Carleton: The dark side of pitch framing?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on February 2, 2016:

Okay, okay, we get it! Catcher framing is really superduper important. Getting an extra called strike can turn an at-bat, which can turn an inning, which can turn a game, which can turn a season, which can turn someone’s summer from one that they’d rather forget to one that they’ll write a bad novel about 20 years later.

I don’t want to pooh-pooh how important catcher framing is. The good framers really are worth 20 runs or so more per year than the average guys at this point, so there’s plenty of hay to be made here, and teams are clearly jumping on the pitch framing bandwagon. But here’s a question worth investigating. Other than stealing the occasional strike on a ball that was actually just outside (or bumbling in the other direction), does a good framing catcher have any other effects? Maybe if a pitcher knows that he’s got a good framer behind the plate, he knows that he can work the edges of the zone a little more. Maybe in his preparation for the game, he plots out a few sequences in which he will try to exploit that, setting up a pitch where he is likely to get a strike if the batter takes it. Maybe since he knows that the strike zone is a little “wider” with this catcher, the pitcher knows that the batter will have to expand his zone a little (which Rob Arthur has shown actually happens), so he spends more time “baiting the hook” and trying to get a batter to swing at something a little too far away and poke at it. We understand very little about secondary effects in baseball.

But there’s a methodological issue here. It’s not enough to look at a team that has a good framing catcher and compare results for those pitching staffs. What if the catcher just happened to have the pleasure of catching a pitching staff that was just good, regardless of his amazing framing abilities? We need another way to try to tease this out of the data. Thankfully, baseball provides us with a nice natural experiment.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: February 3, 2016. Last Updated: February 3, 2016.