New catcher framing study ranks Mauer near top, Doumit at bottom
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BaseballAnalytics.org released a new study over the weekend that ranks catchers based on their ability to frame pitches.
According to the data, Joe Mauer ranks among the best in converting should-be balls into strikes. Ryan Doumit and, perhaps surprisingly, Drew Butera, rank among the worst.
The study took all 63 catchers who have caught at least 10,000 pitches since 2008 and charted their called strike rates according to the official MLB.com Pitch F/X strike zone.
On pitches that crossed the plate outside of the Pitch F/X strike zone -- pitches that should be called balls -- Doumit (8%) rated 62nd out of 63 in framing those balls for strikes. Butera (8.5%) didn't fare much better, ranking 59th.
Jose Molina (13.7%) had the highest rate by far, with Mauer (11.7%) coming in fourth.
The difference between 8% and 11.7% may not seem like a lot, but it could amount to several pitches per game. Twins pitchers threw 23,000 pitches last year alone, and Doumit caught roughly 8,000 of them.
On pitches that crossed the plate inside the Pitch F/X strike zone -- pitches that should be called strikes -- Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy (84.8%) owns the highest called strike rate. Drew Butera (79%) ranks slightly above league average (77.8%) and Mauer ranks 54th (76.4%).
Doumit ranks last, converting only 70.4% of pitches that cross the plate inside the Pitch F/X strike zone into strikes.
As the study points out, "Catchers are not soley responsible for a pitch being called a ball or a strike. The type of pitch thrown, handedness of the pitcher and hitter, and the zone of the ump behind the plate that night are some of the other factors that influence balls and strikes. But over the course of many seasons and thousands of pitches, stark differences emerge among the best and worst catchers when it comes to stealing strikes on pitches thrown off the plate and getting strikes on pitches thrown over the plate."
Offensively, Doumit did hit .275/.320/.461 with a career-high 18 home runs and 75 RBIs last year, so he does provide more value with the bat than most catchers do.