The Electronic Strike Zone, Catcher Framing, Contreras's Value, and Other Cubs Bullets

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The Electronic Strike Zone, Catcher Framing, Contreras’s Value, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Obligatory Festivus intro, where I tell you have a lot of problems with you, challenge Michael to a feats of strength, and hang one single 2016 Cubs World Series ornament on the pole.

  • Among the big news over the weekend, the Umpires Association agreed to a new five-year deal with MLB, and included an agreement to cooperate if/when the league implements an electronic strike zone. For a lot of Cubs fans, the news meant one thing: keep Willson Contreras at all costs, because without framing to consider, he becomes perhaps the best catcher in baseball. While that might be a true statement, it’s not all that obvious that the news really impacts things at this juncture. A couple reasons:
    1. Implementation might take a few years – all of Contreras’s team control with the Cubs – with the minor leagues getting their first taste in 2020, and then perhaps the league aiming to fully implement in 2022, which is the first year of the (anticipated) new CBA? It could come more quickly than that, of course, but that timeline would not only line up with the CBA, but it would also give baseball two years to study/improve the system in MiLB first, and would also give the tech two more years to advance.
    2. The first approach by the league might not be a fully electronic zone, and instead might involve some kind of challenge system – in which case, the value of framing would be reduced, but would not go away entirely.
  • On the whole, even after this news, I still think it makes sense to work to improve the framing of your catchers (hence the Cubs hiring framing guru Craig Driver), and also to explore trades for Contreras (or not) regardless of electronic strike zone considerations. If the Cubs can get an absolutely haul for Contreras right now, OK, I am open to that consideration. But shy of that, I kinda just want to see how Contreras develops with the enormous new catching-heavy coaching staff in place. Not only might he, you know, actually help the Cubs win a lot more games in 2020, it’s entirely possible he flips over into positive framing territory in the first half of 2020, and his value – in a trade or to the Cubs – absolutely explodes.
  • In short: wherever you were on shopping Contreras before this weekend, I don’t think any news about a coming electronic strike zone (eventually) should change your thinking.
  • Cubs outfield prospect Brennen Davis on a podcast:

  • Very cool shot:

  • Edwin Jackson, still pitching:

  • Michael has jokes:

  • Can you get one to me by Opening Day:



Author: Brett Taylor

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