Sullivan: Pitch framing was doomed from the start

From Jeff Sullivan at The Hardball Times on December 23, 2016:

Pitch-framing analysis has been moved to the back burner. It’s a product of the PITCHf/x system, and it was deeply exciting, but many have moved on from PITCHf/x to Statcast, because it’s the shiny new thing, and it’s impossibly informative. “Exit velocity” and “launch angle” have turned into commonplace terms overnight. We’ve already learned so much about hitters. We’ve already learned so much about pitchers. And, importantly, we’re beginning to learn about defenders. Statcast is going to get us places.

But pitch framing didn’t go away when the attention did. And, if I can give you some background: Pitch-framing statistics represented a major breakthrough. They were made possible by PITCHf/x around 2008 and 2009, and the greatest public efforts were made by Mike Fast, Max Marchi, Matthew Carruth and Dan Turkenkopf. Maybe you’ve been reading baseball analysis for a few years. Maybe longer. But, maybe not so long. It was groundbreaking stuff. What the numbers indicated was that pitch framing, or pitch receiving, could be worth dozens of runs in a season, by preserving or stealing strikes. More, the different methods mostly agreed with one another, and they tended to show year-to-year sustainability. There was signal, which meant there was talent.

The closest José Molina ever came to being a superstar was on the internet. On the internet, he was the face of pitch-framing statistics. According to numbers from Baseball Prospectus, the way Molina caught was worth 36 extra runs in 2008. The next year, it was worth another 19, and then that went up to 24 in 2010. Pitch framing was specifically cited as a reason why Molina wound up with the Rays. Molina always had a talent, but, at last, its real value could be quantified.

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Originally published: December 27, 2016. Last Updated: December 27, 2016.