FG on Fox: Who’s Been Helped and Hurt the Most by Pitch-Framing?

Let’s watch some baseball! Rewind to Thursday night, in Boston, where the Angels were playing the Red Sox. The story of most of the night was Matt Shoemaker, but for our specific purposes, the story didn’t really involve Shoemaker at all.

We’ll pick things up in the top of the sixth. Ahead in the count 2-and-1, Albert Pujols took a high slider, but it got called a strike, much to Pujols’ displeasure. The pitch was received by Christian Vazquez, who seems to be an elite-level pitch-framer.


On the next pitch, Pujols went down swinging. Shortly thereafter, Pujols must’ve said something from the dugout, because he got tossed, and Mike Scioscia subsequently also got tossed for defending his first baseman.


You could say that pitch-framing was largely responsible for two people on the Angels’ payroll getting ejected. For good measure, let’s skip ahead to the top of the seventh, with Collin Cowgill facing a two-strike count:


Framed, and Cowgill didn’t like it. He managed to not get ejected, but he was clearly frustrated as he walked away. The Angels weren’t big fans of Andy Fletcher’s strike zone.

And, that’s fine. We’re looking at some borderline calls, and borderline calls have to go against somebody, and that side is going to be upset. Especially in the heat of late-August competition, when the Angels are trying to win a division and get to the ALDS. But, here’s the thing: pitch-framing is a skill, and every catcher tries to do it. One of the Angels’ own catchers, Hank Conger, seems to be pretty good at it. The Angels benefit from framing effects, and one wonders, do they come out ahead or behind overall? And if they come out ahead, what sense is there in arguing, really?

Read the rest on Just A Bit Outside.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

22 Responses to “FG on Fox: Who’s Been Helped and Hurt the Most by Pitch-Framing?”

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  1. Ben says:

    Those calls had nothing to do with framing. The plate was very very wide last night. (That is to say, the ump sucked.)

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  2. Player Development Nerd says:

    As for your conclusion on the other site, why wouldn’t pitch framing be the reason why the Brewers are leading their division? The Cardinals are 487 strikes behind by these figures, which amounts to 487 * 0.14 = 68.18 runs of difference, or nearly 7 wins. That’s a much wider margin than the division standings right now.

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    • Aaron (UK) says:

      Quite. A lot of sabrmetric writers seem to be subconsciously terrified of the implications of pitch-framing, at least at the extremes.

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      • Elias says:

        Does catcher WAR already include value from pitch framing? If so, the projections for the Brewers may account for this already.

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        • vslyke says:

          It doesn’t.

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        • Iron says:

          To some extent it does. Only it’s listed for the pitchers. Which is to say, run prevention, strikeouts, walks etc. that you attribute to the catcher you have to then take away from Brewer’s pitchers. It is a zero-sum calculation.

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        • vivalajeter says:

          Excellent point, Iron.

          Let’s say someone has a Eureka! moment tonight, and they pinpoint the exact value of pitch framing. In Milwaukee’s case, it’s worth 3 wins. All that will do is shuffle around the value from one player to another. It’s not going to suddenly give the team 3 more wins, or project them for more wins in the future.

          On the other hand, they still would have been 3 wins better than they would have been with an average framer (all else equal).

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        • Ruki Motomiya says:

          Why would it be a zero sum calculation? Pitch framing going 100% to the catcher seems off…also considering all the double crediting that goes on with some stats already, I don’t see the problem with doing it here.

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      • John Havok says:

        “Quite. A lot of sabrmetric writers seem to be subconsciously terrified of the implications of pitch-framing, at least at the extremes.”

        How much credit do you give the catcher? The pitcher? How much is a result of an umpire that consistently has a wide/high/low/inconsistant strike zone? What about the difference in Veteran pitchers getting calls against rookies, or rookie pitchers not getting calls against veteran hitters… how much of the strike call is the result of a pitcher who has been incosistent at locating pitches all night vs a guy who always seems to hit his spots even if the pitch is in the saem location?

        Trying to quantify any of that with any kind of certainty is a massive challenge.

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  3. Al says:

    Thanks Jeff,
    Has there been anything written on ‘slightly out of zone’ swing rates when an elite pitch framer is behind the plate?
    Not sure about the feasibility of this or what kind of noise you might have to expect, but it would be interesting if catchers with a reputation for good receiving ability had a tendency to inducing more swings on those pitches as hitters adjusted to the ‘new’ zone.

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  4. threespeedbike says:

    Does pitch framing research look at the effect of the umpire on the likelihood of called strikes outside of the zone? Just curious since I’m not familiar with the studies.

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    • Steven says:

      Most of them do not adjust for specific umpire, but do adjust fro the average umpire. In other words, it is not comparing the “extra strikes” to the rule-book strike zone, but instead to the average strike zone (these look very different). If an individual umpire has a larger tendency to call a certain zone, this is not considered.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      I was just thinking the same thing. Every umpire has a different strike zone. Some might be more willing to give a strike if it’s a little low, a little inside, etc. I wonder how much of framing is the ability to take any borderline pitch and make it seem like a strike, and how much of framing is knowing which pitches to call more often due to the specific umpire.

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  5. everdiso says:

    Can somebody please do a “Pitch Framing Team Effect” study already? I’d love to see if some teams consistently get bigger or smaller strike zones than other teams, regardless of who is receiving the pitches.

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  6. Adam says:

    I’m curious how the people of FanGraphs feel about switching to non-swinging pitches being called by pitchFX, instead of the umpire. Obviously this would entirely negate the concept and benefits of pitch framing. I would be in favor of it for the reason that the game could be decided by the players on the field and not an umpire’s pitch-to-pitch subjective strike zone. And so much rides on getting the calls correct (obviously a big difference between a 1-2 count and a 2-1 count). Especially since umpires get such a large portion of “close calls” incorrect.

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    • pft says:

      Pitch f/x is not 100% accurate, and the raw data has to be adjusted overnight for each batter given they have different profiles (although that could probably be corrected if needed). There are issues with calibration that crop up from time to time that can’t be corrected in game (like you can replace an ump when the original ump gets hurt or sick). There are also significant differences between park, so even if the averages may be accurate, there are outlier parks on both extremes.

      Furthermore, it may be MLB wants umps to call a wider zone since despite the pitch f/x data used to judge umps, the zone keep expanding. THis way they can do it without changing the rules to expand the zone which would meet with an outcry

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  7. Nathaniel Hall says:

    Just curious, but is there any correlation between pitch framing and the quality of pitching, i.e. do wilder pitchers get the benefit of the doubt less than other pitchers?

    Because the Blue Jays are dead last, and I’d like to know if a majority of that is RA Dickey and the difficulty in calling knuckleballs.

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  8. Schuxu says:

    Can somebody check which umpires are the most effected by pitch framing?

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