Jose Molina, Russell Martin and the frame game

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One last thing on the Cody Ross strikeout:  feel pity for Ross, feel some aggravation at umpire Larry Vanover, but let us not slight Jose Molina, whose pitch framing is about as good as it gets in baseball and, as Bradley Woodrum notes at FanGraphs today, was likely the biggest reason that call went the way it went.

That link has a lot of detail about pitch location and framing.  But if it’s too much for you, the topic of a catcher’s influence on the game is tackled in a less complicated fashion in Anna McDonald’s piece from ESPN yesterday about Russell Martin, which also touches on Molina’s greatness in this area:

Martin’s ability to frame pitches is recognized throughout baseball. Through extensive statistical research, Max Marchi of Baseball Prospectus recently pinpointed Martin as the second best catcher (behind Brian McCann) in the major leagues over the past four years in framing pitches — receiving that borderline pitch and influencing umpires to call a strike.

Cashman said he “very much so” takes advanced statistics and research into consideration when evaluating the work of a catcher. With the wealth of data now available via the Pitch f/x system, researchers like Marchi are digging into catchers’ abilities in framing pitches, blocking pitches in the dirt, controlling the running game and fielding bunts. A major reason the Rays signed career backup Jose Molina to become their starting catcher was data that showed he was one of the best at framing pitches.

It’s an art form, really. And even though I often wish we had robots calling balls and strikes, I can’t lie and say that a good frame job by a catcher isn’t something amazing to see.

Evan Gattis says he is ‘done playing’ baseball

Evan Gattis
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In a recent appearance on the 755 Is Real Podcast, hosted by The Athletic’s David O’Brien and former Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty, catcher Evan Gattis confirmed he is “done playing” baseball. Gattis said back in October that he didn’t have any desire to continue playing the game, so this news comes as no surprise.

Gattis, 33, hit .226/.284/.452 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI for the Astros in 2018. The Astros did not extend him a qualifying offer, then $17.9 million. Though reporting on specific offers is scant, it is hard to imagine he received zero offers, or would have received zero offers if he were still interested in playing.

Gattis has one of the more interesting stories out there. He was a well-regarded college baseball prospect, but he battled anxiety and substance abuse. He checked into rehab and, temporarily, abandoned his baseball-related pursuits. Gattis eventually resumed playing college baseball but suffered an injury, prompting him to drop out of college. He went on to take on some not-so-glamorous jobs, including working in a pizza shop, as a parking valet, a ski-lift operator, and a janitor. Gattis battled more mental health issues, suffering from insomnia and depression, resulting in suicidal ideation. He checked into an inpatient psychiatric ward for several days. Afterwards, Gattis roamed around the west coast, going from Colorado to New Mexico to California to Wyoming.

In 2010, Gattis returned to baseball, playing for the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He performed rather well, resulting in his being drafted by the Braves in the 23rd round that year. He worked his way through the minors quickly, debuting in the majors in 2013. The rest, as they say, is history. Gattis retires with a career .248/.300/.476 batting line along with 139 home runs, 410 RBI, and 299 runs scored over 2,662 trips to the plate.

The story of Gattis is an important one because mental health in general was not taken seriously, especially among men. It still isn’t, to a large degree, but it’s better now than it was 10 years ago. Due to social taboos and gender norms, men are much less likely to seek help for mental health issues. That Gattis — a burly avatar of testosterone — was willing to be vulnerable about his struggles with his mental health was important.