit shines. He's a backup catcher who should be catching 40 times a year at most so the amount of damage he can do behind the dish is limited. But by having a backup catcher that can OPS at .800, you also have a guy that can pinch hit, play DH, and occasionally even man the outfield (though poorly). The flexibility he offers from a position that is usually a blackhole is outstanding.

      And nearly every team in MLB, especially AL teams, would love that kind of flexibility.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Brock, what if it is 10 runs a year? Or 20, instead of 50?

      And Seth doesn't believe it because he "knows" Butera is good on defense, even though there is zero statistical evidence to back that up. None. His catcher ERA is high, his framing rate is low, what does he actually do well?

      People used to "know" the earth was flat, and that the sun revolved around the earth too....until we started using science and numbers to figure things out. Were those early attempts precise? No. Did they lead us to the truth, yes, yes they did.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Brock, what if it is 10 runs a year? Or 20, instead of 50?

      And Seth doesn't believe it because he "knows" Butera is good on defense, even though there is zero statistical evidence to back that up. None. His catcher ERA is high, his framing rate is low, what does he actually do well?

      People used to "know" the earth was flat, and that the sun revolved around the earth too....until we started using science and numbers to figure things out. Were those early attempts precise? No. Did they lead us to the truth, yes, yes they did.
      Science was used to systematically prove the Earth was round. The evidence was undeniable.

      As opposed to this metric, which even the creator says is terribly flawed and should not be used as an evaluative tool.

      71 runs in half a season. Over a 162 game season, we're talking about a catcher that frames pitches being worth ~145 runs. The Tampa Bay Rays allowed 577 runs in 2012. Once you factor in defense, what's a pitcher worth at that point? 60%? 50%? Lower? There's no way you can tell me with a straight face that the guy who actually stands on the mound and throws the ball is worth somewhere around half of a team's runs. If that was the case, pitchers wouldn't be the most in-demand object of lust in baseball.

      Again, the idea behind this metric is legitimate. But its actual implementation is completely absurd.

      PS. I hate Drew Butera. I never wanted him on the roster and think he's a complete waste as a baseball player. I don't care what the stats say about him either way.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Interesting. This from the first BP article is encouraging:

      Doumit dropped his head on 11 of the 12 pitches I reviewed on video. On the one pitch where he did not do that, he got a strike call. Molina dropped his head to follow the ball into the glove on two of the 10 pitches I reviewed on video, and both of those pitches were called balls.
      Lucroy’s head was stable on all seven pitches I reviewed, and he got seven strike calls. Varitek’s head was stable on all six pitches I reviewed, all called balls, but his exaggerated glove movement may have cost him those strike calls.
      It would seem there are some simple things Doumit could do to improve.
      Most sensible comment in the discussion.

      If it is a skill, it can be improved. The Twins have access to all of the video and corresponding data. It probably is available sorted by call, pitch type, location...

      Do it for all of the catchers.

      If the Twins do the leg work on this, there is no reason it can't improve as long as there is awareness.
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