Brett Lawrie’s Kerfuffle and the Pitch Framing Wizard

Last night, Brett Lawrie had a run-in with the umpire. Lawrie is a very high-energy player and responded to a called third strike with…lots of energy. He threw down his helmet, which bounced on the ground and hit the umpire, most certainly leading to a suspension, regardless of intent. There are lots of arguments about his intent, about how you can’t justify his response because of a bad call, blah blah blah. I’m not into that kind of stuff. Fact 1: Umpire called two pitches outside the normal strikezone strikes. Fact 2: Brett Lawrie didn’t like it. Fact 3: Brett Lawrie took his helmet off, spiked it on the ground and it hit the umpire. Moving on.

My first response to hearing about this was “Jose Molina involved in another controversial called strike? Seems to be a pattern there.” I then entered into a good conversation with Mike Ferrin on Twitter about catcher framing and how much we both love it and how undervalued it still is.

Here is the Brooks Baseball strikezone plot for right-handed hitters from Bill Miller last night. The three circled pitches are the Ball 1, Strike 2 and Strike 3 in the Lawrie PA.

The only other high and outside pitch all day was called a ball, but it was quite a bit higher (and possibly not a change up, which drops at the end, creating the appearance of being lower). There were a few outside pitches called strikes last night, though. The Blue Jays got one even farther outside than strike two to Lawrie.

Luckily, there were two of almost the exact same pitch in Lawrie’s plate appearance. The first time, the outside pitch was called a ball and the second was called a strike. Look at the difference in Molina’s position upon catching each of these:

I can’t make GIFs, but here’s one from Jeff Sullivan of the strike two pitch:

On ball one, Molina’s left knee is on the ground before the pitch. His glove still moves out to the right, but it isn’t quite as extreme of an arm motion. On strike two, Molina stays on his feet and actually reaches across a little more to the right. However, the rest of his body is completely steady and he gets the strike.

Molina also tried to frame what was called the third ball. It was low in the zone and Molina seems to have difficulty framing those pitches. He has to drop his knee and reach down, creating far too much movement to get the call.

Here is his setup on strike three:

Molina actually drops his knee during the pitch on this one, creating the illusion that he has to go down to get the pitch. This leads the umpire to believe that the pitch is much lower than it really is.

It seems to me like Molina has a much better chance of successfully framing a pitch if he stays on his feet, unless the pitch is high. Whenever he drops his knee, he either creates too much movement or makes the umpire think the pitch is much lower than it is. Whatever the reason is, he is still the Master pitch framer and will continue to frustrate hitters and trick umpires.

Whenever I watch a game, the number one thing I watch is catcher framing, since Mike Fast opened my eyes to how valuable it really is. It is a huge part of the game and as Mike Ferrin said, “One of the fun things with pitch f/x is potentially proving some old timey theories right. Value of catcher defense a big one.” And I agree: “I think we’ll be blown away by the amount of impact they have in terms of overall wins once we understand more.”

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One Comment on “Brett Lawrie’s Kerfuffle and the Pitch Framing Wizard”

  1. [...] Lawrie with his catching skills (see what I just did there?). As does Chris St. John of Steal of Home (not [...]


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