Catcher Pitch Blocking & WAR Update

Back in October, Bojan Koprivica wrote an excellent research piece on determining the difficulty of blocking every major league pitch.

Our WAR implementation now includes Bojan’s pitch-blocking algorithm dating back to the 2008 season. This impacts catchers only, with a maximum range of +/- 7 runs per season. The vast majority of catchers will see a change of +/- 2 runs or less per season.

We’ve also included two new stats in our fielding section: CPP and RPP.

CPP – The expected number of passed pitches.
RPP – The number of runs above / below average a pitcher is at blocking pitches.

You can check out these leaderboards to see which catchers have benefited the most since 2008 and here are the RPP leaderboards for individual seasons since 2008.

Much thanks goes out to Bojan for helping us get his metric up on the site! We will be updating CPP rand RPP weekly (possibly daily) throughout the 2012 season.



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David Appelman is the creator of FanGraphs.


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Barkey Walker
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Barkey Walker
4 years 2 months ago

A few questions:

1) The catcher knows the runs environment and so might exert more or less effort depending on that, is that accounted for?

1.b) If you have good hustle and, i.e. get a guy out after a PB, that should count in your favor. Does the count actual runs or just estimated runs?

2) Is there nothing to be said for keeping the pitcher from using hard to block pitches with someone on third? Who should get credit for not using hard to block pitches (I’d say the pitcher) shouldn’t this be in their WAR?

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 2 months ago

sorry, I forgot, this is awesome and probably one of the big things missing from catcher defense. Thanks a million for adding it!

Will
Guest
4 years 2 months ago

This type of research is very interesting and valuable, but all of the questions you mentioned are legitimate. Considering the samples involved, they could mitigate some of the value of this data.

Max
Guest
Max
4 years 2 months ago

Did you really just make a “catching to the score” argument?

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 2 months ago

No. There is a huge difference between throwing meat balls when you are up by 7 than throwing your body around / putting it in danger when there is nobody on base.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
4 years 2 months ago

Barkey, it’s a very valid concern, but the author has limited the data to situations where a past ball could make a difference. Obviously with no runners on and less than 2 strikes a catcher has no reason to even reach for a bad pitch, let alone try hard to block it.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 2 months ago

Sorry, one more note. I got the idea for 1.b from watching a college game where the home team ate up 3B runners by having a “passed ball” followed by an out at the plate. The ball would hit the backstop just so and would pop back up towards the receding catcher who would then turn and throw out the runner at the plate. This happened two times in the game and the third time the away team did not move from third on a PB. It made me wonder if the play was well practiced.

While this third play wasn’t worth as much as the first two, it was still pretty valuable relative to other passed balls with a guy on third. So, from that point on, unintentional PBs were not as valuable to the opponent.

Obviously this can get a bit hart to calculate. Part of what is great about having a RF with a great arm is that sometimes runners who could get to third don’t try because of the reputation the fielder has. Obviously, for catchers, this is a much bigger effect where suppressed base running might be more valuable that normal base running even if it isn’t as valuable as caught base running.

Dan Holland
Guest
Dan Holland
4 years 2 months ago

Can the same technique be applied to First Basemen on “Hard to Scoop” balls? I’d imagine a player like Freddie Freeman, who doesn’t have great range but handles low throws very well, would see a noticeable jump in defensive value and overall value.

Drew
Guest
Drew
4 years 2 months ago

I always thought UZR underrated some first baseman due to this part of the game. I think some of the other defensive metrics currently measure first baseman more accurately.

reillocity
Guest
reillocity
4 years 2 months ago

Well, at present there aren’t 3 cameras tracking every MLB throw to 1st base. Bill James Online had a brief John Dewan writeup in August featuring some video scout data from Baseball Info Solutions that examined how well each 2011 first baseman was at scooping balls in the dirt (search “first baseman scoops”). I don’t think that the full data set has been published yet.

Frag
Guest
Frag
4 years 2 months ago

This is great!

I was wondering: Are you going to implement other attributes, such as pitch framing, into WAR? BP has done numerous (and incredible) studies on the effects of pitch framing, as well as other aspects, on run prevention:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15093
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16006
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16096

What are your thoughts?

Bryz
Guest
4 years 2 months ago

Just curious, what do “CPP” and “RPP” actually stand for, or are we running out of letters to use for abbreviations?

Regardless, this is really cool to see. I think this could definitely be expanded in the near future using Barkey Walker’s suggestions above.

Lex Logan
Guest
Lex Logan
4 years 2 months ago

“RPP – The number of runs above / below average a pitcher is a blocking pitches.” Perhaps “…a [catcher] is [at] blocking pitches” ?

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
4 years 2 months ago

Hmmm, wonder where my teams catcher is.
Nope, not on page 1…
There he is on page 2…no wait, that’s just Donny Lucy.
Not on page 3…
Aw heck I bet he’s on the last page {goes to page 6}
Yup, there’s AJ. 166 out of 177.

statszombie
Member
statszombie
4 years 2 months ago

He’s better than two thirds of the Molinas though. That has to count for something.

Voxx
Guest
Voxx
4 years 2 months ago

Yadier Molina is very good. More news at 11.

Kyle H
Member
Kyle H
4 years 2 months ago

This just in, Matt Wieters is better

wat
Guest
wat
4 years 2 months ago

But gold gloves! The reputation! The legend!

Darren
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Darren
4 years 2 months ago

so Catcher fielding for WAR on Fangraphs is a) Dewan’s SB runs saved +b) Bojan’s PB runs saved. I note that Dewan’s final run saved rating for catcher also includes Catcher ERA. I take it this is NOT included in WAR fielding.

BoSoxFan
Guest
BoSoxFan
4 years 2 months ago

you should adjust for knuckleballers like with Saltalamacchia

Brofessor
Guest
Brofessor
4 years 2 months ago

We also need to take into account catchers that still block the plate. It can literally be a run saved if they put their body on the line to get the runner out.

dropkicksam
Member
dropkicksam
4 years 2 months ago

Any chance you can throw up a graph showing how each catcher’s WAR was impacted by this change?

Ghost of Future Stats
Guest
Ghost of Future Stats
4 years 2 months ago

Nifty, Brian McCann’s career WAR went up like by like one and a half WAR.

bstar
Member
bstar
4 years 2 months ago

That will help his burgeoning Hall of Fame chances, in the long run.

Gary York
Guest
Gary York
4 years 2 months ago

I wonder how many Mariner fans are surprised by the next to last name on the list.

bluejaysstatsgeek
Member
4 years 2 months ago

But he was worth a pick to the Jays.

Ari Collins
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Ari Collins
4 years 2 months ago

Be interesting to see if Salty can get those terrible numbers up now that he doesn’t have to catch Wakefield.

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
4 years 2 months ago

Watching Brian McCann on a daily basis, he really is very good at blocking pitches. He has good hands and almost always uses his body when he should. Some catchers are relatively horrible at catching balls that go astray on their throwing hand side.

kick me in the GO NATS
Guest
kick me in the GO NATS
4 years 2 months ago

Neat!

Tim
Guest
Tim
4 years 2 months ago

It took me a while to figure out that you get RPP by taking the differential between CPP (the expectation) and WP+PB (the actual), and multiplying by the run value. This could be made much more intuitive, partly by putting actual PP in the same table as CPP and RPP. (I’d also suggest changing CPP to XPP, but that might just be me.)

As it is, it’s easy to look at a player’s page and think that CPP is a measure of performance rather than opportunity, because there’s no measure of performance with it.

adam smith
Guest
3 years 1 month ago

this is all great stuff …i would like to see a simplified version of WAR for the general population to value mlb and college players ..
the point of a backstop ball being practice…..My son is a D1 catcher and always throws a few into the back stop out past is normal blocking range to see where it rolls. he regularly throws out runners on base by bare handing the rebound on hard short backstops . he throws out over 50% of all runners with a best pop time is 1.73 verified by mlb …. a cannon for a arm and team mates that expect a throw helps

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