This is something that we’ve always suspected intuitively, but Mike Fast has a major piece up over at Baseball Prospectus today exploring (a) how much of an influence a catcher has on ball/strike calls for borderline pitches; (b) the techniques they use to do this; and (c) who, among active catchers is the best at it. The upshot: the effect is way greater than you’d think for such a seemingly minor thing.
There’s pitch plot evidence to show who gets the calls and where and animated gifs showing the differences between the good catchers and the bad catchers in terms of how glove movement and head movement can impact whether a pitch is a ball or a stike. There is also, it should be noted, an unquantifiable piece to all of this which may depend on a catcher’s reputation, relationships with the umpires and that sort of thing. But there are clear trends in the data. And Jose Molina as a friggin’ boss.
Keith Law just read it and tweeted the same first observation I had: “The biggest impact of that … piece should be on umpires. It’s hard proof they are bad at calling borderline balls/strikes.” Yes, the human element, for lack of a better term, is going to be present when men call balls and strikes. But the borderline calls are bad and no catcher should have this much of an ability to impact the calls. Robots anyone? Or, short of that, maybe your team’s GM should give Jose Molina’s agent a call.
This is a major study that people who care about such things should bookmark.
Update (5:04 PM EST): The White Sox will receive pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning from the Nationals, per Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. MLB Pipeline rated them No. 1, 3, and 6 in the Nationals’ minor league system.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals are close to acquiring outfielder Adam Eaton from the White Sox. He notes that outfielder Victor Robles, the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is not included in the deal.
Eaton, 28, is signed to a very team-friendly contract. He’ll earn $4 million in 2017, $6 million in ’18, and $8.4 million in ’19. His controlling team then has a club option worth $9.5 million in 2020 with a $1.5 million buyout and a $10.5 million club option in ’21 with a $1.5 million buyout.
This past season, Eaton was worth 3.9 Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball Reference after playing significantly above-average defense while batting .284/.362/.428 with 14 home runs, 59 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 706 plate appearances.
If the deal goes through, the Nationals would move Trea Turner from center field to shortstop. Meanwhile, the White Sox continue their teardown after trading Chris Sale to the Red Sox on Tuesday.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Marlins have signed veteran catcher A.J. Ellis to a one-year, $2.5 million deal.
Ellis, 35, began the 2016 season with the Dodgers but went to the Phillies in the Carlos Ruiz trade near the end of August. Overall, he hit .216/.301/.298 in 196 plate appearances.
Ellis will back up J.T. Realmuto behind the dish.