I love Avila as a hitter and game manager, but he is an absolutely brutal catcher. Can’t block pitches to save his life. His throwing % is pretty good, but it kills him in pitch framing, as we see. With men on 1st base, he starts getting out of his crouch and into his body rotation early, which is now a habit, clearly seen on the video. Runners can take a big secondary lead, like shown, and get him to do this every time….
Are umpires really this lazy? This stuff drives me bonkers. Imagine how the pitchers feel.
Comment by Daniel Rozenson — January 11, 2013 @ 2:19 pm
Interesting from a game theory perspective. We hear broadcasters talk about the runner distracting the pitcher, but maybe the catcher is equally important if they are turning strikes into balls with bad framing due to distraction from the runner.
Partially the catcher’s fault, but some of the blame lies with the pitchers. Sure, Bailey’s pitch was a perfect strike down the middle, but it was supposed to be on the inside corner. Mesoraco is actually set up off the inside corner and Bailey misses his spot by a foot. Classic “good miss”, especially against the opposing pitcher…but it’s much tougher to frame when you move the glove that far just to get there.
No, both calls happened because of crappy umpiring. How the catcher receives the ball should have absolutely NO bearing on whether the pitch passed through the strikezone. A catcher is not catching the ball within the strikezone or there would be catchers interference on every swing. They catch it behind the zone. Drives me freaking nuts that this continues to happen. We have the technology. Use it. Get the stinking calls right.
I actually remember this pitch. I was watching this game with my 9yo son and it started a discussion between us about the importance of pitch framing. The next time he caught in a little league game he was constantly moving his glove around trying to fool the umpire (sometimes on pitches that hit the dirt first).
I think this situation actually makes me less supportive of computerized strike calling. The fact that intelligent, capable catchers can impact a game slightly through pitch framing is a good thing, in my opinion. And as was mentioned, it’s not too many calls that are blown.
Fun article. I’d love to see the worst called strike by an umpire, and then the other side of things for umpires where a pitch is framed horribly but the umpire calls it correctly. Or maybe the umpire who tends to be most accurate with poor framing. Defining that would understandably be open for interpretation.
for the tech side, I imagine they could wear a brimmed cap with very discrete ‘green light/red light’ indicators viewable only to them.
they’d still have to pay extreme attention to foul tips, balls in the dirt if swung at, catcher interference and the like…but 100% of no-swing pitches could be standardized and consistently called right.
interesting point about the catcher’s impact. gave me pause as i’m pro-technology and hadn’t thought about that before..
perhaps there could be other things the catcher does with that freed-up attention. could try to deke the hitters more, or even ‘frame’ the pitch target for the pitcher’s benefit.
drives me crazy when they’re too worried about their own setup and fail to put a stationary, big, open-glove target up for the pitcher. i think some pitchers would shave a lot off their fip if the backstop would just provide a nice target to hit – shocks me so many don’t.
maybe they are too concerned about framing for the umpire and not enough for their batterymate.
I wonder if Mesoraco set up so far inside that he moved Danley out of his comfort zone as well. Trying to call balls and strikes based on the plate from the angle Danley’s at strikes me as extremely difficult.
We need strong AI and a complete video archive so we can just run a report on strike zone accuracy vs. umpire parallax.
Was Frank Drebin home plate umpire for those games?
Comment by TheMooseOfDeath — January 11, 2013 @ 5:15 pm
Human mistakes Doug, they’re not being made on purpose. Unless you’re that one human that has never made one? ;)
I’ve done my share of umpiring and while both were terrible calls, you can at least see how they could be missed. Umpire is lined up over the inside part of the plate, so is the catcher and because they make wild stabs at the pitches to the outside it gives the illusion that they’re reaching well outside for the pitch. No matter how easy the armchair umpire thinks calling balls and stikes is, how the catcher frames/catches the ball always plays a part, especially when we’re talking about calls that are to be made in a split second. And the more the catcher moves, the less likely the umpire is going to get a clean look at the strike zone too.
With that camera angle, every pitch that passes home plate on the left side can look like a strike.
Comment by Sam Gonzalez — January 11, 2013 @ 5:32 pm
On the contrary, I think he was expecting a breaking ball, which made the jab at the fastball less natural and more forceful. Either could be correct, but it’s unusual for a right-handed pitcher to throw a circle change to a right-handed batter.
Comment by Dan Rozenson — January 11, 2013 @ 5:50 pm
Like David Laurila suggested above, it looks like a cross-up.
Comment by Dan Rozenson — January 11, 2013 @ 5:51 pm
TC, I am not saying it is easy, I am saying it can be easy because we don’t need humans to do it anymore.
Comment by straypuppy — January 11, 2013 @ 6:28 pm
I wholeheartedly agree. Something else I think there should be more of in every sport is flopping and diving to get foul calls and draw penalties. I like that a smart player can penalize the other team through exaggerated falls and gestures. Baseball actually has the most potential to improve in this area as it has so little flopping. I think any plate appearance where the batter doesn’t fall down mimicking getting hit by a pitch is a wasted one. I also think Umpires should be encouraged to be individuals; it would force players to expand their scouting reports for each game to include each umpires tendencies at each position and exploit them. You could really separate the wheat from the chaff with these improvements.
I love the excuses for umpires, they always make abandoning them for computers seem like such a good idea. So let me see if I follow: the thing that the umpire does before every single pitch, where he lines up behind the plate, has the glaring flaw that sometimes he can’t see the strike zone properly and is prone to making bad calls when the catcher moves around? Oh, and armchair umpires that aren’t afraid to consult PitchFX are actually better than MLB umpires.
In a way, this is confirmation that pitch framing makes a difference. It’s confirmation that pitch framing, or a lack thereof, is capable of turning a fastball down the middle of the zone into a called ball. I’m guessing that, had Mesoraco received this pitch better, it would’ve gone for a strike. Pretty comfortable with that. He messed up, and that influenced Danley’s thought process, even though the actual pitch couldn’t have been more of a strike. This is exciting, in that it supports the idea behind pitch-framing research. It’s discouraging, in that obvious strikes should always be strikes, and what catchers do behind the plate shouldn’t affect what umpires think of a pitch right above it. Heater down the middle. Right down the very middle. Ball 1. There weren’t many of these over the course of the season, but there weren’t zero.
So that’s why you posted this. Yeah Jeff, we get it, pitch framing, jeez.
The comments on pitch framing are correct, in that the catcher does influence how certain pitches are called. We may not like it, but it is something that umpires have to deal with. One additional thing that I haven’t seen mentioned here is the impact of an umpires perceived strike zone. From experience, if an umpire calls a strike where the catcher lunges after the pitch, you can bet a manager will let him hear about it. In these cases the Cubs and Angels coaching staffs would almost certainly have been very vocal about it, whether the pitch was called correctly or not. This almost certainly factors into an umpires thought process.
This is what it looks like to me. I can’t tell when he says it, though. Neither of the other two GIFs (the pitch and then the catcher tapping his chest) show Bailey tugging his sleeve and then wiping his face with his other sleeve. So either this takes place between when the catcher receives and before he throws it back (and tapping his chest) or this happens after Bailey gets the ball back and still isn’t happy that this is just Mesorasco “screwing up”.
Thus, while umpires might like pitch frames, pitchers still want strikes called strikes, dammit.
Not just that, but I’ve seen more than one pitch in the strikezone called a ball because the catcher stood up to attempt to throw out a base stealer. Considering that, and these moving catcher issues, maybe it’s not the catcher who has distraction problems, but the umpire.
The research into pitch framing seems to suggest that catchers who move LESS, not more, get better calls. Tell your kid to keep his head and body still while only moving his glove to catch the ball. It gives the illusion that the pitch went right where it was supposed to go.
The thing about mechanical umpiring is that no technological system is going to get 400,000 calls exactly right either. Every machine makes errors too. Maybe not as frequently, but possibly in some very different ways than humans make mistakes. How frequently are pitches unreadable, or mis-recorded, or are cameras slightly skewed? How often, which umps and machines disagree, or the umps actually right?
I’d love to see an article that systematically explores the mistakes made by PitchF/X. Has anyone written that up?
Comment by Roger Turner — January 12, 2013 @ 9:43 pm
Your sarcasm is so thick that it hurts your point.
Then again, I think the problem with a lot of flopping in games isn’t so much of it existing and more that a lot of times, just to use basketball at least, it is too biased against well known names(IE LeBron). Then again, I liked Vlade Divac so…
I do think the rule should be changed to make pitch framing more of an actual rulebook thing or that computers should take over, BUT I think it should take about 5 more years or so to perfect the tech enough.
Comment by Ruki Motomiya — January 12, 2013 @ 10:08 pm
My napkin calculations give a probability of about 1.8% for any given season. So rare, but not astronomically rare.
As a sanity check, here’s I computed that. Not 100% confident as it’s easy to screw up probability stuff.
# of MLB games per season * odds of two people being born on a particular day =
(162*15) / (365*365) = 0.01824
May have given a series of signs, pitcher nodded at one, and in the span of a few seconds, brain farted, and Avila forgot whether it was a fastball, or a slider (or any other pitch) was the selected one. Brain farts happen, to you, to me, and to professionals too.
not the ‘body’ movement, but the ‘glove’ movement is what counts most to an umpire. Granted, if you have to move the glove 6-10 inches… it isn’t going to favor the catcher and pitcher alot.
Framing is not merely catching the ball where its pitched. Rather, it is catching the ball where its pitched, and -moving it to a spot to make a ball look like a strike- if necessary.
Any decent catcher can catch a pitch where its thrown, if you set up there and get that as a strike. Its the special catcher that can pull a pitch in that is 6 inches outside, and get it called a strike. Can you say “Molina” everybody? I thought you could.
Thats why you have video replay in the booth.. Every time a team scores in any manner, whether it be touchdown, fieldgoal, etc etc… it is reviewed. And, if a challenge flag is thrown, that is a “personal foul / delay of game” penalty on that team…*nod*
The idea that pitch framing could be a good thing is so stupid it must’ve broken my sarcasm spigot, but I think my sarcasm reflected the magnitude of the stupidity. Advocating an inconsistent strike zone is ridiculous. Codifying it would change the rules so fundamentally it would break the strike zone and turn it into a prettiest catch contest. Umpires would love this because they could no longer be so easily replaced by computers, but I can’t think of a single good reason why any fan should give a shit about them.
for those wondering, by my calcs which im decently sure of, a game in which both SP’s are starting against each other on their bday happens once every 55.3 years.
and my logic which might not be worth reading…
picking any game, the odds of bday for sp1 is 1/365, the odds of bday for sp2 is 1/365, the odds of both is 1/(365*365)=7.51e-6…so the odds of this not occuring is (1-7.51e-6). given 2430 games in a baseball season (162 games * 30 teams / 2 teams playing in each game), the odds of our situation never occuring in a season is (1-7.51e-6)^2430=.9819, and the odds of our situation occurring in a year is 0.0181. 1/0.0181 gives us 55.3.
Mike, shouldn’t you factor in the number of SP’s on 40 man rosters? The one thing I’m not seeing is any accounting for limited roster sizes and the few SP’s that a team carries.
Comment by Stuck in a slump — January 13, 2013 @ 8:58 pm
Some umpires will call balls based upon how far the pitch missed the target. In Homer Baileys case, that fast ball missed pretty far from the intended target. ALTHOUGH, I do agree with you that this these are terrible calls and they should have been strikes.
Avila looked like he intentionally tried to make that a ball. lol
Comment by TX Ball Scout — January 14, 2013 @ 11:08 am
Realistically though, the birthday distribution for MLBer’s isn’t normal (read Outliers). You would have to regress the distribution of MLBers by comparing their typical birthday spread. You would also need to take into account that there are only 6 months of games, too. I have no idea if this would make a difference, but it might be fun for someone else to try.
It’s not as crazy as it seems. The probability that two players on opposing teams will have the same birthday is about 100%. I’ll just throw the equation out there. You can look it up if you want.
n=number of players in game
The tricky part is including the fact that it is that pairs birthday on the day they play together. I would guess that it happens quite a bit though.