Did Jose Molina Frame the Red Sox?


Initiate sleuthing mode!

On Monday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 1-0 in a game ended with a called strike three on to Cody Ross. Mr. Ross disagreed with that particular call and felt emboldened to express his sentiments by flipping his bat to the ground and then carefully, deliberately smash his helmet on home plate — making a pop loud enough to hear on the television broadcast.

Scandal! The stadium, the Twitter, the airwaves, the everything contracted Strike Zone Fever! Was it a strike? Was it a ball? Was it a fair call? Did Molina frame it, or had the ump — Larry Vanover — called it all day?

The answer is a little bit of everything, but mostly: Yes, the umpire called a “fair” zone.

Allow me to explain.

Here is a look at that final called strike — coupled with Helmet Smash and an invisible arrow shot or two:

Let us begin our study by looking at a strikezone plot (called strikes and called balls) for the Rays pitchers — James Shields and Fernando Rodney:

NOTE: All the Pitch F/x data here comes from Brooks Baseball, but the data does not use a normalized strike zone, which means the tops and bottoms of the zones are a little off (because of different batters’ heights). You can refer to the normalized strike zone plots here, but for the purpose of our study, it doesn’t really affect anything.

So what can we learn from the Rays’ strike zone? Two main items stick out to me: (1) The left-handed strike zone was uncharacteristically rule-bookish. Only the top left corner had the customary flexibility. And (2) Jose Molina was getting strikes aplenty on the far right side of the zone — as well as three extra strikes at the bottom of the zone.

Now let’s compare that to what Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the Red Sox pitchers got:

We can make almost the same two assertions that we did with the Rays plot. (1) The Red Sox pitchers got the called strike high and away to lefties, while the rest of the left-handed zone was rule-book tight, and (2) pitches to right-handed batters away got called strike — and one lowish pitch was called strike too.

If we compare the two teams at one time, we can see which pitches Jose Molina got that Salty did not:

In baseball, the catcher or hitter or peeved fan will occasionally make a statement, “That was a strike last inning.” But the truth is that very rarely do two pitches strike the same spot, and that is what we a seeing here. Molina and the Rays pitchers tested the bounds of that right edge much more carefully or precisely than the Red Sox. Boston got a few strikes out in that neighborhood, but they did not hit those exact same spots.


For more on this game, check out Paul Swydan’s analysis of Daniel Bard through Bard’s first two starts.


It is widely believed the Rays signed Jose Molina this past off-season as a reaction to Mike Fast’s incredible article on pitch framing, an article which suggested that Molina was one of the greatest pitch-framers in modern baseball history. Perhaps another catcher does not get those strikes way out there — or perhaps they do not realize, like Molina may have realized, that there was territory to claim out there. I do not know. (NOTE: Fast’s numbers also suggested Salty is a good framer too, but not necessarily at Molina’s level.)

But using the simply delightful umpire heat maps at Baseball Heat Maps, we can see Larry Vanover happens to love that pitch away from right handers:


From the Baseball Heatmaps Site: “The scale is the percent
that the umpire [calls] a ball a strike in that part of the strike zone.”

And this is not a recent thing either. Vanover has been umping since 1991 — Ross should know (well, at least he could know) that anything down and away it liable to be called a strike.

Was the final pitch really far away? Oh my, yes. But it was fair. Why?

1. The Rays did not get any strikes that were otherwise called balls for the Red Sox.

2. The zone matched the career norms for the umpire.

3. The Rays took advantage of a market inefficiency and hired a pitch-framing specialist — and that’s certainly not against the rules.



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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.


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Jeremy Roell
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Jeremy Roell
4 years 4 months ago

I am an umpire myself and love nerdy posts like this. This is great data!

Adam Fritsch
Guest
Adam Fritsch
4 years 4 months ago

heh

Yadier Molina
Guest
Yadier Molina
4 years 4 months ago

I may not have the pitch-framing skills of Jose or the power of Bengie, but I have the best speed of the Molina brothers. Also, I’ve been told I kinda have a good arm…

Vin
Member
Vin
4 years 4 months ago

What’s your point, Yadi?

The Most Interesting Man In The World
Guest
The Most Interesting Man In The World
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t always sign a catcher, but when I do, I sign a Molina.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
4 years 4 months ago

Nice idea, but if fails the first order smell test: if Molina realized there was an advantage to be gained by exploiting that part of the “zone” he should have been calling pitches there with much greater frequency than he did throughout the game. Unless the assertion is that he suddenly thought of the idea when Cody Ross came to the plate, which seems implausible as there was nothing I can see about the Pedroia PA (the last one against an RHB prior to Ross) that would have tipped him off to this.

Besides, a large fraction of the sample of called strikes in that area came from the Ross PA. If you subtract those 3 called strikes from the sample it looks very different.

In short, I believe this has a lot more to do with the umpire than Molina, though I’m sure Molina’s skills contributed something small (nothing in baseball is ever 100% this or that). The umpire simply expanded his strike zone to help end the game, as analysis on other sites has shown he has a habit of doing in the 9th inning of close games when the losing team is batting.

Cozar
Member
Cozar
4 years 4 months ago

If Ross had 3 balls called strikes in the same outside area, you would think he should swing at the 3rd one. Consistency in the strike zone within a single at-bat is even more important than consistency throughout the game.

doctorogres
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Yeah but two were correctly called as balls, too. It was just bad umping.

Cory
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Cory
4 years 4 months ago

And the situation made it even worse. I think the ole’ blue wanted to go home.

Steven
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Steven
4 years 4 months ago

I’m curious. Link?

Gerry Geurts
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Gerry Geurts
4 years 4 months ago

There was an article last season about how Jose Molina was the best catcher at getting strike calls outside the zone. ie, framing the strikes and he was so much better then anyone else even in a backup role. I can’t remember where it was posted.

Seems like the Rays signed him away to be their starting catcher because of this, as they’re always been very progressive with this kind of data. This article builds upon the previous relevations. It was not a big surprise to see Molina signed to a starting role, but I’m guessing most people who did not know this data were.

Gerry Geurts
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Gerry Geurts
4 years 4 months ago

Revelations… D’oh!

The awesomeness of Jose Molina explained:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15093

Gerry Geurts
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Gerry Geurts
4 years 4 months ago

I see the reference to it now :) I actually did a good job of reading the article, but didn’t remember last year’s piece as being reference to Mike after googling for it in response to the comment above.

Great article Bradley!

Kernel
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Kernel
4 years 4 months ago

This is a fascinating article, but it also calls to question why the sport encourages players to find players that successfully bend the rules, and why it’s supported that teams should prepare for each umpire’s strike zone. Now, I know it’s how the game is played, and it’s just the Rays playing smart (heck, if you can find a catcher who can frame a Fernando Rodney pitch into a strike, SIGN HIM), but I think it exposes a problem with baseball.

Joey
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Joey
4 years 4 months ago

The Mets broadcasters were singling out that particular umpire during last night’s game. They showed the pitches and talked about how that umpire would expand the zone late in games. I think they even referenced that Chipper Jones had complained about that umpire beforehand.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t mind umpires having their own zones (well actually I do, but anyway…) but an expanding zone should really be a no-no. There must be a limit to what it is reasonable for a team to (a) need to prepare for and (b) take advantage of.

This problem is particularly acute if the said expansion is score-based, as the broadcasters were implying. Is there any quantitative research on this?

Arun
Member
4 years 4 months ago

“And this is not a recent thing either. Vanover has been umping since 1991 — Ross should know (well, at least he could know) that anything down and away it liable to be called a strike.”

I get that players should be at least somewhat familiar with an ump’s zone. But Ross has also had thousands and thousands of AB’s his entire professional (and amateur) career that probably cloud his judgment of what a strike should be.

Mike
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Mike
4 years 4 months ago

Molina is a lifetime backup C. He was signed by the Rays due to affordability and name recognition. He has never caught a full season and doesn’t have a decent enough bat to even be in MLB but his defense is passable and more importantly cost efficient. He is a great backup tp have around but the Rays and everybody else in MLB especially the AL East know he is a weight dragging them down overall.

jrogers
Member
jrogers
4 years 4 months ago

I must have missed that chapter of “The Extra 2%” that discussed the success of signing players based on “name recognition”.

Rotorooter
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Rotorooter
4 years 4 months ago

Balls called strikes considered “fair” because of ump predilections?
Umps expanding/extending strike zones late in games so they don’t miss Leno/room service back at the hotel?
Catchers being hired for their ability to “frame” the ball (i.e. fool umps)? (actually, as a BoSox fan it’s pleasing to know that Salty might be getting paid for more than just striking out all the time)
And Armando Galarraga retiring to Venezuela less than two years after being robbed of a perfect game by that feckless Jim Joyce?

I say bring on the robo-umps…

adohaj
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adohaj
4 years 4 months ago

The calls are considered fair because he was consistent all game and gave both teams the same zone. If an ump called everything 3 feet off the plate a strike, all game, for both teams he would have called a fair zone. However he would have not called a accurate or correct zone.

Correct and fair do not mean the same thing. Think of it like the difference between accuracy and precision.

Baltar
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Baltar
4 years 4 months ago

The ump-zone would be a lot more fair if it were correct. Pitchers and batters (and catchers) should not be responsible for adjusting to the ump’s bad calls.
I do want the robo-umps, the sooner the better, but first I’d like to see the league actually ensure that the umps follow the rules and apply sanctions when they don’t, beginning with rule 8.04 to speed up the games.
There are probably thousands of people out there who could call the game better than the current MLB crews actually do.

Johnny Come Lately
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Johnny Come Lately
4 years 4 months ago

You know how they could really speed up games? Call a bigger strike zone.

Jason
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Jason
4 years 4 months ago

“The Rays took advantage of a market inefficiency and hired a pitch-framing specialist”

I hope this is not meant to be serious.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
4 years 4 months ago

Why on earth not? It seems that Jose Molina has value above and beyond the obvious. Tampa need to find cheap value to compete in the AL East on their budget. So they signed Molina.

Jason
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Jason
4 years 4 months ago

It is obvious to anyone who has watched baseball that Jose Molina is an elite defensive catcher (in my opinion, he is the very best defensive catcher in all of baseball). Every front office in baseball knows Molina is a top defensive catcher. It is the only reason Molina has had a job all of these years.

The Rays aren’t pulling a fast one on the Sox and Yankees by signing a good defensive backup catcher. It is baseball tradition to have your backup catcher a good defender and it is common knowledge that Jose Molina is a good defender.

Suggesting that the Rays are exploiting a market inefficiency here is just fitting the story to the narrative: “Friedman and the Rays exploit market inefficiencies. They are smart. The Yankees overpay free agents and use resources unnecessarily. They are stupid.” …a couple years ago when Jose Molina was the Yankee’s backup catcher would anyone argue that the Yankees were “exploiting a market inefficiency”? Of course not. Doesn’t fit the narrative.

everdiso
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everdiso
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t think there’s another team with hopes of contending in baseball that would have clearly decided to go with Jose Molina as their full-time catcher this year, so much so as to not even bring in even one other catcher with any MLB experience at all.

So if it works for them, you gotta give them credit for another bold call.

Of course, I don’t think this was a good decision by them, because Jose Molina will most likely not be a positive contributor as a starting catcher.

And while it might be nice that he framed this one at bat nicely, the overall pitching performance of the Rays this year hasn’t exactly received a boost from Molina’s “framing” ability. Quite the opposite.

But hey if the Rays end up being right about it, then this most definitely is another great Rays front office gamble.

juan pierres mustache
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juan pierres mustache
4 years 4 months ago

it’s a market inefficiency in that the production they get from molina worth more than what they are paying him, and the suggestion that they are exploiting it means that they have data that leads them to believe that his defense is worth more than what the broader market is willing to pay for it. the yankees can and do exploit market inefficiencies, but it gets talked about less because in order for a team like the rays to compete, they pretty much have to get more than they pay for from almost every position, whereas the yankees can win just by spending a lot of money in a non-cubs way and filling a roster with highly paid players. when molina was with the yankees, it’s possible that you could consider that a market inefficiency (fwiw, i don’t know the specifics of that contract or the market for backup catchers well enough to really speak to that, so i will not).

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 4 months ago

Bradley,

I’m really not presupposing anything about the timeline of your personal conversion to being a Jose Molina accolade (nor did I ever even consider it). I’m just commenting on the tautology of Molina being an example of a market inefficiency because the Rays signed him because the Rays exploit market inefficiencies.

…I forgot Molina was starting for the Rays. Yikes! I loved Molina as the Yankees backup, but man can that guy hit into double plays!

Sam Samson
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Sam Samson
4 years 4 months ago

Jason

Did you mean “Molina acolyte”?

AA
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AA
4 years 4 months ago

Not to mention that the Yankees already have the second best framer as their starting catcher.

Jason
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Jason
4 years 4 months ago

Sam Samson,

I think I did! Cheers!

Eddie
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Eddie
4 years 4 months ago

In Ross’s defense, that ball was reaaaallly far outside.

dscottncc
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dscottncc
4 years 4 months ago

Lol I love fangraphs for this reason. I tried to explain what happened to my buddy last night on the phone. He was heading to bed at the time so he didn’t have time to catch baseball tonight or MLB quick pitch on TV. I told him that I’m sure they’d have an article on it tommorow on fangraphs and walaa here is the article. Good stuff once again fangraphs.

dscottncc
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dscottncc
4 years 4 months ago

Of course if this would have been a midwest/west game, I’m not so confident we would have seen so much media on the call.

Kernel
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Kernel
4 years 4 months ago

I’m mildly horrified by the use of “walaa.” It’s French. “Voila!”

Dave
Guest
Dave
4 years 4 months ago

Thank you. I cringed a little.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
4 years 4 months ago

Mercy bookoo.

dscottncc
Guest
dscottncc
4 years 4 months ago

LOL, whoops. Well I live in America, I speak English, and Hablo Espanol. Sorry, don’t run into many French people around Illinois. Besides, I hate avoiding dog poop while walking on the sidewalk, like i had to do in Paris.

Sam Samson
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Sam Samson
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks for explaining that “walaa” was really “voilà”, I was mystified.

AA
Guest
AA
4 years 4 months ago

The word “Illinois” is French

GW
Guest
GW
4 years 4 months ago

Why do umpires believe that they have the RIGHT to decide what the strike zone is? I would rather have a robot call balls and strikes. I WANT THE GAME DECIDED BY THE PLAYERS!!!

jorgath
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jorgath
4 years 4 months ago

How’s this for an idea?

Bud Selig and Joe Torre assert that the computer technology for the zone is there, but not there for an instantaneous call. They especially claim that it takes a little bit (10 minutes IIRC) to determine whether it was high or low.

So give the umpires control over vertical zone, and the computer control over horizontal zone. Give the umpire a little heads-up display (like those new VR eyeglasses) that, say, flashes a light (what color, not sure) up if the computer reads it as having gone outside the zone.

Kernel
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Kernel
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t know that it’s 100% accurate, but Pitch F/X data is nearly instantaneous.

Jay29
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Jay29
4 years 4 months ago

Why couldn’t the jerseys be fitted with sensors? We’ve got the damn XBox Kinect now, why not something that can track a batter’s knees and letters?

everdiso
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everdiso
4 years 4 months ago

this here is a fantastic article.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
4 years 4 months ago

Watching the catchers is the best part of a televised game, IMO.

The “coolest” thing about the job they do framing, is that often you need to see it in slow-mo to get an idea of how “far” they framed a pitch.

It’s amazing at how subtle they are will “moving” pitches 2 or 3 inches.

Beasleyrockah
Guest
Beasleyrockah
4 years 4 months ago

Ross literally didn’t see a strike that entire at bat, didn’t swing at anything, and only one ball was even close to being a strike. Sorry, I don’t care if the ump is calling balls strikes the entire game, I’m not asking athletes to adjust their game to incompetent umpires. These weren’t fair strikes, they were terrible, he didn’t do his job, plain and simple…I don’t care how well they were framed, that shouldn’t change the calls. Games shouldn’t be decided on umpires who decide to interpret the rules incorrectly…but yay human element.

dscottncc
Guest
dscottncc
4 years 4 months ago

Here’s an idea, swing your bat. Don’t let the ump decide the outcome, take that bat off your shoulder. If Ross could hit as hard as he threw his helmet the Bosox would have won haha.

elobell
Member
elobell
4 years 4 months ago

The issue with your logic is that swinging at pitches that far outside is generally not going to lead to a good outcome for the hitter. You can’t tell the hitter to not let the umpire decide the outcome when, by calling those pitches strikes, the umpire already is.

dscott
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dscott
4 years 4 months ago

Actually my logic does make sense, based off Ross’s outside the zone contact percentage of 73% last year and his respectable .270 BABIP i’d say he would be pretty successful swinging at that pitch. Not to mention he likes the outside part of the zone.

Sam Samson
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Sam Samson
4 years 4 months ago

When the whole Red Sox organisational philosophy is based around pitch recognition and not swinging on pitches outside the zone, it’s pretty rough to criticise the batter here. If he’d swung and missed at clear balls he’d have had to answer to his bosses for it.

The ump plain got it wrong, 3 times out of the 5 final pitches of the game. It shouldn’t be the ump’s place to force a batter to swing away at bad pitches — that’s the pitcher’s job. I’m surprised any informed baseball fan is willing to argue this position.

RC
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RC
4 years 4 months ago

“Actually my logic does make sense, based off Ross’s outside the zone contact percentage of 73% last year and his respectable .270 BABIP i’d say he would be pretty successful swinging at that pitch. Not to mention he likes the outside part of the zone.”

Ross swings at that pitch and the game ends in a weak grounder to the second baseman instead of a K. There’s no way a hitter succeeds when a ball 6 inches off the plate is a strike.

captain snatchface varitek
Guest
captain snatchface varitek
4 years 4 months ago

Was one of the best at framing pitches….guess the sox want it both ways.

redsoxu571
Guest
redsoxu571
4 years 4 months ago

Most baseball fans agree that ideal umpiring is not a “perfect” strike zone (else why not just have machines call it?), but a consistent zone. As a Red Sox fan, I have to admit that if Vanover’s game is consistent, I have nothing to complain about…especially since in this day and age all the Boston RH batters should have been aware of this.

It also makes sense that the game comes down to the umprire’s strike zone when the final score is 1-0…every pitch is magnified.

Chickensoup
Member
Member
Chickensoup
4 years 4 months ago

1: a week from now no one is talking about this.

2: any team but the Red Sox or Yankees and noone talks about this

This isn’t a slam on the media, it’s frankly a slam on the most vocally inclined Sox/Yanks fans. The game didn’t come down to one pitch sequence, it came down to zero runs in 9 innings

Sleight of Hand Pro
Guest
Sleight of Hand Pro
4 years 4 months ago

dude, the yankees werent even playing in the game.

Chickensoup
Member
Member
Chickensoup
4 years 4 months ago

I know they weren’t, but noone says anything if it happens in a Pirates/Padres game. Frankly if it happened FOR the Red Sox or Yankees nobody would say a thing. They have the most loud and outspoken fanbases, possibly in all of sports, do it then becomes a storyline.

Having watched the pitch a few times, it’s not nearly as bad of a pitch as people make it out to be. I expected 6+ inches outside, but it wasn’t. In my mind with 2 strikes he should never have taken the pitch but tried to foul it off. Was it a good pitch to hit? Nope, was it a good pitch to foul off? That’s what I believe he should have done. Called strike 3 on that pitch in that situation is frankly on the batter IMO

Chickensoup
Member
Member
Chickensoup
4 years 4 months ago

I know they weren’t, but noone says anything if it happens in a Pirates/Padres game. Frankly if it happened FOR the Red Sox or Yankees nobody would say a thing. They have the most loud and outspoken fanbases, possibly in all of sports, does it then becomes a storyline.

Having watched the pitch a few times, it’s not nearly as bad of a pitch as people make it out to be. I expected 6+ inches outside, but it wasn’t. In my mind with 2 strikes he should never have taken the pitch but tried to foul it off. Was it a good pitch to hit? Nope, was it a good pitch to foul off? That’s what I believe he should have done. Called strike 3 on that pitch in that situation is frankly on the batter IMO

Johnny Come Lately
Guest
Johnny Come Lately
4 years 4 months ago

I seem to remember a big deal being made about a Padres/Dodgers game from a few days ago. The triple play. It involved dissecting an umpire’s arm positions for one play. Does that count? Or does it not fit your preconceived bias theory?

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter
4 years 4 months ago

Johnny, that’s apples and oranges. This was a borderline pitch that was called a strike even though it was a little off the plate. This happens a lot. The other game involved an umpiring snafu that most of us have never seen before.

RC
Guest
RC
4 years 4 months ago

“I know they weren’t, but noone says anything if it happens in a Pirates/Padres game.”

That’s because nobody is watching those games.

Sam Samson
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Sam Samson
4 years 4 months ago

Chickensoup –

Now go to Dave Cameron’s article calling out the Red Sox for pitching too slowly — http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/hey-red-sox-work-faster/ — and post a comment saying “any team but the Red Sox or Yankees and noone talks about this”. I dare you.

Chickensoup
Member
Member
Chickensoup
4 years 4 months ago

I made a general comment about speed if the game, that one just so happened to be about the Red Sox but the point still stands. They just do happen to be the worst offenders

Chickensoup
Member
Member
Chickensoup
4 years 4 months ago

Preconceived bias theory? that would entail the ump calling it a ball in that situation, unless I’m misunderstanding you.

When this happens again this year at some point (which it will, just not against the Sox more than likely) will there be an entire article trying to explain it? My guess is no.

If it was Aceves who threw it on Longoria, would people be asking for robots to call balls and strikes? Not a chance.

I’ve been watching baseball for my entire life. One thing I’ve noticed is that a certain portion of the fanbases thinks things are terrible when they don’t go the way they think they should and are very outspoken about it. Fans and media outlets (national and local) react differently in different places and certain ones freak out over things like this, in other places they brush it off their shoulders. Half or so of the commenters are the former

JKB
Guest
JKB
4 years 4 months ago

Agreed, this happens in every sport, even though it shouldn’t. Australia’s national cricket team in the mid-1970s is a good example. They took a gentlemens’ game and turned it into bean-ball aiming for batter’s heads & what not, and nobody really complained at the time. Along comes the West Indies national team in 1975 employing Australia’s tactic against England and there was an uproar. West Indies dominated cricket for the next 20 years in spite of efforts to stifle them. Go Rays! (see “Fire in Babylon” for more on the West Indies team)

Andrew
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Andrew
4 years 4 months ago

First, I’m a diehard Red Sox. I didn’t see the game, but I heard all the screaming about this at-bat afterwards. Just seeing it now for the first time, it’s not nearly as bad a call as people are making it out to be.

I still haven’t seen the rest of the AB, but if I didn’t already know that people were freaking over it, and I saw that last strike, I probably wouldn’t have even thought twice about it.

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter
4 years 4 months ago

This is my view too. When I look at the video up top, it doesn’t seems like a disgraceful call. I see similar calls every game.

Brett
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Brett
4 years 4 months ago

At what point do catchers start studying umpires as much as they study their pitchers and opposing hitters? or do they. I think the market inefficiency could be a careful catcher that knows how his umpires work. There should be plenty of information to see how an umpire views certain pitches across different innings. If an umpire likes a certain spot or gets “fooled” by a certain pitch the catcher can make a reliable game plan. In fact this seems so logical i would be surprised if this isn’t already done.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
4 years 4 months ago

Brett, I don’t think this is something for a catcher to study. I think it’s something that should be studied by a separate employee of the team, and they can relay the information. It seems pretty easy to study every umpire, then before the game you should the results to the starting pitcher and the catcher.

sprot
Guest
sprot
4 years 4 months ago

3. The Rays took advantage of a market inefficiency and hired a pitch-framing specialist — and that’s certainly not against the rules.

Comical. Molina’s been getting contracts for the better part of a decade because hes a defensively astute catcher. Just because Fangraphs, oh, sorry, BP, figured out how to quantify it doesnt mean that he now represents a market inefficiency. Maybe teams have always been smarter than the feces-throwing analysts?

A thought.

sprot
Guest
sprot
4 years 4 months ago
Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
4 years 4 months ago

The difference is surely that the Rays are starting him. Having a backup defensively-astute catcher is certainly old school [it would be interesting to evaluate quite why this practice evolved as it did].

But starting Jose Molina day-to-day is new thinking and it’s not an unreasonable hypothesis that the Rays were heavily influenced to do so by the pitch-framing article.

Of course one Cody Ross at-bat is still a small sample size :-)

Baseballfan
Guest
Baseballfan
4 years 4 months ago

This argument seems so illogical to me and it’s constantly presented by apologists whenever a umpire screws up the strike zone. It goes something like this, “well the umpire was calling a bad strike zone, but he was using it the whole game which makes it fair.” It would be as if I went to my job and started screwing up and when the boss yelled at me I said, well I’ve been screwing up since the moment you hired me so it’s fair.

Umpires calling zones is outdated, and baseball would be much better served using a normalized strike zone tech. so that hitters and pitchers can go out each night knowing what the bounds of the strike zone are, rather than having to try to remember the tendencies of each umpire/framing abilities of a catcher.

baycommuter
Guest
baycommuter
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t like that idea– it’s a human game, and doing that de-skills the position of catcher.

WILL
Guest
WILL
4 years 4 months ago

Things that probably would not exist if MLB had a robotic strike zone:

Greg Maddux’s career
Tom Glavine’s career
Pedro Martinez’ ’99 and ’00 seasons
Curt Schilling’s sock game
Every perfect game ever thrown
Mike Mussina’s ’97 ALCS
Bob Gibson’s ’68
Mariano Rivera’s career

And many more. I think I’ll live with the human element of HP umps, considering.

antonio bananas
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antonio bananas
4 years 4 months ago

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=16860105&source=MLB&topic_id=20425298

When 15 Ks happen to you, in the playoffs, and they’re THIS bad, then complain. I hate Sawks and Yankee fans. With your payroll, you have no excuses. If a rich guy loses a ton of money at a casino because he was too stupid to stop gambling do you feel sorry for him? Probably not. He knew the situation, you are taught from an early age to ‘swing if it’s close’ and protect with 2 outs. Maybe try to foul it off at least.

antonio bananas
Guest
antonio bananas
4 years 4 months ago

“protect with two strikes” is what it’s supposed to say.

Hank
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Hank
4 years 4 months ago

Bradley you really need to use the normalized zones… especially when you have a box labeled “extra strikes here” below the zone (even if this wasn’t the focus of the article).

You also need to consider the height of the ball on the outside corner as that does have an impact on the umpire call. A ball 3″ off the plate in the middle of the zone from a height perspective is much more likely to be called a strike at 3″ off the plat at the top of the zone or bottom of the zone. The strikezone is more circular (or oval) so even when looking at pitches off the plate the strike zone very much matters. If you look at the normalized zones.. a couple of the pitches roughly similar off the plate that weren’t called were also lower… so you’re “extra strikes here” labels is kind of misleading.

You also need to consider pitch type, where the pitcher is setup on the mound (first base side, third base side), arm slot and (sadly) the hitter at the plate (Does Pedroia get those called against him?)

This reads like another “the Rays are so smart” article and the data is rather murky and it looks like the conclusion of the article is written before the analysis is done.

Hal
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Hal
4 years 4 months ago

Clearly, Larry Vanover has cut Bradley Woodrum in on the action.

AA
Guest
AA
4 years 4 months ago

This is the kind of call that Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux made their careers on

Joe
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Joe
4 years 4 months ago

Isn’t framing the ability of a catcher to get a strike call that other catchers don’t get (or get less frequently)

You conclude that the Rays didn’t get any strike calls that were balls for the Red Sox in the areas in question and then somehow you jump to the pitch framing conclusion. How? Wouldn’t that be the conclusion if the Rays were getting calls that the Red Sox weren’t? Seems like you fit your conclusion to the story as the analysis you did shows no actual evidence of framing.

Have I misunderstood the concept of framing? Wouldn’t you need Salty to get balls in the same spot to conclude this was Molina/Rays/Adrew Friedman greatness.

Terry H.
Guest
Terry H.
4 years 4 months ago

To agree with another poster upthread, the idea that a pitch several inches outside was a “fair” strike because the umpire had already established his incompetence is pretty embarassing for a website that claims to be devoted to the pursuit of statistical objectivity.

CJ
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CJ
4 years 4 months ago

I like the analogy of fair and correct like being accuracy and precision. Different concepts.

Terry H.
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Terry H.
4 years 4 months ago

I understand that they are different concepts. What matters here is that one of these concepts matters more than the other. Making correct calls means making, by default, fair calls. Claiming an incorrect call is “fair”, because of the sheer quantity of previous incorrect calls, runs counter to the underlying intellectual principles that draw readers to this site in the first place.

In other words, at what point does the incorrect call switch from unfair to fair? The second time it occurs? The fifth? Tenth? It is this type of subjectivity that Fangraphs readers seek to avoid. Otherwise, why not just include it in the vague nebula of “unwritten rules”, of which we can simply learn from the John Kruk’s and Harold Reynolds’s of the world?

dave g.
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Vanover is horrible, and shouldn’t be an ump. If you pitches by that much, it doesn’t matter that you’re consistently bad, you’re still bad. … that is all.

dave g.
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

*if you miss pitches by that much…

James Bones
Guest
James Bones
4 years 4 months ago

Molina is great at framing but he’s horrible at actually blocking pitches which offsets the framing skill somewhat.

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