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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Gary Sánchez’s Offensive Surge Can’t Mask a New Woe Behind the Plate

Article summary: The Yankees catcher is on pace to break the position’s long-standing home run record, but his drop-off in pitch framing is costing New York almost as much as his bat can make up

Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: June 11, 2019 at 05:08 PM | 49 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: catching, new york yankees, pitch framing

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   1. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 11, 2019 at 06:44 PM (#5850740)
but his drop-off in pitch framing is costing New York almost as much as his bat can make up


In true Primer form I have NOT RTFA, but I find it very difficult to believe that a guy with a 148 OPS+ is nullifying all of that with poor framing. I know he's not great back there, but geez is he giving away like 20 strikes a game?

Besides framing, like having to drive a car, is a skill that will be nullified by technology in the next few years.

The Red Sox think Gary should be saved from this dire situation and come to Boston where he may improve his abhorrent defensive stats and continue to flat out rake.
   2. Captain Supporter Posted: June 11, 2019 at 07:21 PM (#5850751)
You are supposed to believe that somehow he has totally forgotten everything he has ever known about framing. Or you can believe that either GIGO or that people who pretend to know something about Sabremetrics should not write articles with small sample sizes and conclusions that make no sense.
   3. My name is RMc and I feel extremely affected Posted: June 11, 2019 at 08:42 PM (#5850764)
I find it very difficult to believe that a guy with a 148 OPS+ is nullifying all of that with poor framing.

Lotsa taters covers up a whole buncha sins.
   4. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 11, 2019 at 08:44 PM (#5850765)
Bold prediction: We will look back at these few years and shake our collective heads at the wild overcorrection to sabermetrics’ prior dismissal of pitch framing.
   5. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: June 11, 2019 at 09:18 PM (#5850779)
Bold prediction: We will look back at these few years and shake our collective heads at the wild overcorrection to sabermetrics’ prior dismissal of pitch framing.


That's pretty much my assumption.

Framing also doesn't appear to be that difficult. Bad framers get taught to be good ones pretty quickly. It's not actually a major league skill -- it's more like, I don't know a pickoff move or something. The only reason, it seems to me, for a guy to be bad at it is that nobody's ever mentioned it to him before.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 11, 2019 at 10:13 PM (#5850793)
No way the guy is a +5 framer for 3 years, and then goes to -20. Don't buy it.

And, of course, the Yankee staff has a 3.89 ERA with Sanchez behind the plate, .718 OPS against, which is dead in line with the other catchers. So, these theoretical strikes he's missing, aren't actually leading to runs.
   7. Joe Bivens, Slack Rumped Rutabaga Head Posted: June 12, 2019 at 08:39 AM (#5850841)
Meet the new woe...same as the old woe: He's a DH forced to catch because the Yankees don't want a weaker bat in the lineup. Especially now when the lineup looks like it does. (Can these replacements maintain this pace much longer?)
   8. Rally Posted: June 12, 2019 at 09:06 AM (#5850846)
He's a DH forced to catch because the Yankees don't want a weaker bat in the lineup.


Then why do they fill the DH spot with Kendrys Morales?
   9. Rally Posted: June 12, 2019 at 09:12 AM (#5850849)
Sanchez is -6.7 framing runs by Prospectus. -6.5 by Statcorner. He's +13 batting runs, best on the team so far. This is not a Doumit situation where a slightly above average hitter ruins his value with atrocious framing. This is a Napoli situation. The solution does not require benching him for a Mathis.
   10. Davo Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:04 AM (#5850866)
I’m with number 4. How confident are we that this is something the catcher can control?

I’m old, guys, I remember when stat-heads were pushing “Catcher’s ERA” as a stat—I’m wary!

This “framing” article reads a lot like the famous XKCD cartoon: “A random number generator just produced a new batch of numbers. Let’s use them to build narratives!”
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:08 AM (#5850873)
How confident are we that this is something the catcher can control?

I think there has been significant discussion that the pitcher owns a lot of the blame/credit. If the pitcher is hitting his spots, it's easy for the catcher to keep quiet behind the plate. If he has to move his glove 2 feet to catch a ball, that's going to look bad to the ump.
   12. SoSH U at work Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:10 AM (#5850876)
How confident are we that this is something the catcher can control?


Given the umpires have access to the numbers, there's probably some intentional regression that takes place. If the umpire's area aware that a catcher is getting more strikes, it may (consciously or subconsciously) result in a change in the way the ump behaves when that catcher is behind the dish.

I agree with Elroy that an overcorrection is coming. I'm less confident that a real understanding of what 'framing' is will ever arrive.

Edit: Well, at least snapper understands.


   13. . Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:12 AM (#5850877)
It's hard to get more junky than this junk science.
   14. . Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:14 AM (#5850879)
And, of course, the Yankee staff has a 3.89 ERA with Sanchez behind the plate, .718 OPS against, which is dead in line with the other catchers. So, these theoretical strikes he's missing, aren't actually leading to runs.


The math that takes them from pitches "successfully framed" to "runs saved" is very likely misguided. (As it is with defense generally, but that's a side issue we can put to the side for now.)
   15. . Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:17 AM (#5850883)
And, of course, the Yankee staff has a 3.89 ERA with Sanchez behind the plate, .718 OPS against, which is dead in line with the other catchers.


This is the analogue to basketball's on-off court numbers. It's analytically sound in premise and structure. It can't just be done without any adjustments -- if a guy is always on the court with LeBron James, his numbers are going to be inflated -- but the analytical structure is sound. With framing, it isn't.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:19 AM (#5850886)
The math that takes them from pitches "successfully framed" to "runs saved" is very likely misguided. (As it is with defense generally, but that's a side issue we can put to the side for now.)

There's a fundamental difference between defense and framing. A defensive chance either leads to an out or a man on base. It changes the game state. Same thing with a completed PA.

A lost or stolen strike merely changes the probability of a change in game state. e.g. 0-2 count, Sanchez loses a strike. The hitter is slightly more likely to reach base now, but if he makes out on the next pitch, all Sanchez cost the team was one extra pitch out of the pitcher.
   17. Jose is Absurdly Unemployed Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:23 AM (#5850891)
No way the guy is a +5 framer for 3 years, and then goes to -20. Don't buy it.


I’m as skeptical as you are but guys have bad years in other aspects of the game I don’t see why they couldn’t struggle in pitch framing also. This is particularly true when you get into the uncertain world of defensive statistics mixed with the small sample size of just over a third of a season.

To me Sanchez is worth keeping as a catcher particularly if you have a decent option s at DH/1B/3B. He’s bad at pitch blocking and has a very good arm. It’s not like he’s helpless back there. I mean yeah, he’s not Johnny Bench but off the top of my head there are few if any catchers I’d rather have on my team right now.
   18. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:31 AM (#5850896)

Pitch framing seems to me to be something like park factors and other defensive stats. You can't really evaluate it until the season is over, or at least much further along. For example, the article states:

Although the TV camera angle shows it landing slightly outside, Pitch Info’s data shows that, based on factors like the 3-1 count and La Stella’s left-handed hitting stance, this throw had an 87 percent chance of being called a strike.

First of all, this is a terrible use of statistics. Does that 87% take into account who the ump behind the plate is? If not, it's a false level of precision. And is the 87% based on data this season only? What if the league directed the umpires to call the zone a bit differently this year? We won't necessarily see that in the numbers until we have a larger sample size.
   19. PreservedFish Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:36 AM (#5850900)
I suspect this is one of the areas where some of the teams which have proprietary studies on the subject are actually laughing at how poor the public analysis is.

BPro has Yasmani Grandal as one of the very most valuable players in baseball due to his framing - ranked in the top 20 last year, between Yelich and Baez - and yet the Dodgers (and everyone else) let him escape to Milwaukee for a mere 1 year, $18M.
   20. jmurph Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:45 AM (#5850905)
If I had any BBTF search ability I'd link to the previous Gary Sanchez threads and the previous pitch framing threads, because this #### is hilarious.
   21. PreservedFish Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:55 AM (#5850917)
There's a fundamental difference between defense and framing. A defensive chance either leads to an out or a man on base. It changes the game state. Same thing with a completed PA.

A lost or stolen strike merely changes the probability of a change in game state. e.g. 0-2 count, Sanchez loses a strike. The hitter is slightly more likely to reach base now, but if he makes out on the next pitch, all Sanchez cost the team was one extra pitch out of the pitcher.


I don't think the difference is fundamental. Defense is just like this - a misplay may not lead to a run, and all it costs the team is a few pitches - and yet the defender is penalized by a theoretical portion of a run.

The thinking on it seems sound. And I presume that there isn't a fundamental math error that has been repeated by everyone working on it. But I agree that there's a problem somewhere, and some day we'll understand it better.
   22. Dromedary pretzels, only half a dinar (CoB). Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:57 AM (#5850921)
viewsfrom314.com, which was started by a bunch of the writers from RAB when that shut down in late April, just finished a 3 part series on Sanchez's defense. Here's from part 2 where they looked at his blocking:

In 2017, Sanchez led baseball with 16 passed balls. In just 74 percent of the innings in 2018, he led baseball again with 18. He averaged a passed ball per every 36 2/3 innings. Whether it was from getting crossed up with pitchers, improper technique or nagging injuries, there was a real issue at play.

Whatever the issue, it appears the 26-year-old backstop has eliminated it. He’s allowed just four passed balls this year, or one per every 72 2/3 innings, which is the best rate in his brief MLB career. It’s not a great rate, but it’s not far and away the worst as 10 catchers have accumulated more this season.

Wild pitches are a similar story. The 98 WPs that skittered past him from 2017-18 was the third most behind Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado, but his 10 this year are only 22nd-most.

Overall, he’s been worth -0.3 Blocking Runs, according to Baseball Prospectus, which is 57th out of 86 catchers. Last season? He was 114th out of 115 with -4.3 runs. He was 108th of 110 in 2017 with -3.1 runs. While he’s not going to become elite, he’s serviceable, which is all the Yankees can ask for.


Gary Sanchez turned his defense upside down: Part II
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:57 AM (#5850922)
I don't think the difference is fundamental. Defense is just like this - a misplay may not lead to a run, and all it costs the team is a few pitches - and yet the defender is penalized by a theoretical portion of a run.

Just like a non-HR hit or BB may not lead to a run, but the batter still gets credit. Defense and batting are one level removed from actual scoring. Framing is two levels removed.
   24. SoSH U at work Posted: June 12, 2019 at 10:57 AM (#5850923)
I don't think the difference is fundamental. Defense is just like this - a misplay may not lead to a run, and all it costs the team is a few pitches - and yet the defender is penalized by a theoretical portion of a run.


It's not fundamental, but it is moving the theoretical one step further away from the meaningful outcome.
   25. PreservedFish Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:02 AM (#5850927)
Framing is two levels removed.

and

It's not fundamental, but it is moving the theoretical one step further away from the meaningful outcome.

Yes. The connection with reality is even more tenuous.
   26. . Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:12 AM (#5850931)
There's a fundamental difference between defense and framing. A defensive chance either leads to an out or a man on base. It changes the game state. Same thing with a completed PA.

A lost or stolen strike merely changes the probability of a change in game state. e.g. 0-2 count, Sanchez loses a strike. The hitter is slightly more likely to reach base now, but if he makes out on the next pitch, all Sanchez cost the team was one extra pitch out of the pitcher.


I get the distinction you're making, but I'm not sure I can totally buy in. We don't say a double is worthless if the next three guys wind up striking out and stranding you.

If it's not clear by now, that's my biggest problem with all of this. In some places, high granularity is said to be in order; in others it isn't. Take the "jump" numbers that just came out. I like them, they're interesting, more of them please. However ... the premise is that if you don't improve on average major league catch probability, you haven't created value. (*) We don't, however, judge hitting based on pitch difficulty. We just give you credit for the ultimate result. There's nothing wrong with either of these in and of themselves; the problem comes when they're combined. The big difference in underlying premise of measurement can't really be squared, even if the effort is made to scale both in terms of runs.

(*) And in turn, if you don't match MLB catch probability, you've reduced value.
   27. jmurph Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:16 AM (#5850938)
There's some good conversation in this thread, Tom Nawrocki did a lot stat checking to compare pitcher ERA to some of the framing numbers. I just can't for the life of me take any of the framing discussion seriously.
   28. . Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:17 AM (#5850941)
Back to the on-off idea, one of the things Bill James found in his essay on Ozzie Smith is that the Cardinals' ERA was no worse (and might have even been better) when Ozzie wasn't playing short. If -- it's a big if, but still -- if it can be shown that there isn't some other explanation like better pitchers pitching in the games Ozzie didn't play or pitchers pitching worse as measured by something other than ERA when Ozzie didn't play, I have no issue concluding that Ozzie's defense wasn't really that big a deal. Point being not that Ozzie wasn't an excellent defender, but more that I need a lot more to be comfortable with the magnitude of its impact than we have now. I'm still open to the idea that defense really is a tiny factor in the sport compared to offense. That idea might be way off, but in no sense has it been definitively falsified.
   29. PreservedFish Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:18 AM (#5850943)
We don't, however, judge hitting based on pitch difficulty.


That's undoubtedly on its way though. I don't think it'll add much value to have such outrageous detail, but it'll be interesting to see "dude hit a homerun off a slider with a velocity and movement that generates a swing & miss 60% of the time and a barrel only 3% of the time."
   30. . Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:19 AM (#5850944)
There's some good conversation in this thread, Tom Nawrocki did a lot stat checking to compare pitcher ERA to some of the framing numbers. I just can't for the life of me take any of the framing discussion seriously.


Tom's research was asteroid/dinosaur level takedown. It's junk science. To snapper's point, even if there's some there there, whatever's there gets swallowed up by the ultimate game state event.
   31. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:20 AM (#5850945)
If it's not clear by now, that's my biggest problem with all of this. In some places, high granularity is said to be in order; in others it isn't.
Bingo. It doesn't work to have one small subset of players who accumulate WAR on a pitch-by-pitch basis.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:22 AM (#5850949)
Bingo. It doesn't work to have one small subset of players who accumulate WAR on a pitch-by-pitch basis.

Especially since the pitchers aren't being debited. So, if a catcher steal 3 strikes to get a K, the C gets credit, and the pitcher still gets full credit for the out.
   33. Davo Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:24 AM (#5850952)
27- Thank you for the link. I’d missed that the first time around, I’m gonna get to work on it!
   34. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:26 AM (#5850955)
Right. And by this theory, shouldn't a batter who stupidly swings and misses at ball four get debited?
   35. SoSH U at work Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:45 AM (#5850970)

Right. And by this theory, shouldn't a batter who stupidly swings and misses at ball four get debited?


That's absolutely an issue with the defense/pitching vs. hitting stats. No one cares what should or would have happened with offensive guys.

   36. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:52 AM (#5850978)
and yet the Dodgers (and everyone else) let him escape to Milwaukee for a mere 1 year, $18M


He has said that he had several multi-year offers, but went with the Brewers because $18M per was the highest AAV.
   37. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 12, 2019 at 11:55 AM (#5850984)
He has said that he had several multi-year offers, but went with the Brewers because $18M per was the highest AAV.

Right, but if teams actually believed the public framing numbers, he'd have had multi-year offers at a much higher AAV.
   38. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 12, 2019 at 12:08 PM (#5850999)

We don't, however, judge hitting based on pitch difficulty. We just give you credit for the ultimate result. There's nothing wrong with either of these in and of themselves; the problem comes when they're combined. The big difference in underlying premise of measurement can't really be squared, even if the effort is made to scale both in terms of runs.

I think the reasoning behind this is that for hitters and pitchers we have a sufficiently large sample size that these things are supposed to even out over the course of a season.* Whereas most players get fewer fielding chances than plate appearances, and a lot fewer of the non-routine variety. And the number/type of chances can vary greatly depending on the pitching staff. So there is theoretically much more incremental information to be gained on fielders from looking at the PBP-level information.

* It probably doesn't -- for example, even on the same team some starting pitchers appear to get very different levels of defensive support in any given season, for example. But we're closer to being able to rely on law of large numbers for hitting/pitching than we are for fielding.
   39. . Posted: June 12, 2019 at 12:36 PM (#5851027)
Whereas most players get fewer fielding chances than plate appearances, and a lot fewer of the non-routine variety.


The "routine" thing is interesting. A ball is hit a step to the left of a major league shortstop, he fields it, throws out the runner. Since every major league shortstop, even Jeter on his worst day, could have done the same thing,(**) it's essentially written off as valueless. But it really isn't valueless, it resulted in an out. Converting hit balls to outs contributes to winning. That's something. It's not as though every human, even of prime athletic age, could do that. Among other things, you have to have a strong enough arm to throw out a runner of, we'll say, average major league speed. That wipes out a lot of people (it likely wipes out me BITD).

Is the universe of people for whom that play is "routine" really that much bigger than the universe of people for whom an 89 MPH fastball right down the middle on 3-0 is "routine"? Maybe it is, but it's at least worth thinking about. What separates the two is really the huge discrepancy in possible outcomes. (*) The groundball to short has far fewer possibilities.

(*) And therefore, smaller gradations in performance by which people can be distinguished.

(**) EDIT: It's actually stronger than this. A major league SS is expected to turn this into an out. There's no analogue of expectation with a hitter. No hitter as a matter of threshold, indispensible expectation, is expected to turn even the worst, most "routine," pitch into a hit.
   40. . Posted: June 12, 2019 at 12:56 PM (#5851044)
If you define "routine" by widest universe of people who could accomplish the task, in baseball it's unquestionably the walk.
   41. Joe Bivens, Slack Rumped Rutabaga Head Posted: June 13, 2019 at 09:52 AM (#5851344)
Then why do they fill the DH spot with Kendrys Morales?


I don't know. Is Kendrys Morales a weaker bat than the backup catcher? I tend to doubt it.
   42. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 13, 2019 at 10:00 AM (#5851350)
Then why do they fill the DH spot with Kendrys Morales?


Because they're expecting Stanton and Judge back and don't want to get Sanchez out of the routine of catching. He's a catcher for them, long term, so you don't eff with him to get Austin Romine in the lineup.
   43. Blastin Posted: June 13, 2019 at 10:01 AM (#5851351)
It appears that Sanchez was, indeed, injured last year, which the, I dunno, two IL stints and the offseason surgery might have confirmed.

I'm glad he's back. And his blocking is much better, so now there's another thing that makes him look bad, of course.
   44. Dromedary pretzels, only half a dinar (CoB). Posted: June 13, 2019 at 10:01 AM (#5851352)

I don't know. Is Kendrys Morales a weaker bat than the backup catcher? I tend to doubt it.

He's certainly worse than giving Mike Ford (OPS 1.144 in AAA) an extended look.

[edit] but that's more to the point of "WTF is Kendrys Morales on this team", not "why is Gary Sanchez catching" ...
   45. Blastin Posted: June 13, 2019 at 10:02 AM (#5851353)
Because they're expecting Stanton and Judge back


And actually soon now! Stanton hit 2HR yesterday. Kendrys time ends on Sunday, methinks.
   46. Dromedary pretzels, only half a dinar (CoB). Posted: June 13, 2019 at 10:09 AM (#5851357)
Kendrys time ends on Sunday, methinks.


From your lips to Cashman's ears.

Now, if he could just take Jonathan Holder with him ...
   47. Blastin Posted: June 13, 2019 at 01:24 PM (#5851448)
Your obsession with Holder confounds. Holder is perfectly fine as the option after Chapman/Britton/Ottavino/Kahnle and probably after Green. Not a one team has more options than that. His leverage is actually lower than all of those people, too. He's just mediocre AAAA fodder and that's fine. He's not completely done like Morales.
   48. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: June 13, 2019 at 02:13 PM (#5851481)

Besides framing, like having to drive a car, is a skill that will be nullified by technology in the next few years.


If by "few" one means "a century from now".
   49. Dromedary pretzels, only half a dinar (CoB). Posted: June 13, 2019 at 02:45 PM (#5851503)
Morales to the DL, Tauchmann recalled.

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