Catcher Framing Runs back to 1916



About 10 years ago I published data trying to estimate how catchers before the pitch f/x era would have rated in framing. At the time I was able to go back to 1950. I don't remember exactly how I calculated that. It certainly involved walk and strikeout rates, I might have also used Homeruns allowed.

Retrosheet now has data back to 1916 so I'll give this another try, and also better document how I did this so at the very least I'll know how to reproduce the numbers if I want to update it again.

The first approach I'll use is to simply look, at the seasonal level, how many strikeouts and walks each catcher/pitcher pair had compared to how the same pitchers did with other catchers. In most cases, this means comparing a starting catcher to his backups. In some cases, like when a pitcher is traded midseason, it compares a catcher to those on other teams.

Here's an example. In 1968 Denny McLain walked 51 and struck out 230 while pitching to Bill Freehan, in 1014 plate appearances (for plate appearances I'm using AB + BB + HBP, so I'm missing small stuff like sac bunts and flies. Shouldn't make much difference). The rest of his pitching was to backup catcher Jim Price. In 259 PA, he struck out 50 and walked 10.

Since the plate appearances are different I need to put these on a common scale. To do this, I use a formula similar to the power speed number:

259 * 1014 * 2 / (259 + 1014) = 412.6

Per 412.6 PA, with Freehan catching McLain had 93.6 strikeouts and 20.8 walks. For Price, the numbers are 79.7 strikeouts and 15.9 walks. So pitching to Freehan resulted in an increase, per 412.6 PA, of 13.9 strikeouts and 4.9 walks. Multiply by 1014/412.6 to scale these numbers to his actual plate appearances. (I do this part after summing the totals for all pitchers.) You can sum up all pitchers and get season by season totals, though I would not recommend paying too much attention to them. In any one season a catcher might have very good or very bad framing backups, but over more years things should usually even out. I will report the career totals for catchers later.

Another way to do this is take all of the games where McLain pitched to Freehan over his career, and compare that to the games McLain pitched without Freehan (both to Tiger backups, and after he moved on to other teams. An advantages of this approach is the increased sample size of comparison. Disadvantages are that a pitcher's ability is not a constant over his career (the catcher who caught Frank Tanana for the Angels will look a lot better in this metric than the one who caught him for the Tigers). In addition, strikeout averages can change quite a bit over time. Limiting the comparison to a single season minimizes the problem of league changes and pitcher ability changes.

Once you have the number of extra walks and strikeouts for each catcher, multiply each by .22 to get a run value. This is based on a walk being worth +.33 runs, a strikeout -.11, and an average plate appearance +.11. Turning a walk into an average plate appearance has the opposite value of turning a strikeout into an average plate appearance.

I'm not sure which approach is better, so I'll report both. Maybe the best way is to average them. Method1 is comparing by single season data (then summing to career), method2 is using career level data.

There is general agreement between the two lists, for catchers with at least 20,000 PA the correlation is .63. There are some big differences in there however. Carlton Fisk, who topped the list in the method I used 10 years ago, comes in at +229 runs with method1, but -41 runs by method 2.

Looking at the leaders and trailers, most make sense. Players like Buster Posey, Jose Molina, and Russell Martin have been pitch framing stars since we've been able to measure that with pitch location data. Mike Scioscia sure seems like a guy who would be good at the finer points of catching. Jorge Posada was not a good defensive catcher. For most of his career we didn't measure things like this but the Yankees figured it out towards the end. It's a bit surprising to see Girardi towards the bottom, he seems like a defense first catcher, or at least he hit like one.

Most of the extreme values, both good and bad, are for modern players. Among players who retired before 1950, only Gus Mancuso and Mike Tresh saved 100+ runs, and Wally Schang, at -99, brings up the rear. This makes sense in that strikeout rates were very much lower back then, so you weren't going to see a catcher deviate too much from average in this stat.

Update 3-21-2021

Testing the data for 2008-2020 against what Fangraphs has for catcher framing, I found that method 2 is a better match. The run values need to be corrected as well, .28 for a strikeout and .33 for a walk. In the end though I multiply the run values by 0.8 to match the standard deviation shown found in the Fangraphs data. The run values below are just for method 2.

At some point I'll look into park adjustments, and maybe normalizing strikeouts to league average. This stuff is in the early stages of development and I am far from sure that it's right. The discussion on this research happens in the Reader Posts section of BillJamesonline. I would prefer not to see this exchange on the site:

"Hey Bill, did you know someone in the reader posts came up with a way to estimate catcher framing for the years before pitch f/x? If you add these numbers into WAR it shows that Mike Scioscia was more valuable then Yogi Berra."

Bill: "If you want to believe that kind of junk that's you're problem, but don't expect anyone to take you seriously."

Keep in mind, I tried some of this stuff 10 years ago and ended up with Carlton Fisk as the top framing catcher ever. Now he shows up as below average, despite not catching a single inning during that time. I don't know what I or somebody else will find tomorrow, next week, or next year. So please treat this as a work in progress, and not as the start of the Johnny Edwards for Hall of Fame bandwagon.

Update 2 3-24-2021

I have park-adjusted and league-adjusted everything. The park adjustment was relatively minor, the league adjustment was huge in some cases. Fisk is back to showing as a good framer. Posada is still at the bottom. Scioscia loses a few runs, but still comes out as the best of all time in this area. But at least I don't have to try and defend the idea he was better than Yogi. The table below is not adjusted, for the adjusted numbers for every catcher with over 15000 PA (about 300 catchers), see the CSV file.

Catcher pitch framing runs, 1916-2020, league and park adjusted (CSV)

Pitch Framing, not park or league adjusted.
Last First 1styr lastyr PA Runs_saved MLBAM Retro
Alomar Sandy 1989 2007 45405 -48 110184 aloms001
Ashby Alan 1973 1989 43236 64 110350 ashba001
Ausmus Brad 1993 2010 66201 189 110385 ausmb001
Avila Alex 2009 2020 30518 -89 488671 avila001
Azcue Joe 1960 1972 28108 184 110410 azcuj101
Bailey Ed 1953 1965 36273 13 110449 baile101
Bako Paul 1998 2009 24275 35 132720 bakop001
Barajas Rod 1999 2012 35813 49 150148 barar001
Barrett Michael 1998 2009 30855 8 136664 barrm003
Bateman John 1963 1972 32449 116 110670 batej102
Battey Earl 1955 1967 36099 169 110690 batte101
Bench Johnny 1967 1983 59157 -43 110849 bencj101
Benedict Bruce 1978 1989 32045 -28 110852 beneb001
Berra Yogi 1946 1965 58441 -80 110925 berry101
Blanco Henry 1999 2013 30032 -40 111072 blanh001
Boone Bob 1972 1990 76092 -37 111221 boonb001
Borders Pat 1988 2005 32389 -121 111232 bordp001
Brenly Bob 1981 1989 21937 70 111423 brenb001
Buck John 2004 2014 37482 -86 407833 buckj001
Burgess Smoky 1949 1966 37027 51 111705 burgs101
Campanella Roy 1948 1957 42003 29 111915 campr102
Cannizzaro Chris 1960 1974 22176 -43 111959 cannc101
Carter Gary 1974 1992 70472 182 112061 cartg001
Casanova Paul 1965 1974 27049 53 112076 casap101
Castro Jason 2010 2020 28127 -26 488771 castj006
Castillo Welington 2010 2019 23635 -117 456078 castw002
Cerone Rick 1975 1992 42352 -38 112159 ceror001
Cervelli Francisco 2008 2020 23273 -4 465041 cervf001
Chirinos Robinson 2011 2020 20066 -78 455139 chirr001
Cochrane Mickey 1925 1937 45011 39 112437 cochm101
Cooper Walker 1940 1957 38244 -8 112660 coopw102
Courtney Clint 1951 1961 26435 -11 112737 courc101
Crandall Del 1949 1966 48212 57 112788 crand102
Dalrymple Clay 1960 1971 32218 116 113014 dalrc101
Daulton Darren 1983 1995 33408 -112 113074 dauld001
Davis Jody 1981 1990 35468 11 113118 davij001
Davis Spud 1928 1945 29644 4 113143 davis101
Dempsey Rick 1969 1992 50727 -144 113264 dempr001
Diaz Bo 1977 1989 31490 137 113325 diazb001
Diaz Einar 1996 2006 22352 -18 113330 diaze002
Dickey Bill 1928 1946 53192 72 113340 dickb101
Downing Brian 1973 1981 22940 -93 113516 downb001
Duncan Dave 1964 1976 29623 21 113617 duncd101
Dyer Duffy 1968 1981 20527 29 113681 dyerd101
Edwards Johnny 1961 1974 46654 336 113757 edwaj101
Ellis A. J. 2008 2018 20807 11 454560 ellia001
Etchebarren Andy 1962 1978 28056 183 113920 etcha101
Ferguson Joe 1970 1983 24895 -17 114067 fergj101
Ferrell Rick 1929 1947 44061 42 114086 ferrr101
Fisk Carlton 1969 1993 76593 -34 114182 fiskc001
Fitzgerald Mike 1983 1992 23294 116 114197 fitzm001
Flaherty John 1992 2005 35576 -107 114208 flahj001
Fletcher Darrin 1989 2002 37313 -46 114233 fletd001
Flowers Tyler 2009 2020 25993 79 452095 flowt001
Foote Barry 1974 1982 20880 -4 114293 footb101
Fosse Ray 1967 1979 29191 -15 114326 fossr101
Freehan Bill 1961 1976 55469 73 114399 freeb103
Gedman Rich 1980 1992 31925 27 114676 gedmr001
Girardi Joe 1989 2003 42889 -115 114833 giraj001
Gomes Yan 2012 2020 24941 53 543228 gomey001
Gooch Johnny 1921 1933 23117 -23 114940 goocj101
Grandal Yasmani 2012 2020 26852 92 518735 grany001
Grote Jerry 1963 1981 44383 165 115194 grotj101
Hall Toby 2000 2008 24305 -97 150134 hallt001
Haller Tom 1961 1972 39124 204 115359 hallt102
Hanigan Ryan 2007 2017 21311 44 452672 hanir001
Hargrave Bubbles 1921 1930 21732 76 115471 hargb101
Harper Brian 1984 1995 23247 16 115488 harpb001
Hartnett Gabby 1922 1941 52461 -4 115572 hartg103
Hassey Ron 1978 1991 30967 31 115594 hassr001
Hayes Frankie 1933 1947 35904 -8 115641 hayef101
Heath Mike 1978 1991 35473 -123 115676 heatm001
Hegan Jim 1941 1960 51475 -1 115697 hegaj101
Hemsley Rollie 1928 1947 40072 10 115741 hemsr101
Hernandez Ramon 1999 2013 50422 -121 150421 hernr002
Herrmann Ed 1967 1978 26868 15 115852 herre102
Hogan Shanty 1926 1937 25391 28 116043 hogas101
Hoiles Chris 1989 1998 28340 -71 116057 hoilc001
Howard Elston 1955 1968 38759 110 116204 howae101
Hundley Nick 2008 2019 31114 -113 460026 hundn001
Hundley Randy 1964 1977 34583 134 116315 hundr101
Hundley Todd 1990 2003 35925 74 116316 hundt001
Iannetta Chris 2006 2019 38992 4 455104 iannc001
Johnson Charles 1994 2005 41568 -147 116569 johnc002
Karkovice Ron 1986 1997 29431 -105 116843 karkr001
Kendall Fred 1969 1980 25765 9 116973 kendf101
Kendall Jason 1996 2010 73979 -47 116974 kendj001
Kennedy Terry 1978 1991 46174 -133 116989 kennt001
Kreuter Chad 1988 2003 27523 -37 117316 kreuc001
Laird Gerald 2003 2015 25586 -134 408042 lairg001
Landrith Hobie 1950 1963 20007 15 117456 landh101
LaRue Jason 1999 2010 29278 -45 150178 laruj001
Laudner Tim 1981 1989 21137 -55 117537 laudt001
LaValliere Mike 1984 1995 26606 69 117543 lavam001
Lieberthal Mike 1994 2007 41696 -27 117759 liebm001
Lo Duca Paul 1998 2008 32321 64 134001 lodup001
Lollar Sherm 1946 1963 49757 -35 117877 lolls101
Lombardi Ernie 1931 1947 51219 105 117880 lombe101
Lopata Stan 1948 1960 22580 29 117910 lopas101
Lopez Al 1928 1947 54593 105 117914 lopea102
Lopez Javy 1992 2006 46046 166 117919 lopej001
Lucroy Jonathan 2010 2020 38294 66 518960 lucrj001
Macfarlane Mike 1987 1999 34934 -37 118073 macfm001
Maldonado Martin 2011 2020 23768 80 455117 maldm001
Mancuso Gus 1928 1945 36227 155 118225 mancg101
Manwaring Kirt 1987 1999 32253 -52 118267 manwk001
Martinez Buck 1969 1986 30399 -29 118369 martb001
Martin Russell 2006 2019 55417 129 431145 martr004
Martinez Victor 2002 2014 30394 -83 400121 martv001
Masi Phil 1939 1952 28262 -61 118392 masip101
Mathis Jeff 2005 2020 30234 87 425772 mathj001
Matheny Mike 1994 2006 42511 -25 118414 mathm001
Mauer Joe 2004 2013 32719 107 408045 mauej001
May Milt 1971 1984 35332 -49 118476 may-m001
Mayne Brent 1990 2004 37688 4 118490 maynb001
McCann Brian 2005 2019 55768 138 435263 mccab002
McCann James 2014 2020 20270 -3 543510 mccaj001
McCarver Tim 1959 1979 46945 144 118563 mccat101
McCullough Clyde 1940 1956 27298 -49 118619 mccuc101
Miller Damian 1997 2007 32891 121 119064 milld002
Mitterwald George 1966 1977 25794 62 119206 mittg101
Molina Bengie 1998 2010 45100 -80 134260 molib001
Molina Jose 1999 2014 28178 155 150040 molij001
Molina Yadier 2004 2020 68923 113 425877 moliy001
Montero Miguel 2006 2018 36827 128 471083 montm001
Moore Charlie 1973 1987 28251 -23 119290 moorc001
Mueller Ray 1935 1951 26976 -48 119478 muelr101
Munson Thurman 1969 1979 45181 -115 119531 munst101
Myatt Glenn 1920 1936 22328 -93 119612 myatg101
Myers Greg 1987 2005 27116 -40 119616 myerg001
Navarro Dioner 2004 2016 30802 -60 425900 navad001
Nixon Russ 1957 1968 23078 -21 119814 nixor101
Nokes Matt 1985 1995 22106 -5 119820 nokem001
O'Brien Charlie 1985 2000 24954 53 119889 obric001
O'Farrell Bob 1916 1935 35705 -19 119947 ofarb101
Oliver Joe 1989 2001 34148 88 119987 olivj001
Olivo Miguel 2002 2014 35596 -8 400018 olivm001
O'Neill Steve 1916 1928 30849 48 120031 oneis101
Ortiz Junior 1982 1994 20738 -96 120073 ortij001
Owen Mickey 1937 1954 31923 -74 120133 owenm101
Pagliaroni Jim 1955 1969 24622 52 120177 paglj101
Pagnozzi Tom 1987 1998 27526 -42 120179 pagnt001
Parrish Lance 1977 1995 63082 -86 120248 parrl001
Pena Tony 1980 1997 65782 86 120370 penat001
Perez Salvador 2011 2020 32189 43 521692 peres002
Perkins Cy 1917 1931 26111 -35 120423 perkc101
Piazza Mike 1992 2006 56039 266 120536 piazm001
Picinich Val 1916 1933 21279 -53 120541 piciv101
Pierzynski A. J. 1998 2016 68188 115 150229 piera001
Porter Darrell 1971 1987 52019 -69 120678 portd001
Posada Jorge 1995 2011 54431 -241 120691 posaj001
Posey Buster 2009 2019 34335 173 457763 poseb001
Pytlak Frankie 1932 1946 21751 -1 120820 pytlf101
Rader Dave 1971 1980 24308 -92 120872 raded101
Ramos Wilson 2010 2020 31197 73 467092 ramow001
Realmuto J. T. 2014 2020 24020 -53 592663 realj001
Redmond Mike 1998 2010 22656 3 133226 redmm001
Reed Jeff 1984 2000 32416 -11 120993 reedj001
Rice Del 1945 1961 34336 -66 121136 riced101
Rodgers Buck 1961 1969 30099 30 121343 rodgb102
Rodriguez Ellie 1968 1976 24167 -42 121352 rodre101
Rodriguez Ivan 1991 2011 86998 -119 121358 rodri001
Romano John 1958 1967 27434 2 121419 romaj101
Roof Phil 1961 1977 24466 37 121434 roofp101
Rosar Buddy 1939 1951 25592 49 121445 rosab101
Roseboro John 1957 1970 48674 193 121456 rosej101
Ross David 2002 2016 24700 102 424325 rossd001
Ruel Muddy 1917 1934 29359 -55 121540 ruelm101
Ruiz Carlos 2006 2017 37355 -1 434563 ruizc001
Ryan Mike 1964 1974 20851 23 121598 ryanm101
Saltalamacchia Jarrod 2007 2018 26409 -51 457454 saltj001
Sanguillen Manny 1967 1979 38967 22 121686 sangm101
Santiago Benito 1986 2005 65988 64 121693 santb001
Schalk Ray 1916 1929 34065 16 121766 schar103
Schang Wally 1916 1931 31240 -129 121771 schaw101
Schmidt Walter 1916 1925 24675 -1 121838 schmw102
Schneider Brian 2000 2012 33680 12 150411 schnb001
Scioscia Mike 1980 1992 45592 326 121919 sciom001
Seminick Andy 1943 1957 37303 -47 121998 semia101
Servais Scott 1991 2001 26089 73 122011 servs002
Severeid Hank 1916 1926 23004 48 122016 seveh101
Sewell Luke 1921 1942 47893 -2 122022 sewel101
Simmons Ted 1968 1988 62100 -121 122247 simmt001
Sims Duke 1964 1974 20528 68 122263 simsd101
Slaught Don 1982 1997 40551 9 122317 slaud001
Smith Earl 1919 1930 20612 -21 122376 smite106
Smith Hal 1955 1964 21383 6 122401 smith106
Snyder Chris 2004 2013 23885 76 430965 snydc002
Snyder Frank 1916 1927 25648 -24 122504 snydf101
Soto Geovany 2006 2017 26178 112 434567 sotog001
Stanley Mike 1986 1997 24218 -131 122673 stanm002
Stearns John 1974 1984 24121 -14 122702 steaj001
Steinbach Terry 1986 1999 48032 -63 122722 steit001
Stinnett Kelly 1994 2007 21761 23 122803 stink001
Sundberg Jim 1974 1989 65711 -135 122983 sundj001
Surhoff B. J. 1987 1995 24263 26 122989 surhb001
Suzuki Kurt 2007 2020 50678 -102 435559 suzuk001
Swift Bob 1940 1953 22217 -77 123052 swifb102
Taubensee Ed 1991 2001 27587 -29 123113 taube001
Taylor Zack 1920 1935 24752 -22 123143 taylz101
Tebbetts Birdie 1936 1952 29275 -104 123167 tebbb101
Tenace Gene 1969 1983 27144 -27 123183 tenag101
Tettleton Mickey 1984 1995 29308 -124 123211 tettm001
Tillman Bob 1962 1970 24055 23 123344 tillb101
Torre Joe 1961 1970 29659 35 123406 torrj101
Torrealba Yorvit 2001 2013 28942 38 150275 torry001
Tresh Mike 1938 1949 22661 148 123460 tresm101
Trevino Alex 1978 1990 22587 72 123462 treva001
Triandos Gus 1953 1965 32193 70 123464 triag101
Valle Dave 1984 1996 29416 -37 123621 valld001
Varitek Jason 1997 2011 51057 -14 123660 varij001
Virgil Ozzie 1980 1990 22804 -27 123735 virgo001
Walbeck Matt 1993 2003 21845 -47 123803 walbm001
Westrum Wes 1947 1957 25739 -78 124121 westw101
Whitt Ernie 1976 1991 39074 -6 124224 white002
White Sammy 1951 1962 35289 -21 124187 whits103
Wieters Matt 2009 2020 37857 11 446308 wietm001
Wilkins Rick 1991 2001 21125 44 124271 wilkr001
Wilson Dan 1992 2005 44324 -80 124383 wilsd001
Wilson Jimmie 1923 1940 36016 -64 124403 wilsj105
Wingo Ivey 1916 1929 22024 15 124454 wingi101
Wynegar Butch 1976 1988 43780 -42 124632 wyneb001
Yeager Steve 1972 1986 38255 -6 124656 yeags001
Zaun Gregg 1995 2010 35058 -38 124748 zaung001
Zunino Mike 2013 2020 23566 96 572287 zunim001

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This page was last modified 3/24/2021


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