So Who’ve Been the Victims — and Non-Victims — of Framing?

There’s absolutely no denying that pitch-framing is a thing. Different people call it different things, but it’s real and it matters and it’s going to continue to matter until or unless everyone’s the same or there’s an automated strike zone. Pitch-framing is normally associated with catchers, because it’s the catchers who’re doing the framing. Borderline pitchers are in large part up to them, and given that we have pretty good data, a lot of people ask us here at FanGraphs when we’ll incorporate pitch-framing into catcher WAR. It’s something we’d like to do, but it’s also something that’s a lot more complicated than you might think.

Framing data affects pitchers. Those are the next people to be considered when the subject comes up. Catchers receive pitches, but catchers receive pitches thrown by pitchers, and good or bad framing value already shows up in the data. It just doesn’t show up next to the catchers’ names, being instead woven into the pitching statistics. So if we’re going to give catchers WAR credit for framing, we have to figure out a way to strip the same amount of credit from pitchers. Framing affects, among other things, walks and strikeouts, and right now those are pitcher-only.

So when people talk about framing, they talk primarily about catchers. Sometimes, they’ll talk about pitchers, often talking about specific batteries. Barely ever do people talk about the hitters. You know, the other people dealing with balls and strikes. The victims, as it were, in the case of good receiving. Or the non-victims, in the other case.

It does make a little sense, if you just think about talent. Catchers have the most control over how well they receive. Pitchers have some control over how well they’re received. Hitters have very little control over how well the pitches they take are received. It’s presumably not a true talent, to any meaningful extent. Sure, maybe there’s something going on with really tall guys or really short guys, but that’s not so much framing as it is umpires trying to deal with particularly unusual zone heights.

So there’s no easy explanation for why hitters might get more or less strikes called on them than usual. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen; that doesn’t mean everything evens out. I mean, for one thing, players deal with unbalanced schedules, and some guys might hit in front of higher- or lower-quality catchers. And even if something is mostly unsustainable noise, what happens happens. A team that does really well in the clutch in April probably won’t do very well in the clutch in May, but April took place. So.

It’s of some interest to look at which hitters have benefited or been hurt by pitch-receiving. We’ll look first at the team level for 2014, using the same homemade metric I’ve written about here countless times before. It’s the one that compares actual strikes to expected strikes, based on our plate-discipline statistics. It matches up pretty well with more advanced framing statistics on the pitching side. For example, it shows the three best framing teams so far are the Brewers, Padres, and Diamondbacks. It shows the three worst framing teams so far are the Twins, Marlins, and Braves. If it works all right for pitchers, it should work all right for hitters. Here, then, is a table.

It’s a very simple table. You see a team, and you see a number. That’s the number of actual strikes minus expected strikes. So, a positive number means the team has been something of a victim. A negative number means the team has benefited to some extent. The run value of a strike, on average, is something like 0.13 – 0.14.

Team Extra Strikes
Padres 111
Royals 105
Rockies 104
Blue Jays 97
Reds 83
Diamondbacks 53
Mariners 34
Nationals 34
Pirates 29
Astros 26
Marlins 23
Yankees 6
Braves 4
Rays 1
Angels -8
Cardinals -9
Cubs -10
Twins -18
Giants -26
Orioles -26
Brewers -29
Indians -34
White Sox -37
Athletics -38
Tigers -45
Rangers -53
Red Sox -63
Phillies -82
Dodgers -111
Mets -119

The Padres, by this measure, have been the biggest victims, which is cruel since they also suck. Simple multiplication suggests framing has cost them about 15 runs over the first roughly four months. The Mets are at the other end, having benefited by something like 16 runs. So that’s a 31-run spread between first and last place and we’re just out of the All-Star break. Obviously, this isn’t a huge factor — this isn’t why the Padres are bad, and God knows the Mets aren’t good — but this isn’t entirely insignificant across the board. You see the Dodgers right behind the Mets, in terms of benefiting, and the Padres are joined by the Royals and Rockies.

Going forward, I suspect this is the kind of thing you have to regress very heavily to the mean. That is, the Padres might be on pace to be 25-run victims, but they’re more likely to finish around where they are today. Because, as mentioned, this shouldn’t have too much to do with the hitters, but what’s done is already in the books and it’s something to think about, along with things like situational hitting and sequencing and whatever.

And now let’s quickly look at the top and bottom tens, for individual hitters. I decided to keep it as a counting stat, rather than convert it to a rate basis. I think rate stats suggest ability, and I’m more interested simply in what’s happened.

Name Extra Strikes Name Extra Strikes
Ian Kinsler 29 Miguel Montero -50
Alexei Ramirez 29 Jed Lowrie -45
Gerardo Parra 27 Dustin Pedroia -44
Paul Goldschmidt 24 David Wright -39
Billy Hamilton 23 Ruben Tejada -37
James Jones 22 Jonathan Lucroy -34
Drew Stubbs 21 Adrian Gonzalez -34
Junior Lake 20 Yadier Molina -33
Chris Owings 20 Jimmy Rollins -31
Domonic Brown 19 Pablo Sandoval -30

Kinsler and Ramirez have had the most extra strikes called on them. Interestingly, the ten biggest victims include three Diamondbacks, but a Diamondback has also benefited more than anyone else. Some quick numbers from StatCorner:

Ball% on pitches taken in strike zone

  • Parra: 7%
  • Goldschmidt: 8%
  • Owings: 10%
  • Montero: 21%

Strike% on pitches taken out of strike zone

  • Parra: 7%
  • Goldschmidt: 9%
  • Owings: 9%
  • Montero: 5%

Montero is a catcher, and an excellent-receiving one. In Molina and Lucroy, the list includes another two excellent-receiving catchers. It’s more of a curiosity than a finding, but it’s enough to make you wonder.

Pitch-framing: it affects everybody. It’s mostly the fault of the pitcher and catcher, but, if I shoot off a rocket, while that’s clearly my own fault, the rocket’s going to eventually come down in someone else’s yard.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Well-Beered Englishman
9 years ago

Today I learned there is a baseball player named James Jones.

Then I looked at his stats page and contemplated un-learning it.