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jorgenswest

Revisiting Catching and Defense

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My last blog topic on catcher defense was last November. The trade of Butera has prompted a revisit.

Through July 26 while Ryan Doumit was catching, 46 out of zone balls were called strikes and 205 in zone strikes were called balls. They convert it to a ratio which for Doumit would be 0.22 extra strikes/lost strikes. That ratio is the worst in baseball and the next for a current catcher is twice the ratio at 0.44. The data is from Baseball Prospectus.


How much difference does that make in terms of runs? Mike Fast used Dan Turkenkopf's study showing that reversing a strike into a ball is worth 0.13 runs.

You can and will argue that validity of both but many teams are using this work. Ben Lindbergh had a great series of interviews including executives, catchers, coaches, pitchers and umpires earlier this year.

So Doumit had caught 291.2 innings through July 26. He had a net of 159 lost strikes. Converting that into runs and using a per 9 inning measure, Doumit has impacted the game by 0.64 runs per 9 innings this year.

Many of you will join the Twins in ignoring this data.

Shouldn't the Twins wonder why the Dodgers with a back up catcher with an OPS of .590 didn't go after Doumit?

Instead, they added Butera. Butera can't hit. He can catch. Through 2012 had been about even in the strike/ball counts. He is very good in other measures and may be very good in receiving the ball.

Earlier this year Ramon Hernandez was the Dodgers back up catcher with an OPS over .700. They dropped Hernandez for the more skilled receiver in Federowicz. Federowicz can't match Hernandez' hitting. He can catch. Look for quotes from Steve Yeager in the top article below about the Dodgers and catcher defense.

Do you want the Twins to continue to ignore this data from pitch f/x?

Could it be that the Rays, Yankees, Dodgers, Pirates and Diamondbacks are off base in seeking catchers for their ability to receive the ball?

How much does Doumit cost the team with his defense? It must be something, but 0.64 seems very high. Even if it is half that, is it possible that we have been employing the wrong back up catcher this year?

My sources

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/...-molina-others

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/ar...rticleid=21363

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

http://subjspeak.blogspot.com/2012/1...ng-part-1.html

Edit: to add offensive comparison.

Doumit has created 40 runs this year (Baseball Reference) in 372 plate appearances. That is 0.43 runs per 4 plate appearances.

Last year, Butera created 8 runs in 122 plate appearances or 0.26 per game.

The difference in the offense while playing Doumit is about 0.17. Could Butera have made up that difference with his defense at catcher?

The Twins probably expected Doumit to do as well as last year's 0.51 per 4 PA. That is 0.25 runs per 4 PA better than they might have expected from Butera.

Did the Twins employ the best back up catcher?

Updated 07-31-2013 at 08:03 PM by jorgenswest

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  1. Willihammer's Avatar
    Dirty little fact that probably doesn't mean anything: The 2012 Twins were a better than .500 ballclub in the 33 games where Butera started at catcher.

    I was a little surprised to see Mauer had showed up on the wrong side of the 7/26 week's framing leaderboards. Parker's already pointed out how Mauer doesn't get many low strikes, but if he isn't getting the side to side strikes or the high strikes anymore, then there's even less reason to keep him crouching on that twice surgically repaired left knee.

    I think with Morneau leaving, and Mauer going into his age 31 season, the time is ripe to take a shot at a David Ross or Jose Molina this offseason while these elite framers are still cheap. Then shift Mauer into the primary 1B / backup C role once and for all.
  2. Brad Swanson's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer
    Dirty little fact that probably doesn't mean anything: The 2012 Twins were a better than .500 ballclub in the 33 games where Butera started at catcher.

    I was a little surprised to see Mauer had showed up on the wrong side of the 7/26 week's framing leaderboards. Parker's already pointed out how Mauer doesn't get many low strikes, but if he isn't getting the side to side strikes or the high strikes anymore, then there's even less reason to keep him crouching on that twice surgically repaired left knee.

    I think with Morneau leaving, and Mauer going into his age 31 season, the time is ripe to take a shot at a David Ross or Jose Molina this offseason while these elite framers are still cheap. Then shift Mauer into the primary 1B / backup C role once and for all.
    First, great stuff as always, jorgenswest. Second, I agree with this idea. The perception is that Mauer doesn't have the bat to produce as a first baseman, but his wRC+ would be fifth among all MLB first basemen at 145. I also love the idea of getting in on the ground floor of the catcher framing wave, so to speak.
  3. jdotmcmahon's Avatar
    Moving Mauer to first base before it's necessary eliminates the singular advantage the Twins have at any position on the diamond right now. He is a solid-average framer and he's throwing out runners as well as he has in his career right now, with no injuries to speak of. He needs to stay behind the dish as long as he can do it effectively to maximize his value.
  4. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
    I agree that Mauer's value is greatest when he is behind the plate. I expect that he is working on framing as part of his effort to be the best that he can be. At least I hope so.

    One thing that is interesting to me is that the Molina brothers are 5'11", 5'11" and 6'0".
    Hank Conger, rated #1 for framing so far this year, is 6'1".
    Lucroy, who they also chat up, is 6'0".

    Is it more difficult for a tall man, such as Mauer, to make those borderline pitches look like strikes?
  5. Willihammer's Avatar
    I wouldn't doubt its harder for an umpire to stare over a 6' 5" frame than a 6 foot one.

    According to umpire.org:

    A major error umpires make is that their head is too low.* Thus, they cannot see the outside corner of the plate because the catcher’s head is in the way. The bottom of the chin should be no lowerthan the top of the catcher’s helmet. If the catcher lines up inside then the height of the head may be even higher.
    Emphasis mine.

    Shorter catchers would be able to crouch lower, allowing umpires to crouch lower, giving them a better view of low pitches and presumably call more strikes down there.
  6. jorgenswest's Avatar
    You caused me to check...

    Josmil Pinto 5'11"
    Chris Herrmann 6'0"
    Matthew Koch 6'0"

    I hope you are correct.

    Doumit is 6'1" so there is skill involved in this other than height. Height helps. You can't teach Joe to be 5'11".
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