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jorgenswest

Doumit, Molina and Pitch f/x

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"I donít 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

Read the article at
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18863

It has been difficult on this site to state concerns about 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 Ryan 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

Jose Molina was the best catcher at saving runs through framing pitches over a 5 year period. Ryan 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 hasnít 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 hasnít heard about PITCHf/x yet. (ďWait, you mean all this time all of our pitchers were throwing really slowly?Ē)

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.


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  1. Jim H's Avatar
    "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" Quote from above article.

    I used to think most fans underrated defense. Some of these new "metrics" distort it. You really think that how a catcher catches the ball can save his team 50 runs in 80 games? I suspect that most good umps don't even see where the catcher catches the ball. They are focused on the strike zone above the plate. One of the problems with that nice little box that most TV broadcasts use to show whether a ball or a strike, is that it doesn't show the depth of the strike zone.

    All of this isn't to say that Doumit is a good catcher. He is not. Molina is a lot more valuable than his offensive numbers suggest. Just like Butera is. But saying that Molina won 7 more games than Doumit by how he frames pitches-I don't think that is remotely true.

  2. jorgenswest's Avatar
    It is hard to believe. Can it be ignored?

    While other teams have hired some of the pitch f/x pioneers like Mike Fast, the Twins watch from the sidelines. Hopefully time will show that the Twins took the right path.

    Understanding the impact of defense on winning ball games is still in the early stages. It is easy to see the side the Twins stand on with their decisions to sign Willingham and Doumit last year and willingness to trade their best defensive player this year. What's next? Starting Parmelee in RF?
  3. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    While the defensive metrics might lead to exaggerated figures, I agree generally with the basic point that Doumit caught too many games last year. That's the problem when you have non-MLB players on your roster like Drew Butera. That is why I was bullish on Herrmann last year to get promoted and play in AAA. That is why I would like the Twins to either go with Herrmann or spend 1-2 million on somebody other than Butera (this would only really amount to around a $1 million difference in salary).
  4. Jim H's Avatar
    The problem with this metric is that you are giving the catcher credit for something he has no control over. First of all, on close pitches you can't sure that Pitch f/x is any more accurate than the umpire. Camera angles and the inability of Pitch f/x to show the depth of the plate mean that often the umpire could be right and Pitch f/x could be wrong. 2nd, the umpire usualy doesn't see the "framing of the pitches" he is focused on where/if the ball crosses the plate not where the ball is caught. When an umpire misses a call it can be for a variety of reasons. Maybe the catcher blocked the umpires view, maybe the umpire was expecting the pitch to move different than it did, maybe because the pitcher is getting credit for an extra inch because his control has been so good, maybe he missed it because he is human.

    The idea that a catcher can steal enough pitches for his pitcher to save 50 runs in 80 games isn't just an exaggeration, it is an insult to umpires. They aren't so bad at their jobs that how a catcher catches the ball is going to have much of an effect.

    I also find it strange that it ok to give exaggerated credit for Molina being a good catcher, but not to Butera.
  5. jorgenswest's Avatar
    2011 data on Butera and all other catchers with reference to pitch fx is below

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/...hl=en_US#gid=0

    He did not fare well in the 2011 analysis.

    Entering 2012, Jose Molina was ranked #1 and Doumit was at the very bottom. Is it simply an amazing coincidence that in spite of changing teams and parks they were ranked at the top and bottom for the 2012 season?

    If the catcher has no control, why isn't it random?
  6. Jim H's Avatar
    I suspect the quality of the pitching is the key here. Neither the Pirates or the Twins had very good pitching in those years. Tampa certainly did.

    That is the problem with some of these new metrics, they actually corolate better with something else than what they are trying to measure. I remember when everyone was excited because Jeter's UZR improved one year over the previous year. The real reason was a number of better starting pitchers. Nobody ever really considered that.

    Finally, I don't doubt that Molina is good at framing pitches. The question is, what is the impact of that rather limited skill. I suspect that Molina has a large impact on a game because of his all around defensive skills. Including working with his pitcher, calling a game, blocking pitches and throwing out runners. While I don't doubt that stealing a pitch here and there is useful, the idea that it is a 5 win skill over 80 games, is pretty unbelievable, and pretty much ruins this metric as anything to pay attention to.
    Updated 12-01-2012 at 06:20 PM by Jim H
  7. jorgenswest's Avatar
    I looked at the data and I don't see the relationship between team, catcher and quality of pitchers.

    All of the new metrics about fielding and its impact on wins is very new. I am not certain how strongly the Twins should embrace all of the data that is available today.With their moves, they don't seem to be embracing it at all. I hope they are right.
  8. h2oface's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim H
    The idea that a catcher can steal enough pitches for his pitcher to save 50 runs in 80 games isn't just an exaggeration, it is an insult to umpires. They aren't so bad at their jobs that how a catcher catches the ball is going to have much of an effect.
    Umpires are pretty bad, especially calling the low part of the zone and the outside part of the zone, but i don't see that from catcher framing. I see it as just humanly impossible to make accurate calls from that severe of an angle.
    Updated 12-04-2012 at 02:01 PM by h2oface (corrected caps, complying with a warning email)
  9. old nurse's Avatar
    To prove that it was framing that caused the ball or strike call there would have to be consistency in calling pitches by the umpires. I don't think you can prove that.
  10. jorgenswest's Avatar
    Why is there such consistency since 2007 in which catchers do well (getting more strikes from balls) and which catchers do poorly (getting strikes called a ball)?
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