What we have above are called pitch data from an Orioles game last week. On the left are called pitches for left handed batters and on the right, right handed batters. The strike zones are oriented as if you are the catcher looking at the pitcher.* The solid lined box is what is roughly the rulebook strike zone. However, in practice the strike zone is actually different and is affected by batter handedness as well. In the broken lined box, is the area where called pitches are more likely to be called strikes than balls.
The above are, more or less, constructs and not the actual strike zones. You will get slight variation for the height of the batter. Though, this is a pretty negligible issue when you drill into the data. Second, the typical strike zone is represented as a box when it really is not. Umpires tend not to call the corners. However, we need to start somewhere and this is probably a good construct to use. So, hopefully, it is clear what rule book vs. typical strike zone means.
Orioles vs. the Umps (Rulebook) – up to 5/9/2013Based on the rulebook, Orioles catchers have saved the team about a tenth of a run, which over 20% of the season means rather little. With backup catching removed, Wieters performs as well as the group does. There does seem to be about a run and a half split difference between home and away games, but that is not much and may well be explained by chance. Out of 2,564 pitches the Orioles pitchers have thrown, 316 have been called incorrectly. On the other side those numbers are 2,466 and 294.
Runs Given Total -0.13 Home -0.84 Away 0.70 Wieters -0.13
The real world is not kind to any of the Orioles catchers as they stand at a 9.36 run disadvantage to their opponents. In rough approximation, giving up 9-10 runs is equivalent to losing a game (some math is involved with that, but try to accept that as a general rule of thumb). When you extrapolate that performance over a full season, you wind up with the Orioles underperforming their pitch framing to the tune of 42.3 runs. That is worth four or four and a half wins, which is a major issue if you consider yourself a playoff contender.
Orioles vs. the Umps (Typical) – up to 5/9/2013
Runs Given Total 9.36 Home 5.60 Away 4.50 Wieters 8.80
Such a figure would also put Wieters as one of the worst pitch framing catchers in baseball. That has not been the general feeling about him though. His footwork, blocking, and coverage have all been raved about. His pitch framing has never been considered a strong point for him, but it has been considered largely average as opposed to horrific. At this point, I think you would have to lean toward caution because it may well be that it takes a lot more than a few hundred miscalled pitches to determine a catcher’s skill at framing.
Regardless, it is something to continue following.
Data used for this post was collected from Brooks Baseball, managed by Lou Proctor at Camden Depot, and manipulated by Jon Shepherd.
* – This sentence was corrected from the original version.