On December 2, new Diamondbacks general manger Mike Hazen announced the hire of Mike Fitzgerald to lead the Diamondbacks’ analytics department. Perhaps Fitzgerald’s most notable contribution in Pittsburgh, where he was the No. 2-ranking analyst, was pounding the table for then free agent Russell Martin — and, at the same time, the power of pitch-framing — at the close of the 2012 season.
On December 2, the Diamondbacks elected to non-tender incumbent starting catcher Welington Castillo, which surprised some in and around the industry. Castillo led an Arizona catching group that finished 26th in framing runs last season, according to Baseball Prospectus.
On December 2, the Diamondbacks reached an agreement with catcher Jeff Mathis on a two-year deal. On a per-pitch basis, among catchers who received at least 1,000 pitches last season, Mathis was was the ninth-best framer, according to StatCorner, and the best free-agent catcher available by that measure. While in a reserve role last season, Mathis graded out as the 13th-best defensive catcher in baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus. Castillo ranked 95th. New Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said at the winter meetings that there is no clear-cut No. 1 catcher and that Mathis will split the work load with Chris Herrmann.
Said Lovullo to reporters in Washington, D.C, in December:
“We believe in the metrics. We believe in the data. We believe in trying to do as much research as possible. We have a great team of people that are working hard behind the scenes.”
It was on December 2, 2016, that the Diamondbacks joined the 21st century. And no group of players stands to benefit more than the Diamondback starting pitchers. As noted by Mike Petriello on Tuesday in an excellent piece for MLB.com, Zack Greinke is a good bounce-back candidate for 2017 due to the club’s improved framing and defense. Indeed, everyone in the Diamondbacks staff is a good bet to improve.
Greinke will be Exhibit A, though.
As Petriello notes, according to Baseball Prospectus’ values, no pitcher benefited more from framing than Greinke in 2015. It’s part of the reason I led my 2015 NL Cy Young ballot with Jake Arrieta in a tight race, as Greinke benefited from Yasmani Grandal.
Greinke fell from first to 725th last year in framing support, a 15-run drop.
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