More and more, we are learning the importance of catcher defense. Lately, there has been a great deal of research about the influence catchers can have over ball and strike calls. Recently, the most balanced, definitive study to date came out from Baseball Prospectus. Now, no one – No One – is yet claiming that these studies are perfect. There is a lot of noise. But we have reached the point where some facts are becoming evident. Two such facts are listed below:
- Ryan Hanigan is really good at framing pitches.
- Ramon Hernandez is not.
The study linked above isn’t the first to show a wide differential between the two. You can find another here. What it all boils down to is that even if you decide there is a ton of noise and the results need to be heavily regressed, Hanigan starts with a one WAR advantage per 120 games over Hernandez based purely on his ability to sit still and frame pitches well for the umpire. Realistically, however, it’s probably closer to two wins.
Think about that for a minute.
According to Fangraphs, Hernandez was worth 2.0 WAR this year. Hanigan was worth 1.8. They each played almost exactly half a season, which makes that a wash. But, if we adjust for pitch framing (Hanigan was +7 runs, Hernandex was -8), suddenly Hanigan was worth 2.5 WAR and Hernandez was only worth 1.2. That, to say the least is a substantial difference.
I don’t want to seem like I’m dumping on Ramon, however. He had a fine season. Even with the pitch framing adjustments, he projects to an above average player over a full season. Rather, I want to point out how very, very good Hanigan has been. He’s going to be a backup next year, but given that he projects to something like a 4 win player over a “normal” catcher season of about 120 games, he probably deserves more time than that.
The real question here is what do we expect from Mesoraco. Rather than look at the Pitchfx data for Mesoraco, I tried my best to mimic the scouting done in the study linked at the top of this post. The hypothesis put forth in that article was the importance of being a “still” target. Mesoraco, as far as my eyes can tell, does this. His head is still and his glove isn’t busier than it has to be. According to the analysis at BP this means he is likely to get a few extra strike calls. I certainly hope that’s the case, but, in the end, we’ll really need more data and someone who is better an sorting through it than I am before we know where Mesoraco lands on the pitch framing spectrum.
I’d love to hear from people who watched Mesoraco closely. What are your feelings on his ability to receive pitches? Does he provide a good, stationary target, or did I look at the wrong video?
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.