Tyler Colvin: League Leader

Spend a little while thinking about Tyler Colvin. Since you’re all FanGraphs readers, I’m going to assume that you’re at least somewhat familiar with who he is. That is, if you think about the things you know about Tyler Colvin, number one is that you know he’s a major-league baseball player. You probably have a good idea that he played for the Cubs, and plays for the Rockies. You’ll probably recall that he was nearly killed on a baseball field by a flying and stabby shard of a bat. But whether you know the bare minimum about Tyler Colvin, or whether he’s your favorite player ever, he did something in 2012 you likely didn’t realize. Or at least, things happened in 2012 involving Tyler Colvin you likely didn’t realize.

Colvin, this year, was one of few things about the Rockies that wasn’t a disappointment. He played in a whole lot of games and slugged .531, with a 117 wRC+. Though he didn’t walk and though he did strike out, he still managed to produce, even after you adjust for the ballpark insanity. Officially, he reached base 122 times on hits. Officially, he reached base 21 times on walks, and another two times on hit-by-pitches. Yet these were not the only times that Tyler Colvin reached base, and everyone was safe.

Let’s set a frame of reference. Last season, Carlos Triunfel batted 24 times. Jeff Clement batted 24 times, Luke Hughes batted 24 times, Kole Calhoun batted 25 times, and Charlie Culberson batted 23 times. You would say that these guys hardly played, because they hardly played, in the majors. These are very small samples of plate appearances. Okay, reference set. Last season, catcher’s interference was called 23 times. This is not an unusually low number — the season before, it was called 27 times, and the season before that, it was called 28 times. Catcher’s interference is a sufficiently rare part of the game that it’s often forgotten or neglected as a means of reaching base.

And it is a means of reaching base, in case you’re unfamiliar with the rule. And in case you are unfamiliar with the rule, you have a valid excuse — who cares about such an infrequent occurrence? A batter swinging almost never makes contact with the catcher’s glove. If he does, the batter goes to first and no official at-bat is recorded, but again, we’re talking about one or two dozen times a year. Catcher’s interference is more rare than Houston Astros wins.

Last season, Carlos Ruiz tied for the league-lead in catcher’s interferences committed, with three. He was equaled by Hector Sanchez and Chris Gimenez, who you might not have realized still played major-league baseball. Three catchers had two. Eight catchers had one. That was it for catcher’s interference calls.

And the hitters who benefited from the interferences? B.J. Upton reached base twice. Andres Torres reached base twice. David Murphy reached base twice. Eleven batters reached base once. Tyler Colvin reached base six times.

I’ll repeat that, last season, there were 23 catcher’s interference calls. Tyler Colvin was batting for more than a quarter of them. No whole team, outside of the Rockies, benefited more than twice, and 19 teams didn’t get such a call in their favor once. Colvin blew everybody else out of the water, and he wasn’t even a starter from the beginning of the season to the finish. And lest you wonder if there’s just something about Tyler Colvin, before 2012 he’d batted 637 times, and reached on interference once. Colvin’s 2012 OBP was .327. Include the interferences, and it was nine points higher than that. It’s not much, but it is an invisible way to not make an out.

Naturally, I have prepared .gifs of each of the interferences committed with Colvin in the box in 2012. Oftentimes, interference happens when a runner takes off, and the catcher reaches forward to get himself in better throwing position. Three of the interferences with Colvin happened with the bases empty. To the images:

May 28

Colvin vs. Jordan Lyles, Chris Snyder

June 21

Colvin vs. Vance Worley, Carlos Ruiz

July 14

Colvin vs. Vance Worley, Carlos Ruiz

September 18

Colvin vs. Tim Lincecum, Hector Sanchez

Let’s see what that catcher’s interference on Sanchez erased:

In the past, I’ve thought about writing about the best defensive plays that don’t actually result in outs. Why limit ourselves? Defenders can make sensational plays where everybody’s still safe in the end. I haven’t gotten to writing that because it’s basically impossible to research. But this play could fit. We see Tyler Colvin hit a sharp groundball wide of third, and we see Pablo Sandoval make a great diving stop, getting up to throw Colvin out. But Colvin wasn’t out, because Hector Sanchez reached too far forward. Great play by Sandoval. Worse play by Sanchez.

September 20

Colvin vs. Barry Zito, Hector Sanchez

Two in the same series, with the same catcher. Two in the same series, with the same catcher.

September 26

Colvin vs. Michael Bowden, Welington Castillo

Three in eight days. Three catcher’s interference calls in Tyler Colvin’s favor in eight days. No other team in baseball benefited from more than two catcher’s interference calls over the entire regular season. Three for Tyler Colvin, in eight days. After this one, the Rockies’ broadcasters started talking about how there must be something to Tyler Colvin’s swing path. That wouldn’t explain Tyler Colvin’s pre-2012 track record, but maybe Colvin has folded this into his game now that he has more experience. Maybe he has a sixth sense for where the catcher’s glove is when he’s about to chase a pitch. Tyler Colvin probably isn’t doing this on purpose.

And it’s probably just luck. Just dumb, random chance. It hardly even matters in the big picture. Most of the time, after a catcher’s interference call, it takes the announcers a little while to catch on to the fact that there was a catcher’s interference call. There’s almost always some degree of immediate confusion. This is because people don’t care about catcher’s interference and so they don’t think about it until they have to. Tyler Colvin gave the Rockies’ announcers a reason to have to. Tyler Colvin reached on catcher’s interference calls as often as he grounded into double plays.

You know more about Tyler Colvin now than you used to. Probably a lot more, percentage-wise. “How was your Monday?” somebody might ask you later on. “Kind of unusual,” you might respond.



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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.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Chad
Member
Chad
3 years 10 months ago

Clearly, a new market inefficiency has been born.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 10 months ago

I was going to say the same thing, but instead I’m saying, “Tyler Colvin discovered a new skill last season that greatly increases his value.”

Sparkles Peterson
Guest
Sparkles Peterson
3 years 10 months ago

He takes a lot of awful swings protecting the zone. So do plenty of others, but Tyler Colvin’s awful swings just happen to resemble a cricket batter’s with the arms fully extended, the wrists just barely still cocked (Which is probably where the secret lies), and him swinging his arms smoothly around his trunk to keep the bat in the hitting zone. 9-18 is the outlier swing, which looks like a simple fluke.

Steve
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Steve
3 years 10 months ago

seems most of the swings are really late, bail out swings. Maybe he figured out when he’s in trouble, swing deeper in the box.

Petetown Matt
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Petetown Matt
3 years 10 months ago

Up Next: Rays fans react to newest signing Tyler Colvin

ralph
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ralph
3 years 10 months ago

Makes sense. Just think of the tremendous loss of value if they didn’t acquire Colvin and Colvin ended up destroying Molina’s framing hand.

gavin
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gavin
3 years 10 months ago

Ruiz’s hand says hello. Ouch.

Ted
Member
Ted
3 years 10 months ago

Cool article.
Apparently Crawford got his fair share of catcher interferences in the past. Not quite Colvin level. But something.
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13990

ABW
Guest
ABW
3 years 10 months ago

And they are both left handed hitters, who stand far back in the batters box, with wide open stances – exactly what was discussed in the BP article comments.

Looking at the last two GIFs in this article, it looks like in both of those cases the catchers glove is at least a couple of inches in front of the back of the batters box(and in all the others I can’t tell because of the angle). Is there some advantage to catching the ball very slightly earlier? Framing? Otherwise it seems like it would be worth it to just tell your catcher “don’t let your glove get in front of the back of the batter box when a lefty is batting” just to avoid the risk of injury, never mind the chance that he will get called for interference.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 10 months ago

The framing advantage of catching the pitch a couple of inches closer to the pitcher far, far, far outweighs the risk of catcher interference.

Ian R.
Guest
Ian R.
3 years 10 months ago

I wonder, are Colvin’s six times reaching base on interference a single season record? That wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

BT
Guest
BT
3 years 10 months ago

Roberto Kelly had 8 CI in a season for the record. He did with the Yankees in 1992.

Scott
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Scott
3 years 10 months ago

They should incorporate that into his stratomatic baseball card!

Fish Monster
Guest
Fish Monster
3 years 10 months ago

Just as a heads up, “catcher’s interference” should be changed to “catcher’s obstruction.”

NickFarrell
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NickFarrell
3 years 10 months ago

I’m no rocket chef statistician, but I’m pretty sure six times isn’t just dumb, random chance. Two or three, could be plausible as chance, but a distribution of 6 within Colvin’s set of ABs as a portion of overall ABs in an MLB would be incredibly, incredibly rare. Luck, likely, has little to do with it.

I also think the fact that he’s done it EVER before, considering how rare it is, suggests that it IS a “skill” of his, rather than not, considering that the vast majority of MLB players never do it in their careers.

Deezy
Guest
Deezy
3 years 10 months ago

This is why statistics often need to come with standard deviations.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 7 months ago

While this is silly…would it be realistically possible to turn this into a skill, if one wanted?

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