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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vernon Wells headed to Angels in Mike Napoli trade

WOW.

5:38 PM: We weren’t expecting that! Rosenthal reports that the Angels have traded Mike Napoli to the Blue Jays. No word on the return.  Giving up one of the team’s better bats makes some sense if you can get some good young Rays talent. The Jays system isn’t quite as stocked.  Here’s hoping for Angels fans that they’re getting some value back.

Man. You just never know.

UPDATE: If this trade didn’t surprise you already, this certainly will. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, Vernon Wells is headed to the Blue Jays in the Mike Napoli trade. In a word, woah. More when we get it.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 22, 2011 at 12:39 AM | 264 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, blue jays

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   201. Dan Posted: January 23, 2011 at 04:52 AM (#3734938)
Maybe the Red Sox got this scouting report from Bill James (posted today in his mailbag):


I think there may be something here. It's hardly a stretch to imagine the Red Sox not wanting to pay real value for a catcher as bad defensively as Napoli after experiencing Victor Martinez firsthand. It certainly fits within the framework of how they dealt with FA negotiations with Martinez too. The Red Sox appear to be placing a higher value on catcher defense now than in the past. Neither Saltalamacchia or Varitek throw well, but both are reportedly good with handling pitchers.
   202. Commissioner Bud Black Beltre Hillman Posted: January 23, 2011 at 05:49 AM (#3734954)
202--Not to suggest defense/pitcher-handling isn't a significant concern for them, but I don't think that's particularly new (Varitek has been there since before ownership and praised for his game-management throughout) or a direct reaction to Martinez's defense, and I think age had as much to do with the Martinez decision as (recent/current) defensive ability. They'd have been happy to keep putting him out there, except that he's about to enter his mid 30's and will likely decline on both sides of the plate (or as a switchhitter, three sides), as they just went through with Tek.

At this point, I'm starting to believe that ownership really is as confident in Saltalamacchia as they say they are, which probably cut down the chances of the team dealing for Napoli.
   203. shattnering his Dominicano G Strings on that Mound Posted: January 23, 2011 at 10:06 PM (#3735092)
One thing that is somewhat frustrating is the issue of catcher defense. Pretty much everyone agrees that we don't know squat about valuing it. Things like cERA are laughed off the stage. Yet this thread is chock-full of folks speaking from positions of total authority about it. It's a massive disconnect I just don't quite get, really.

In some cases, it's almost like the inverse gold glove awards: Mathis is suck a sink-hole on offense that his defense must be overrated by that Rube Scioscia. He's so awful that he hurts the team more than any other player out there!

And then there's the equally frustrating 'Napoli is so much better w/ the bat compared to the positional avg that defense doesn't matter at all, since there is nothing to catcher defense anyway.' I mean, I've been reading lately about how Gary Sheffield was so bad with the glove in Left Field that he seriously hurts his otherwise impressive HOF qualifications. That's Left Field defense, where a guy might be involved in 3 plays a game. Those 3 plays a game doing such massive damage as to undermine the rest of his pretty freaking rad game skills. Yet a guy who literally touches the ball something like 3 times per at bat is irrelevant on defense and for people like former-catcher Scioscia to insist that his guy Mathis makes a real difference is batshit kraykray. If Sheffield's shite defense makes a larger impact on a game than Napoli's #### defense in your system of evaluating a player's worth, then, well, your system has a massive hole that renders it more than a little bit unreliable. I can't be the only one who sees this occurring and pulls a 'Scooby Doo is taken-aback' move.

Now I also don't know squat about catcher defense either. No clue about how to evaluate it or what criteria should be used. But surely someone does. Perhaps the Angels are onto something. Perhaps they feel that a tandem of cERA and Scioscia/scout's evals can yield up a pretty good sense of what's what for catcher defense. Given how successfully they've overperformed their Pythags for years now and how they've always done better than folks expected, they might be right to feel this way. I am not in a position to say, really. I'd like it a lot if someone would step up that was in a position to say.

We've got a slew of folks looking at Pitch f/x data and breaking down pitchers 'frame-by-frame' to see if they can uncover what leads to injury or how the mechanics of pitching and the locations and movement of pitches lead to the results. Why not do the same for the catcher? IS that really more laborious than the former pursuit? But until then, it strikes me that making proclamations about who is worthless and who is a 'bad ############' and has the wallet to prove it should always be tinged with a bit of doubt or leave open the possibility that the speaker isn't certain of the efficacy of his/her argument.

consider this an opportunity for the guy who tends to lurk to make a point that shoulda been made earlier.
   204. Tripon Posted: January 24, 2011 at 02:05 AM (#3735143)
Except, Sowers. Is that much of the same criticism about Napoli's defense can be said of Mathis. He's not the best defensive catcher in the majors (Which he would have to be if he's going to start the majority of games). He doesn't have a good throwing arm, his accuracy isn't great, and he doesn't block the plate better than anyone else.

The main reasons why Mathis starts is because Mike Scioscia likes him. Forget Mike Napoli. Put Jeff Mathis on any other team, and he doesn't see more than 30 starts as the back up catcher. That's how annoying this thing was between Napoli and Mathis.
   205. shattnering his Dominicano G Strings on that Mound Posted: January 24, 2011 at 02:20 AM (#3735148)
Yeah, I agree Tripon. I should've specified that I think the trade is one-sided as well (+1 for AA) due to the Angels dismissing the cost of the contract to get there guy and that Napoli was undervalued some. I'd also imagine Mathis is overrated by the Angels. But I am not sure how to prove those things. Throwing and blocking wild pitches are parts of what a catcher does, but not a huge percentage of it. And thus far nobody has advanced a method that effectively rates catcher defense by evaluating framing of pitches/game-calling/etc or can assign accurate value to it. Passed ball % and % of runners CS are only parts of the whole. I'd love it if someone would. Until this happens I don't see how people can be confident enough to say that Mathis is truly awful or horribly overrated. This is different that Erstad or Neifi (to pick two prominent examples of horribly overrated players that mannagers adopted as pets). We can be much more confident that those two were truly black-holes. How can we be so certain that Mathis is on that level? And how can we agree that the Sheffields and Dunns are the world torpedo their value with defense but the Napolis of the world don't?
   206. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 24, 2011 at 03:01 AM (#3735162)
Until this happens I don't see how people can be confident enough to say that Mathis is truly awful or horribly overrated.

Mathis was -19 RAA with the bat in 218 PA. If you gave him 550 PA he'd be something like -50 RAA.

He is not good at the aspect of catching we can measure (CS% and WP/PB), BBRef has him as -6, or -15 runs in a full season.

What would be the mechanism where he'd get most of those 65 runs back? If a guy was that good at calling games, it would be observable.
   207. Willie Mayspedester Posted: January 24, 2011 at 03:04 AM (#3735163)
All I know about catcher defense is that it's REALLY hard for catchers in the minors to make it to the big leagues from a defensive standpoint. They spend so much time concentrating on defense that it effects their hitting. Well that and being dinged up all the time.

Another factor has to be the fact that the ability to pitch in the big leagues is hard to pin down (control and craftiness vs "stuff"). Pitching seems to be an art in which confidence and strategy is key. If the pitchers on a staff don't like throwing to a catcher it will hurt them and that can't be tolerated. I think this leads to veterans lasting forever (pitchers and catchers).

These things add up to a rare combo in which staying healthy and playing well behind the plate while hitting well isn't something every team can consistently achieve.

EDIT: A league average LF in a good year for 20 million is laughable and I'm glad the Angels made this trade as an A's fan.
   208. shattnering his Dominicano G Strings on that Mound Posted: January 24, 2011 at 03:59 AM (#3735186)
I'd think calling a game would actually be of insane importance. Not disrupting the pitcher. Knowing what's working and what isn't. I mean, for instance, we try to find ways to assess the impact of defense on a pitcher's ERA. And we also try to isolate that impact from what the pitcher can control. But part of that which is simply discarded is the catcher's role in that. He plays a part of the walks and strikeouts. He plays a coaching role in calling the game. It's not as important as actually delivering a tight slider at 92 mph, but it's there. I haven't watched Mathis enough to say much of anything about him, to be honest. And even if I did, I am not in a position to judge him really. I mean, unless I'm at a game sitting fairly close or have a camera feed just on him, I am going to miss some of his performance. A lot of it in fact. Those patented "Fox Closeups" of pitchers faces make us miss the calling of the pitch, for instance, some of the positioning, and etc.

I can easily imagine the larger, more ungainly Napoli wreaking havoc compared the what Mathis is apparently considered to be (or pick an actually amazing defensive catcher like Yadier Molina or young Pudge), though. He is like a warrior or barbarian class of fighter. Strong and powerful but somewhat unwieldy. I can see him being clunky receiving the ball. Framing the pitch poorly. Not quite having the fast-twitch kinds of responses a smaller, lither guy might have. And I could see all of those little things adding up to a lot of damage defensively. Whether that impact is overblown by L'Anaheim, I have no idea. And the Mathis as the other half of the timeshare is probably the wrong answer since his bat really is that bad.

People have been working with cascading a lot lately (or at least I'm starting to see a lot of it). Isn't catcher defense a part of this sort of thing? Or at least couldn't it be viewed this way? Is all of BABIP, for instance completely random? Is some of the difference in a ball being pasted past the SS and a bleeder that gets gobbled up dependent upon the catcher?

I am sort of saying lots of different things and this lacks some focus, but I'm trying to ask questions for which I'd love to know the answers.
   209. Tripon Posted: January 24, 2011 at 04:36 AM (#3735201)
Sure, calling's a game is important. But its a skill that every catcher has to have. Its one of the prerequisites to being a catcher, if a person couldn't do it, he'd likely be moved off of catcher in the first place. The defense of Jeff Mathis reminds me of the defense of Jason Varitek when he was catering offensively. (But he calls such a great game! Look at his CERA!) Well, okay. Just how much better is he really compared to everyone else?

Nobody can really answer that.
   210. Ron J Posted: January 24, 2011 at 05:37 AM (#3735226)
#209 Worth noting that Earl Weaver didn't attach any significance to game calling by catchers. Oriole pitchers called their games back then and you'd have to say it worked out pretty well.

It's also worth noting that the best study I'm aware of into this area Keith Woolner study couldn't find any large effect on batting results (Keith didn't look at runs because things like skill against the running game should result in runs saved even if the catcher has no real game calling skills). Keith has conceded that the study is not sensitive enough to detect small but meaningful changes in results.

It's also worth noting in terms of the actions of the Red Sox actions that Bill James is known to find Woolner's study non-persuasive (though he's never troubled to refute it -- or even directly address it as he did with PAP)

Another interesting side point. From the Keith Hernandez comment in the 1985 Abstract:

It was widely noted last year that, with the Mets having a young pitching staff and a rookie catcher, Keith assumed what has traditionally been the catcher's role of "handling" the pitcher, watching his mechanics and supervising his pitch selection. I don't know whether Johnson was behind this or Keith did it on his own, but when you think about it it's a fairly simple and logical step, and what is surprising is that it hasn't been seen for such a long time. Why do you have to have Bill Schroeder worrying about handling Tom Candiotti when you have Cecil Cooper at first base?

(And goes on to note that Frank Chance, Fred Tenney, John Ganzel, George Stovall, Jake Stahl and Hal Chase -- among others -- had strong reputations as handlers of pitcher while playing first) Again quoting:

Sometimes a first baseman would be criticized by the press because he was considered deficient in filling his role as a field leader.
   211. Bob Evans Posted: January 24, 2011 at 06:21 AM (#3735253)
Oh great, 1BERA, another junk stat. j/k
   212. Chicago Joe Posted: January 24, 2011 at 06:33 AM (#3735259)
Is some of the difference in a ball being pasted past the SS and a bleeder that gets gobbled up dependent upon the catcher?

Of course the ball never reached the catcher, so probably not a lot. ;) In all seriousness, it's tough to evaluate the pitches the catcher might have called. We only know the ones he did, and it would be pretty tough to evaluate those choices given the difficulty in reproducing game situations. In addition, the catcher is often not directly involved in the result of the pitch. He can call a curve over the outside corner, but its really up to the pitcher to get it there. The batter can hit it, safely or not. If the batter fails or demurs, the catcher catches the ball (or not: Mickey Owen, RIP). Even framing is caught in between being a skill and an exploitation of the foibles of an individual umpire. How many umps will admit,"That Mathis frames the ball really well"? Most of the attributes of what Sowers considers to be a good catcher are not analyzable by statistical measures.
   213. The District Attorney Posted: January 24, 2011 at 06:59 AM (#3735271)
The historical trend has been for a higher and higher percentage of pitches to be called from the bench. Can't blame the catcher for those. (I would question the makeup of a pitcher who let his entire game fall apart because he had to shake off his catcher, anyway.)

I think when we're talking about catcher defense beyond CS%/E/WP/PB, we're mostly talking about psychological coaching-on-the-field stuff, with physical things like "framing" perhaps playing a small role. I'm sure it adds up to something. It'd be one thing if Mathis were any kind of a decent hitter (it's not like Napoli hits like Mike Piazza, after all). However, Mathis is just horrendous offensively. I'm pretty sure Bill Bergen was a bad player ;)
   214. Ron J Posted: January 24, 2011 at 09:59 AM (#3735292)
#213 When Craig Wright looked at walk rates in matched innings

Quoting now from The Diamond Appraised:

"[...] A catcher can get more strike calls on borderline pitches by *not* showing the umpire his glove as a target, or at least by drawing back after the target is given. The best catchers - particularly the ones who call fewer walks in matched innings - tend to give a full open-faced target to the pitcher and hold the glove closer to their body. [...]

At first, the technique may seem counterproductive, giving a better target to the pitcher, but at the cost of losing the umpire by taking the glove out of his view. It would also seem to hurt your chances of getting a strike call by making you move more to go after bad pitches, particularly the low ones.

But that isn't the way it works. It's easy enough to handle pitches around the strike zone with the glove held close to the body. The excess movement going after a bad pitch doesn't make a difference, because those are obvious ball calls anyway. It
may even help emphasize to the umpire that if the catcher has to move a lot, it's a ball. Now consider the borderline pitch.
Along with his natural judgement, the umpire is instictively looking for clues. If he can't see the glove clearly, he may rely on the catchers's movement; he didn't move, so it's a strike."

Wright also points out that poor catcher's mechanics can create balls. He specifically cites Gino Petralli.

Petralli had a habit of always bringing up low pitches, meaning that the glove starts out of the ump's vision and is moved into it -- almost regardless of where it crossed the plate this will be called a ball.
   215. Something Other Posted: January 24, 2011 at 10:33 AM (#3735294)
I'd think calling a game would actually be of insane importance.
Agreed. Eventually we'll figure out the value of this and it will be startling.

Sure, calling's a game is important. But its a skill that every catcher has to have. Its one of the prerequisites to being a catcher,...
And yet both Ozzie Smith and Derek Jeter have fielded the position of shortstop. I don't doubt that there are a few guys whose gamecalling abilities border on the uncanny, just as I don't doubt that there are a few guys whose gamecalling abilities are robotic, wooden, and essentially random, the absolute minimum needed to stay at the position. It wouldn't surprise me at all if we eventually found out that the difference between the best catchers and the worst was in the neighborhood of a half run per game.
   216. Greg K Posted: January 24, 2011 at 10:37 AM (#3735295)
The historical trend has been for a higher and higher percentage of pitches to be called from the bench. Can't blame the catcher for those. (I would question the makeup of a pitcher who let his entire game fall apart because he had to shake off his catcher, anyway.)

This is the big thing for me. How many catchers actually "call" the game anyway? If you have a coach capable of calling the game why pay money for a catcher to do it?
   217. ian Posted: January 24, 2011 at 11:00 AM (#3735298)
And then there's the equally frustrating 'Napoli is so much better w/ the bat compared to the positional avg that defense doesn't matter at all, since there is nothing to catcher defense anyway.' I mean, I've been reading lately about how Gary Sheffield was so bad with the glove in Left Field that he seriously hurts his otherwise impressive HOF qualifications. That's Left Field defense, where a guy might be involved in 3 plays a game. Those 3 plays a game doing such massive damage as to undermine the rest of his pretty freaking rad game skills. Yet a guy who literally touches the ball something like 3 times per at bat is irrelevant on defense and for people like former-catcher Scioscia to insist that his guy Mathis makes a real difference is batshit kraykray. If Sheffield's shite defense makes a larger impact on a game than Napoli's #### defense in your system of evaluating a player's worth, then, well, your system has a massive hole that renders it more than a little bit unreliable.

I would think first basemen handle the ball more than shortstops or centerfielders. Should I then be dismissing, as bullshit, systems that rate SS/CF defense as more important than 1B defense? C is much the same dynamic.
   218. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: January 24, 2011 at 04:39 PM (#3735347)
My immediate thought is that Wells is much more of an Angels-type player: good defense, okay speed, much lower K-rate than Napoli. Besides Abreu, don't the Angels have a fetish for hitters that put the ball in play?
   219. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 24, 2011 at 05:20 PM (#3735366)
my 2 cents

1; My gawd is Wells overpaid
2: My gawd is Mathis a TERRIBLE hitter
2005-2010, 1000+ PAs:
Rk    Player    OPS+    PA
1    Jeff Mathis    53    1079
2    Juan Castro    54    1092
3    Cesar Izturis    61    2402
4    Adam Everett    62    2026
5    Jose Molina    62    1285
6    John McDonald    63    1349
7    Angel Berroa    64    1479
8    Abraham Nunez    64    1125
9    Ronny Cedeno    66    1855
10    Alex Cora    66    1450 


I think many things are going on here:
1; Scioscia luvvs Mathis for some reason
2; Napoli is underrated by the Angels because they value things like making contact, batting average with RISP- unfortunately the negative value of a K when compared to other types of out is negligible (perhaps 1 run per 100 ks)- and batting average with RISP is correlated better with a guy's overall bating average than by what he did with RISP in the past- IOW it's not a "skill" that is separate from a player's overall ability.
Napoli is the type of guy, slow, K prone, low average- whom the msm and the typical fans tends to dislike - the most common adjective/explicative that Angel fans seem to throw at Napoli is "stiff"- as in "he's a stiff" - among non-Sabr fans there seems to be no recognition whatsoever that Napoli is as good if not better hitter than Wells. (To be fair, the average fan also realizes that Mathis sucks- in fact Mathis= gaping maw of suckitude, seems to be the one thing everyone not named Sciosica agrees with)

on the field in 2011 I think this "improves" the Angels because:
1: On average Wells is decent ballplayer... In his good years he's a significantly better all around player than Napoli.
2: Of course, if Wells channels 2007/09 and/or Napoli gains 100-200 PAs- on the field the Anegels will be worse.

On the whole, this is a TERRIBLE trade for the Angels
1. That contract.
2. Napoli will likely see more PT
3. That contract
4. Wells is a career 108 OPS+ hitter who will be 32
   220. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 24, 2011 at 05:29 PM (#3735369)
besides Abreu, don't the Angels have a fetish for hitters that put the ball in play?


I always saw it as an obsession with batter Ks- and with Abreu, Napoli and Wood getting PT in 2010, their batter Ks were nearly at league average- in THEIR minds that was obviously one of tehri reasons for having a disappointing 2010- there were a low K team until 2009 when batetr Ks began creeping on on them

Wells Ks less than Napoli (he also Ks less per PA than Rivera- or Matsui)
They are one of the few teams left that looks at that AND puts weight on it.
   221. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 24, 2011 at 05:38 PM (#3735374)
I'd think calling a game would actually be of insane importance. Not disrupting the pitcher. Knowing what's working and what isn't.


I think this is probably accurate but I think it gets weeded out before the MLB level. My guess is that the variance between the best game caller in MLB and the worst game caller in MLB is relatively small. The guys who would be catastrophically bad in this regard get moved out from catching before they make the big leagues and probably even the high minors.
   222. Greg K Posted: January 24, 2011 at 06:15 PM (#3735390)
#221
As a Jays fan that's surprising. (Upon looking it up, he's never struck out 100 times in a season, I wouldn't have guessed that) It seems Wells strikes out ALL the time. Though I think it may be a trick of the memory. Wells had a distinctive way of looking REALLY bad at swinging at the low and a way slider (though who doesn't look bad swinging at that?). He chops at it, then has this little hop he does, turning with his back to the mound as if to tell himself, "No! Bad Vernon."

It's weird, because it was frustrating to watch, but it's one of those familiar mannerisms I think I'll miss.
   223. formerly dp Posted: January 24, 2011 at 07:06 PM (#3735424)
So to the Jay fans here: is this a franchise-altering move? That contract was going to be at best an overpay and at worst an albatross. Seems like moving Wells goes a long way toward making the team competitive in the long-run. With both Wells and Doc gone they don't really have substantial long-term commitments to anyone. Does this mean they might try to lock up Bautista, or is it pretty much a done deal that he'll be gone by mid-season or leave as a FA? Anyone coming up who can play CF and not be a total offensive zero? A year+ of Raj Davis isn't really a thrilling prospect...
   224. Greg K Posted: January 24, 2011 at 07:16 PM (#3735432)
Anyone coming up who can play CF and not be a total offensive zero? A year+ of Raj Davis isn't really a thrilling prospect...

Anthony Gose is the long-term plan. Though as exciting as he is, he's a lot more than a year away.
Darin Mastroianni has some fans among Jays supporters, but I don't think he's going to be a starting-calibre CF.

The way AA is going I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the CF innigns in 2011 and all of them in 2012 are taken up by someone not currently on the roster.

The Wells move is a potential franchise changer I think. The past 12 months or so have been a whirlwind of exciting moves by AA, but at the back of my mind there's a little voice telling me to remember the world the way it seemed immediately after the Rios waiving. The Jays are saving a lot of money here, and AA has made some very astute moves, but is ownership going to re-invest that Wells money? Now that Mr. Rogers is no long with us, is the Rogers board going to be as eager to lay out the money for when AA starts to build on thie core he's putting together?

I am more optimistic that they will than I was 18 months ago, but it is a cautious optimism.

Another interesting issue is Aaron Hill. If I'm remembering his contract the Jays have an option on 2012-2014 that they have to decide to exercise or not before the 2011 season starts (someone correct me if I'm wrong...or if in fact they've already made a decision on that). Hill is turning into a Wells Jr. 2007 and 2009 version would be good over those years, but 2008 or 2010 version, not so much. (though as long as they keep him away from David Eckstein a repeat of 2008 shouldn't be likely).
   225. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 24, 2011 at 07:21 PM (#3735436)
It wouldn't surprise me at all if we eventually found out that the difference between the best catchers and the worst was in the neighborhood of a half run per game.

That's wildly implausible. That's a 60 run swing over 120 games, which is much larger than the difference between peak Ozzie Smith and a horrible SS.

A gap that large would be noticeable statistically and observationally.
   226. Greg K Posted: January 24, 2011 at 07:24 PM (#3735438)
A gap that large would be noticeable statistically and observationally.

Yeah if that were true wouldn't we have teams going through wild, otherwise inexplicable swings in production because of a change in catcher?
   227. RJ in TO Posted: January 24, 2011 at 07:39 PM (#3735448)
So to the Jay fans here: is this a franchise-altering move?

Only if Rogers Communications elects to start pushing money back into the team, rather than using it to bump up the overall profit for the company.
   228. RJ in TO Posted: January 24, 2011 at 07:46 PM (#3735452)
Yeah if that were true wouldn't we have teams going through wild, otherwise inexplicable swings in production because of a change in catcher?

Teams go through season to season flucations in runs alloweds of 60+ on a regular basis. And that 60 run guesstimate would assume that you were going from the best to the worst in game calling catchers, and that the other skills wouldn't balance at least part of that run difference. If it was something less (say, going from the best game-caller, to the average game caller), you're talking about a 30 run difference on a team level, or about a difference of 0.18 in a team's ERA (or a difference of 0.37 for best to worst). It'd be awfully hard to pick out such a difference and hang it on a specific catcher, as opposed to the pitchers just being slightly better or worse than the year before (or the defense being slightly better or worse, or the temperature being slightly warmer or colder, or the opposing hitters being slightly more or less sober).
   229. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: January 24, 2011 at 07:50 PM (#3735453)
While I'm happy Dan has a gig at ESPN, I'm a bit sad that I wasn't even looking forward to a TO about this trade. It would have been a BBTF classic.
   230. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 24, 2011 at 07:55 PM (#3735455)
Along with his natural judgement, the umpire is instictively looking for clues. If he can't see the glove clearly, he may rely on the catchers's movement; he didn't move, so it's a strike."


A catcher "framing" a pitch does seem counter-productive. If the catcher moves his glove back into the strike zone after catching a pitch off the plate (and all catchers seem to do this), it basically broadcasts to the umpire that the catcher didn't think the pitch was a strike. (And that the catcher thinks the umpire is so dumb that he can be fooled in this obvious fashion.)

Random and off topic: Why are there no female umpires in the majors? Are there in the minors?
   231. Boileryard Posted: January 24, 2011 at 08:03 PM (#3735458)
Paul Godfrey, the president of the Blue Jays when Wells signed his contract, was interviewed this morning on Toronto radio and said that Wells' agent initially turned down the contract offer from the Blue Jays. A day later there was apparently a change of heart and Wells agreed to the 7-year, $126 million contract.

Godfrey, unsurprisingly, also minimized his role in the Wells signing. He said that as president he merely signed off on the moves recommended by the G.M. In other words, it was all Ricciardi's idea. (Yeah, right.)
   232. Greg K Posted: January 24, 2011 at 08:04 PM (#3735459)
Random and off topic: Why are there no female umpires in the majors? Are there in the minors?

I forget what game it was, but in one of the EPL games on Saturday there was a woman linesman (lineswoman I guess).

When I coached Little League there was a woman umpire in our league. I actually had known her for several years as she was one of the better players in our league when I played, (She's now a three-time Olympic gold medal winner with the Canadian women's hockey team) so I knew she was about the last person in the world you'd want to be messing with. However, the guy I was coaching with didn't know her, and said to me, "a girl umpire? I'm gonna go hit on her for kicks!" And I just stood back and watched that poor guy get ripped to shreds. I'd imagine a female umpire making her way up the ranks would have to put up with a lot of that ####. Of course, this girl wasn't going to be fazed by any of that, but I can see it turning off the majority of potential female umpires before they even get started.
   233. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 24, 2011 at 08:15 PM (#3735463)
I'd think calling a game would actually be of insane importance. Not disrupting the pitcher. Knowing what's working and what isn't.

The Orioles turnaround under Showalter might be an example of this. The Orioles went from being one of the worst teams in baseball for the first 3/4s of the season to one of the best after Showalter took over, almost entirely because of the starters. There were reports at the time that Showalter was working with Wieters and the pitchers on their game plans, and demanding that they pitch to their strengths and with more confidence generally. I believe Showalter said that they shouldn't worry too much about scouting reports on specific players and should stick to what's worked in the past.

It's hard to say how much impact Showalter's advice re game calling had, but it's certainly possible that it was significant.
   234. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 24, 2011 at 08:16 PM (#3735464)
2007-2010: Catcher's ERA:
Mathis:
3.89
3.65
3.99
3.67

Napoli:
4.28
4.44
4.86
5.11

But WHO were they catching?
   235. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 24, 2011 at 08:22 PM (#3735466)
I forget what game it was, but in one of the EPL games on Saturday there was a woman linesman (lineswoman I guess).


It was the Liverpool-Wolves and she got her one significant call correct leading to Liverpool's first goal.

Pam Postema made it to AAA didn't she? I've got to think it's very difficult, in a job where by default not being noticed is a success you are almost guaranteed to be noticed before a single pitch is thrown.
   236. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 24, 2011 at 08:29 PM (#3735472)
Ok, 2010, Mathis caught:

Santana 16 3.92
Weaver 16 3.01
Pineiro 9 3.84
Haren 7 2.87
Kazmir 6 5.94
Bell 3 4.72
Saunders 3 4.62
O'Sullivan 1 2.08
Palmer 1 4.54


Napoli caught:

Saunders 15 4.62
Kazmir 10 5.94
Pineiro 10 3.84
Santana 8 3.92
Weaver 8 3.01
Bell 4 4.72
Haren 4 2.87

Mathis caught Weaver, Santana or Haren in 39 starts
Napoli caught Weaver, Santana or Haren in 20 starts

Mathis caught Kazmir or Saunders in 9 starts
Napoli caught Kazmir or Saunders in 25 starts
   237. Spivey Posted: January 24, 2011 at 08:35 PM (#3735478)
Thanks for the #'s in 237. Doesn't look like there's a difference, other than Napoli just catching the shitty guys more.
   238. The Essex Snead Posted: January 24, 2011 at 08:41 PM (#3735482)
It looks like [237] is just showing the season ERAs for the Angels starters, not their cumulative ERA for each catcher's starts. But even w/out splitting things out, getting stuck catching the lion's share of Sanders & Kazmir starts last year is bound to drag down a CERA.
   239. formerly dp Posted: January 24, 2011 at 08:49 PM (#3735485)
If game-calling is the catcher's most important impact on the amount of runs scored, it seems like this is, compared to every other skill that impacts run-scoring, one of the least tied to physical ability. So it should be the most teachable, as opposed to running down fly balls in LF, which is ultimately going to depend on reflex, pattern recognition, and raw physical speed. This isn't to say that some players won't be better at it than others, but that it is very possible for a bad game-caller to develop into a good one very suddenly, unlike jumps in areas more tied to physical attributes.
   240. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 24, 2011 at 08:55 PM (#3735487)
Teams go through season to season flucations in runs alloweds of 60+ on a regular basis. And that 60 run guesstimate would assume that you were going from the best to the worst in game calling catchers, and that the other skills wouldn't balance at least part of that run difference. If it was something less (say, going from the best game-caller, to the average game caller), you're talking about a 30 run difference on a team level, or about a difference of 0.18 in a team's ERA (or a difference of 0.37 for best to worst). It'd be awfully hard to pick out such a difference and hang it on a specific catcher, as opposed to the pitchers just being slightly better or worse than the year before (or the defense being slightly better or worse, or the temperature being slightly warmer or colder, or the opposing hitters being slightly more or less sober).

Sure, but guys have done the studies on CERA and matched pairs, etc., and they don't find the effect. If it was 30+ runs, they would likely find it.

It's hard to say how much impact Showalter's advice re game calling had, but it's certainly possible that it was significant.

In which case, if the manager or pitching coach can impact it, who cares if the catcher can?

Get the best game calling/planning catcher of all time, pay him $1M to work with the pitchers and call the game from the bench (a la Billy Martin and Art Fowler) and put a guy who can hit behind the plate.
   241. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 24, 2011 at 09:00 PM (#3735489)
It looks like [237] is just showing the season ERAs for the Angels starters, not their cumulative ERA for each catcher's starts.


yes

[quoteBut even w/out splitting things out, getting stuck catching the lion's share of Sanders & Kazmir starts last year is bound to drag down a CERA.]

yes, it seems that Mathis has for the last 4 years a lower CERA, it also seems that Napoli gets stuck with the dross more often than Mathis, and Mathis gets the lion's share of the "ace" starter games

Now to some extent this could be a chicken or egg thing- one might claim that the pitchers who get stuck with Napoli get a higher ERA because he's so awful... You'd need to look at how Weaver does with Napoli as opposed to Mathis, and how Saunders does, etc... But my guesstimate is that the main thing driving Mathis/Napoli's CERA differential is pitcher quality.
   242. The Essex Snead Posted: January 24, 2011 at 09:04 PM (#3735490)
For giggles, Jered Weaver w/ Mathis vs. Napoli in 2010:

MATHIS: 109.0 IP, 91 H, 12 HR, 24 BB, 107 K, 3.06 ERA
NAPOLI: 47.1 IP, 55 H, 6 HR, 12 BB, 50 K, 4.75 ERA

You double up Napoli's line, & it's almost identical to Mathis' -- similar K / BB totals, similar HR rate. He allowed more hits / IP w/ Napoli, but that could be due to any number of factors: small sample size, quality of opponent, bad pre-game meals, etc. Maybe Napoli got the worse of Weaver because Scoscia would want Napoli's bat in the lineup when the Angels were facing a more potent opponent (a team Weaver, or any pitcher, would invariably have a tougher time against) & wanted his best run-scoring line-up in there. Maybe Napoli & Weaver never settled into a "groove" because of Scoscia's penchant for jerking Napoli around. Or (my personal feelings on this) this, and cERA as a whole, is just small-sample-size noise that doesn't prove much of anything aside from how good a pitching staff is.

Or what the rest of you said while I was typing this.
   243. Greg K Posted: January 24, 2011 at 09:06 PM (#3735492)
Get the best game calling/planning catcher of all time, pay him $1M to work with the pitchers and call the game from the bench (a la Billy Martin and Art Fowler) and put a guy who can hit behind the plate.

Exactly. Conversely, if you had a guy who has brilliant at knowing what an opposing pitcher was going to pitch, but couldn't actually hit the damned thing, you'd cut him and make him a 3rd base coach wouldn't you?

Is there an advantage to having a catcher call the game rather than a coach? If not then why would you care about whether your catcher has that skill or not. I mean if he's some wizard I guess you have him go at it. But there's got to be a bunch of guys aged 35-60 who used to be catcher who are pretty talented in that area who could come do it for you at a fraction of the cost, and to no detriment to your offence. Added bonus, your pitch-calling-coach can focus 100% of his time on creating game plans with the pitchers.

Of course all this is premised on the assumption that there's not a significant difference between bench and catcher game-calling. I'm sure there are different takes on that issue I haven't thought of.
   244. RJ in TO Posted: January 24, 2011 at 09:07 PM (#3735494)
By OPS allowed (in 2010 only):

_________Napoli   Mathis
Haren     0.781    0.690
Saunders  0.776    0.955
Kazmir    0.913    0.855
Piniero   0.827    0.651
Santana   0.836    0.697
Weaver    0.765    0.629 
   245. rLr Is King Of The Romans And Above Grammar Posted: January 24, 2011 at 09:13 PM (#3735496)
My word, Kazmir was terrible last year.
   246. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 24, 2011 at 09:16 PM (#3735497)
In which case, if the manager or pitching coach can impact it, who cares if the catcher can?

You might be right. I wasn't commenting on Mathis v. Napoli, just the importance of game calling generally.

At the same time, catcher's defense goes well beyond game calling, and I think we can all agree that it's very, very difficult to quantify.
   247. BWV 1129 Posted: January 24, 2011 at 09:25 PM (#3735500)
Matt Welch looked at the whole pitcher-catcher matchup thing a year or two ago; at that point, the only guy where you could even make an argument that Mathis made a difference on was Ervin Santana. And even then, it wasn't clear. A lot of it is Napoli catching the worst guys (and also note that Naps was playing 1B almost exclusively by the time Haren was even acquired last year).
   248. BWV 1129 Posted: January 24, 2011 at 09:29 PM (#3735502)
What I don't get about the whole "pitch calling" thing is that the pitcher has veto power. Unless your pitcher loses effectiveness by shaking his head too frequently, what does it matter what the catcher puts down? I have always heard of the catcher's signals being suggestions.
   249. Willie Mayspedester Posted: January 24, 2011 at 10:09 PM (#3735513)
Of course every time a guy gets on 3rd you hear the announcer talk about how well a certain catcher blocks sliders and how this effects what the batter is looking for etc.
   250. Ron Johnson Posted: January 24, 2011 at 10:13 PM (#3735516)
#249 The other side of the discussion is Nuke/Crash and "Don't think, just throw".

I suspect that as with most everything there are general rules (doesn't much matter beyond throwing and otherwise preventing free bases) and specific exceptions.

I know that whenever I've looked at catchers with pitcher handling reps I've been unable to find anything of significance.

One really interesting guy though was Bill Fahey with the Tigers. He barely played but the Tigers were consistently more successful with Fahey behind the plate. He played so little that it's tough to tease out any meaning. Same kind of story (in the same time frame) with Doug Gwosdz.
   251. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: January 24, 2011 at 10:41 PM (#3735524)
Bill James talked about Fahey and Gwosdz, didn't he?

This would be a *great* place for someone to come in and summarize the history of research into this issue. What I've read has been kind of all over the map, in keeping with the idea that's there's a lot of noise w/ this issue and that methodology makes a big difference.

Questions - with what I remember reading and thinking sounded reasonable in parentheses:
* How does pitch calling from the bench v. from the field matter? (no idea)
* How much does framing matter? (depends on who you ask. at the margins, it's significant)
* How much does experience in the bigs, in a given league, with a team matter? (0.20 or so in ERA, no idea, no difference)
   252. Dan Posted: January 24, 2011 at 11:12 PM (#3735537)
Of course all this is premised on the assumption that there's not a significant difference between bench and catcher game-calling. I'm sure there are different takes on that issue I haven't thought of.


One advantage that seems obvious for a catcher in place of a coach calling pitches is that a catcher has a much better view of how well each pitch is working for a pitcher that day, and even from pitch to pitch. If a guy's curve looks a little bit off, the catcher might start calling away from it and using the slider and fastball more, etc. A coach whose vantage point is from the bench will certainly be able to tell if a guy can't get his curve over the plate or if guys are tattooing the curve all over the park, but he certainly doesn't get nearly as good of a handle on its quality as the catcher can. So I think it makes sense that optimally you'd have a good catcher calling the game rather than a coach, but obviously this effect is just as hard to quantify as the rest of it.

As far as differences between Napoli and Mathis in OPS allowed and CERA and all that: doesn't Scioscia call pitches from the bench all of the time? I know whenever I watch an Angels game he's constantly doing those stupid signals using his finger touching his nose, chin, forehead, etc. I always assumed that was his way of calling pitches but I suppose it could be related to something else like positioning or the running game.
   253. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: January 24, 2011 at 11:31 PM (#3735547)
Matt Welch looked at the whole pitcher-catcher matchup thing a year or two ago; at that point, the only guy where you could even make an argument that Mathis made a difference on was Ervin Santana. And even then, it wasn't clear. A lot of it is Napoli catching the worst guys (and also note that Naps was playing 1B almost exclusively by the time Haren was even acquired last year).


Here is the article you are referencing. A good read and you are pretty much right - only Santana really stood out as 2009 was winding down.

Does Jeff Mathis Really Make Pitchers Better
   254. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: January 24, 2011 at 11:35 PM (#3735549)
As far as differences between Napoli and Mathis in OPS allowed and CERA and all that: doesn't Scioscia call pitches from the bench all of the time? I know whenever I watch an Angels game he's constantly doing those stupid signals using his finger touching his nose, chin, forehead, etc. I always assumed that was his way of calling pitches but I suppose it could be related to something else like positioning or the running game.


This, 100x this.

I am almost 100% sure that Scioscia is the game caller for the Halos.

I just haven't had time to chime in on this trade in the last few days (wife's B-Day, etc.) but yes, this is my understanding too. That he calls the vast majority of pitches. I'll try to dig up the article I read where he talked about it....
   255. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: January 24, 2011 at 11:51 PM (#3735553)
Ignore my post #255. Scioscia calls pitch outs and throws to first - not the pitches. He has his catchers do that - as per a couple of LA Times articles discussing Napoli/Mathis in 2009.

Sorry folks.
   256. Matt Welch Posted: January 24, 2011 at 11:59 PM (#3735557)
I updated the numbers recently: http://www.halosheaven.com/2010/12/18/1884958/they-do-seem-to-have-made-mathis-the-main-target-of-their-venom-and#54822461
   257. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 25, 2011 at 12:10 AM (#3735562)
One advantage that seems obvious for a catcher in place of a coach calling pitches is that a catcher has a much better view of how well each pitch is working for a pitcher that day, and even from pitch to pitch. If a guy's curve looks a little bit off, the catcher might start calling away from it and using the slider and fastball more, etc. A coach whose vantage point is from the bench will certainly be able to tell if a guy can't get his curve over the plate or if guys are tattooing the curve all over the park, but he certainly doesn't get nearly as good of a handle on its quality as the catcher can. So I think it makes sense that optimally you'd have a good catcher calling the game rather than a coach, but obviously this effect is just as hard to quantify as the rest of it.

Of course the coach calling pitches and the catcher should be talking constantly between innings to refine the approach.

In fact the more I think about it, there should probably be a dedicated pitch calling coach, or at least an asst to help the pitching coach. He could be reviewing tape, and working with the pitcher/catcher while his team is batting.
   258. Ron Johnson Posted: January 25, 2011 at 12:13 AM (#3735564)
#252 The research starts with James. Nothing systematic, just notes here and there. One of the more interesting notes was about a young Mickey Tettleton. The As supposedly opted for him over Mike Heath based on CERA. First catcher I'd ever heard of with any kind of a defensive rep who didn't throw well. Kind of funny to think of Tettleton making it to the majors based on his glove.

Then came the Wright article in The Diamond Appraised (matched innings, CERA based), method explained, results summarized (Wright argues that there is a run prevention skill but that CERA in itself doesn't tell you anything)

The next big thing was Keith's article I mentioned (a few mini-studies before then. I know I looked at Johnny Bench, Pudge Rodriguez and Mike Piazza. Basically all I did is look at pitchers who were regulars on other teams before and after joining the teams those catchers played for. Unable to find anything substantial positive or negative)

Apparently Craig Wright did another study. I've never seen it. I've read a summary whee he asserts a .20 CERA (in matched innings) advantage for veteran catchers (with no definition of terms.

Tango's WOWY stuff is interesting. The problem being that there's a big difference in the quality of backups.

There are a number of research papers at Retrosheet. Collectively they give a nice feel to the range at the extremes in any particular area (passed balls, stolen base frequency, percentage) but don't help much in terms of systematic evaluations.

I've seen nothing to refute Keith's article -- beyond the struggles of Mike Lamb or others learning the position at the major league level. Keith and Craig are partially talking past each other in that Keith is talking batting results and Craig is talking runs.

All in all, best I can tell right now there's no evidence to support paying much attention to anything but their success in the running game.

Even then, there's a study in one of the Stats Scoreboards that suggests that the pitcher is (generally) about twice as important as the catcher in CS%. Sadly the study didn't address the relative impact on stolen base frequency. It's worth re-visiting the study and is on my list of things to do.

The (generally) comes from a back and forth with Chris Dial (and others). Chris suggests that while it's generally true an extreme talent (either good or bad) can make the other part of the equation almost unimportant. If a pitcher can't hold runners, Rodriguez in his prime won't make a difference. A merely good move won't help if the catcher is hopeless but there are a handful of pitchers who basically eliminate the running game no matter who is catching.

EDIT: Typos
   259. Sheriff Officer T.J. Hooker Posted: January 25, 2011 at 12:35 AM (#3735574)
Random and off topic: Why are there no female umpires in the majors? Are there in the minors?


From "As They See 'Em" by Bruce Weber, the last minor league female umpire (unless there's been hiring in the low minors in 2010), was Ria Cortesio. She petered out at Double A, spending six years there, and falling victim to the "up or out" promotion system of minor league umpiring. It does mention that she did face some resistance from other umpires and management, but not on the field.

Anyway, I highly recommend the book. It's really enlightening about MLB umpiring and what it takes to get there.
   260. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 25, 2011 at 01:19 AM (#3735584)
If a pitcher can't hold runners, Rodriguez in his prime won't make a difference.


Rodriguez v. Piazza is interesting. Career:

IRod: 51 oWAR + 16 dWAR = 67 WAR (2499 games)
Piazza: 67 oWAR + -8 dWAR = 59 WAR (1912 games)

So according to WAR, IRod makes up a massive gap in offense -- and then some -- with his defense. (Piazza's main problems are SB% and SB frequency.)

Here is how they compare in particular aspects of defense:

PB WP SB CS CS%
IRod: 124-786-774 -648-46%
Piazza: 102-356-1400-423-23%

That's a ton of wild pitches for IRod. My first thought was that Charlie Hough was responsible for some of it, but their careers didn't overlap in Texas.
   261. McCoy Posted: January 25, 2011 at 02:16 AM (#3735605)
One advantage that seems obvious for a catcher in place of a coach calling pitches is that a catcher has a much better view of how well each pitch is working for a pitcher that day, and even from pitch to pitch. If a guy's curve looks a little bit off, the catcher might start calling away from it and using the slider and fastball more, etc. A coach whose vantage point is from the bench will certainly be able to tell if a guy can't get his curve over the plate or if guys are tattooing the curve all over the park, but he certainly doesn't get nearly as good of a handle on its quality as the catcher can. So I think it makes sense that optimally you'd have a good catcher calling the game rather than a coach, but obviously this effect is just as hard to quantify as the rest of it.

So you put him in the seats behind homeplate.
   262. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: January 25, 2011 at 03:28 AM (#3735623)
So you put him in the seats behind homeplate.

Is that allowed? A coach in the stands?
   263. Tripon Posted: January 25, 2011 at 04:20 AM (#3735640)


Is that allowed? A coach in the stands?


Sure, they just can't communicate with the staff during the game. The Dodgers have a couple extra hitting coaches on staff (Manny Mota, etc.), and they stay in the clubhouse doing games.
   264. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: January 25, 2011 at 04:32 AM (#3735646)
thanks ron (259).
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