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.

Manny Machado rips MLB Network talking heads over double standards

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Manny Machado has had his fair share of controversies. There was the stuff about his lack of hustle last fall. He’s thrown bats and ran into and over guys and has argued with umpires and all of that stuff. Is he well-liked? Not really. Is he a dirty player? Some say so. But even if you don’t say so, he’s been involved in some dirty plays and he’s rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. We chronicled much of that last fall.

But he’s certainly not the only guy who has done that sort of thing before. Others have and, I think it’s fair to say, others have not caught as much flak for it as he has. There are reasons for that too, of course. Part of it is that a couple of Machado’s transgressions came in very high-profile situations like last year’s playoffs. Part of it is that he’s a big star who makes a lot of money and guys like that tend to get more attention and heat than others. Part of it is that a lot people simply don’t like Machado for whatever reason.

Machado talked at length about that last night when he took to Instagram to mock MLB Network analysts Eric Byrnes and Dan Plesac, who were going on about the Jake Marisnick plunking and his barreling into Jonathan Lucroy that led to it. Byrnes and Plesac were defending Marisnick. Machado noted that he would never have gotten that kind of defense had it been him doing the barreling instead of Marisnick.

Watch (warning: NSFW language):

 

I don’t think he’s wrong about that. Again, some of it would be justified in that Machado does have a reputation and when you have a reputation you don’t get as much benefit of the doubt. But it’s also the case that Machado was not getting much benefit of the doubt — including from these guys in particular — well before that reputation was established.

Over at the Big Lead, they found examples of Byrnes going after Machado way back in 2014. Machado’s transgressions have, from the beginning, been cast as a those of a dirty, hotheaded player who lacks class. Other players who have done exactly what Machado has done often get excused for showing “passion” and “competitiveness” or for “playing hard” instead of “playing dirty” even when there isn’t all that much actual difference between the acts in question.

Machado says it’s attributable, at least in part, to him being Latino. I think people can reasonably disagree on the question of whether Machado, personally, has been unfairly judged. But I think it’s pretty indisputable that, generally, Latino players get way, way, way less benefit of the doubt for “hard play” vs. “dirty play” and for being “hotheaded” as opposed to being “competitors” than non-Latinos get. Those stereotypes are well-established. Academic research has been conducted on that stuff, confirming such inherent bias on the part of white commentators. Some of Machado’s peers in the game have said the same thing, both in general, and about Machado’s treatment personally.

Which is to say, whether or not Machado has earned the treatment he gets, he has a point here.