Yasmani Grandal’s Pitch-Framing Skills Are Top-Notch
By Scott Andes
The new Dodger front office made a whirl wind of trades Wednesday evening that rocked the Baseball world. A couple of the trades made were very controversial in nature as it involved swapping two long term popular Dodgers. One of those trades saw the Dodgers send outfielder Matt Kemp and catcher Tim Federowicz to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland, and pitcher Zach Eflin.
These trades weren’t just about dumping salary, or moving contracts. Getting Grandal was a major part of the deal for the Dodgers. Defense remains a huge driving force behind these trades, especially the Kemp trade. The Dodgers want to improve their defense, but they also were looking to make an upgrade at catcher. By acquiring a catcher that can efficiently call a game is extremely important.
The Dodgers already traded Drew Butera to the Angels in preparation of the Kemp trade. 26-year old switch-hitting catcher Grandal will be pairing with A.J. Ellis in 2015.
Grandal has a skill that the Dodger brain trust has loved for a long time. That is the ability to pitch-frame. Pitch-framing is the new rage all around MLB these days. I’m sure you’ve heard about it, if not already know what it is. But for those of you who don’t know what pitch-framing is, let me explain quickly.
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Pitch-framing is the ability of a catcher to turn a ball into a strike by bringing his glove back into the strike zone after catching the pitch. Once the backstop receives the ball he essentially fools the home plate umpire into thinking it was a strike.
The skill is highly sought after, and Grandal has consistently been one of the best pitch framers in Baseball over the last few years.
Pitch-framing means more strikes. And more strikes mean more outs, and of course more outs mean more wins. Jose Molina has been the top pitch-framer in all of Baseball for the last several years. Not surprisingly he has played the last three seasons in Tampa Bay under Andrew Friedman. A.J. Ellis has been rated as a very poor pitch framer over his career.
They even have a way of quantifying and rating pitch-framing nowadays. Although there are more than one method of calculating framing. Grandal has been one of the best framers in the game. Just how good is Grandal at pitch-framing?
Grandal ranked fourth in all of Baseball by creating 4.1 strikes above average from 2007-2013. When a catcher frames a pitch and it is called a strike, he is basically creating a strike. Grandal is at the top of that heat to no surprise.
Here is one way to calculate, and rate pitch-framing. There are two kinds of pitches. A predicted strike, and an actual strike. You would take all of the pitches that a catcher receives and rate the ones that would probably be called a strike. When a pitch is framed it can be considered an extra strike. So by taking the difference between the actual strikes and the predicted strikes you have the difference rating for framing. The rating can be a plus or a negative. The better the framer, the higher the difference is.
Grandal had 1,668.4 predicted strikes in 2014. Or 1,668.4 pitches that should have been called strikes. Grandal had 1,768 actual strikes, giving him a framing difference of 99.6. That means Grandal rated thirteenth in all of Baseball in framing last season. In comparison Russell Martin rated third with a 154.8 difference. Miguel Montero rated eighth. Where did A.J. rate? Ellis rated 93, with a -67.5 difference. StatCorner rates Grandal seventh in 2014. He has an 87.7% called strike rate, and a 12.8 runs above average saved last season.
If we go back a couple of years, we see the numbers don’t change much, showing that Grandal is very good, and A.J. is not. Grandal is still rated very highly as a pitch framer, while A.J. rates very poorly. In 2013 Grandal was 19 with a 39.0 difference, and A.J. was 92 with a -34.6. If we go back to 2012, we see that Grandal rates seventh with an 89.9 rating, and A.J. ranked 103 with a -90.7 difference. In case you were wondering where Drew Butera was in all of this, the veteran rated 35 with a 14.6 difference.
The formulas and data for rating pitch-framing are relatively new. However the art of pitch-framing has been around since the beginning of Baseball. Catchers have been trying to get more strikes called by fooling the home plate umpire since the game’s early days.
It’s not all just numbers though. As you can see above, framing involves a lot of proper footwork. The catcher also has to setup before the pitch correctly behind the plate. Less movement is better it seems, and Grandal has some serious skills at this.
Perhaps Grandal can show A.J. how to frame correctly and the Dodgers would have not one but two very good pitch framers. Again that means getting more strikes. More strikes mean more outs, and more outs equal more wins.
The Dodger brain trust have a method to their madness.