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How well are Colorado Rockies catchers framing pitches so far this year?

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A look at early catcher framing trends for the Rockies.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

With the first month of the season coming to a close, it seems like an appropriate time to review how our catching staff has performed. First, a quick disclaimer: everything is pretty much a small sample, so I’m not going to be drawing conclusions from this—and you probably shouldn’t, either. This is more about trying to find trends that we can continue to watch for as the season progresses.

When the Rockies acquired Nick Hundley and moved Rosario from behind the plate, the idea was to gain some defensive value behind from the catching position. There are three major things that a catcher can do defensively to help out his pitching staff and the rest of the team: stopping pitches, preventing runners from stealing bases, and framing pitches. Game calling is a fourth aspect of catching that can affect a game, but as of now there really isn’t a way measure it effectively.

Pitch framing is pretty simple in theory: how many strikes are called balls (zBall%) and how many balls are called strikes (oStr%). The trick is that there are more variables than just the catcher in this equation. The umpire and the wildness of a pitching staff can both play a big part in pitch framing. With every catcher seeing the umps multiple times and the sample size growing over the course of a season, the umpiring should level out. Also, when comparing catchers from the same team, the pitching staff factor should be nullified as well. Lucky for us, we can get away with focusing on just the Rockies, so at least one variable can be eliminated.

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As the table above shows, Hundley has lost the Rockies a net total of 33 calls over 17 games at catcher, or about two per game. In 2014, Hundley gained 1.57 calls per game while a Padre and lost -0.42 calls per game as an Oriole. In 2013 he lost -0.3 calls per game as a Padre. So while there has been a struggle so far this season, I’m inclined to think Hundley will improve as the sample size grows.

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Michael McKenry has been by far the better framer so far with a net total of two lost calls over his five starts at catcher, or about half a call per game. A look back at the last few seasons indicates that McKenry lost -1.46 calls per game as a Pirate in 2013 and -1.79 calls per game as a member of the Rockies in 2014. As the season continues, it will be interesting to see if the trend of improvement this season continues for McKenry, or if he reverts back to his career performance.

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One final note on framing. So far in games that Hundley has caught, the Rockies pitching staff has averaged four walks per game versus 2.6 walks per game for the staff when McKenry catches. This leads to an interesting chicken/egg argument. Is Hundley’s poor framing causing the team to walk more when he’s catching, or are the pitchers wilder when he’s catching, causing his poor framing stats?

It will be interesting to watch these trends going forward to see ff Hundley and McKenry can be part of the improvement in pitching we all hope to see for the rest of the year.

All stats courtesy of statcorner.com