Checking Back in on the Value of Pitch-Framing and Other Bullets

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Checking Back in on the Value of Pitch-Framing and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs News

cubs catcherAfter four years with our wireless router, I decided it was time to upgrade to a beefier, newer one. I didn’t really have a particular reason, other than maybe a small dead spot or two in our house. So I went with the Apple Airport Extreme – slightly discounted price on Amazon (use Amazon! support BN! use this link when you use Amazon! hooray!) – and I set it up yesterday afternoon. It worked fine for about an hour before everything on our network slowed to a crawl. Then it died completely.

Around that time, my phone dinged with an email, and I thought, “Well, yeah, it just clicked back over to cell data after failing on the wifi for the last half an hour, so of course there have been emails arriving.” I almost didn’t even check the email right then because I was so frustrated about the wifi … but it was the email telling me the Cubs had just traded for Tommy La Stella, and it was from 10 minutes earlier. Crap. So I scrambled to get my cell hotspot up so I could post something. I started typing the post and … my computer died. In my frustration and haste about the wifi issue, I’d forgotten to plug in my laptop. By the time I got everything back up and posted about the trade, it had been nearly 20 minutes since it was announced. I guess it’s a little insane to feel like I was super late at that point – 20 minutes on a Sunday afternoon – but that’s the era we’re in.

The good news is that, after some tinkering that I should have done in the first place, I believe I’ve sorted out the wifi issue. It wasn’t a router problem – it appears that it was a “human error” problem. Whoops.

  • With Russell Martin rumors ticking up every day, it’s a good time to check back in on one of the primary reasons – presumably – that you’d be interested in Martin, even at a healthy price tag, and even as he turns 32: pitch-framing. Our understanding of, and general acceptance of, the value of pitch-framing – even if we can’t quite say for sure we buy the final figures 100% – has exploded in the last year, alone. We always knew it was an issue, but it wasn’t until a wholesale buy-in at the third party sabermetric level in the last two years that we started to see just how extreme the issue could be. Not all pitch-framing calculations are the same, though the players at the top and bottom of the lists tend to be the same, so it’s worth checking out as many framing calculations are out there, as long as you don’t take each individual source as gospel. Today, I’m looking at StatCorner’s pitch-framing totals for 2014 (h/t to this Hardball Times article for pushing me there), and you can see that Welington Castillo is at the very bottom with 183 lost calls over the course of the year. According to StatCorner’s calculations, that translates to 24.3 lost runs over the course of the year. To put that in context for you, it takes about 9 to 10 “runs” worth of player value to account for a “win” of WAR. So, even if we’re generous to Castillo, that’s more than 2.4 in negative WAR from framing, alone.
  • At the top of StatCorner’s list? No, it’s not Russell Martin (he’s 10th at 11.7 runs above average). It’s Miguel Montero, at 24 runs above average in framing. That means the difference, in terms of wins, between Castillo and Montero could be nearly five wins from framing. I know, I know. These numbers start to seem crazy when they’re so huge – a five-game swing in the standings last year would have made the Cubs 78-84 – but remember that we’re talking about the very best compared to the very worst. A five-game swing, then, doesn’t seem all that implausible. Castillo provides value with his defense (outside of framing) and his bat, but the framing is probably sapping that value completely. I’m all on board for keeping Castillo as an inexpensive back-up with offensive upside (and we do know that framing can improve), but, as long as umpires allow catchers to “steal” and “lose” strikes, the Cubs probably have to make a change at starter. And, from there, if they opt to move Castillo in trade, I’d understand that, too.
  • (I will say I’m still waiting for the definitive study that rules out or rules in the explicit impact of the pitching staff on framing, because you do seem to see some clustering of catchers on the same team (well, my eyes do, anyway). It’s a little hard to control for, because maybe it’s not the pitching staff, maybe it’s the coaching staff. Or maybe it’s specific pitcher-catcher combinations. Or maybe it’s specific pitcher-catcher-umpire combinations. Many of these things are controlled for in the catching data (for example, BP controls for pitchers and umpires), but I just want to feel like we’ve really plumbed these depths from a data perspective. As I have said many times recently: I am to the point where I totally accept that some catchers are better than others at framing, and it does have a significant impact on balls/strikes, because the same guys tend to appear at the tops and bottoms of these lists over the years, even as the pitching staff changes and even after the team changes. But, beyond that, I’m still not 100% on ruling out externalities.)
  • Anthony Rizzo’s annual Walk-Off for Cancer was a big success (
  • Sahadev Sharma will make you smile with some advice for teams as they proceed through the offseason.
  • Sam Miller takes a deep look at the expected 13-year, $325 million contract extension for Giancarlo Stanton, noting that the Marlins pretty much had to do it, and, at least in terms of valuation, it’s really not a bad deal for the team.


Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.