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.