Tuesday, July 02, 2013

How are Tigers Catchers Doing Defensively?

Tigers catcher Alex Avila is having a rough year at the plate batting a mere .172 with a ,560 OPS.  On the other hand, back-up catcher Brayan Pena has been a pleasant surprise offensively hitting .290 with a .700 OPS.  Offense is only part of the equation though.  How are Avila and Pena doing defensively? 

The system used to evaluate catchers is complex and I'm not going to rehash the whole thing here.  If you want to see the details, you can read my earlier article.  I do want to give credit to others who inspired me with similar work in the past:  Sean Smith, Justin Inaz, Matt Klaasen and Mike Rogers.

First, remember that less than three months of defensive data is a relatively small sample size so you should use caution in interpreting the results.  Also keep in mind that these numbers do not capture everything that a catcher does.  For example, they say nothing about game calling or understanding of pitcher abilities and tendencies.

Another thing that is not included is the pitch framing data which has been one of the most interesting advances in the sabermetric world over the last couple of years.  Mike Fast, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, and others have done some great work on that facet of catcher defense, but it is not publicly available at this time.  So, I am only going to evaluate catchers based on what we can most easily measure - controlling the running game, pitch blocking and avoiding errors.

Table 1 contains data for all catchers with at least 280 innings through July 1 (I chose 280 so that Pena would be included).  That covers most of the starting catchers in the majors and some frequently used backups.  The CSRuns column gives us an estimation of how many runs each catcher saved/cost his team compared to the average catcher by controlling the running game.  This statistic is based on stolen bases against and caught stealing.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis is the MLB CSRuns leader with an estimated 6.5 runs saved over an average catcher.  A negative sign before a number indicates that a catcher cost his team runs.  The worst receiver in this category is Chris Iannetta who has cost the Angels an estimated -5.8 runs.  Avila (-1.7) is in the bottom third and Pena (0.3) is near average.  

The next column (WPPBRuns) tells us how many runs catchers saved/cost their teams with pitch blocking or preventing passed balls and wild pitches.  Number one is Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina with 4.5 runs saved. Conversely, Carlos Santana has cost the Indians about five runs (-4.6).  Avila is near average (-0.3) and Pena is in the top ten (1.2).

The TERuns column tells us about throwing errors.  There is not a lot of variation between catchers here, but Russell Martin of the Pirates, A.J. Pierzynski of the Rangers and Iannetta  lead with 0.7 runs saved.  Wellington Castillo has cost the Cubs an estimated -0.9 runs on throwing errors.  Avila checks in at 0.3 and Pena 0.1. 

The FERuns column indicates how many runs catchers have saved/cost their teams with fielding errors.  Again, there is not a lot of variation with numbers ranging from -0.4 to 0.6.  There are too many ties to list all the leaders and trailers, but Pena (+0.2) has a slight edge over Avila (-0.2).

The final column (CatchRuns) is the sum of the previous four columns.  It tells us how many runs catchers saved/cost their teams on the above items combined.  The leader is Yadier Molina who has saved St.Louis more than seven  runs (7.4).  The worst is Santana costing the Pirates almost eight (-7.7) runs.  Pena is 10th in MLB with 1.8 runs saved while Avila is 25th at -1.9. 

In summary, Avila has had trouble throwing out runners (an area where he has done well in the past) and is in the middle of the pack on other numbers. Pena has been particularly good at pitch blocking and close to average in other areas.   Based on these measures (which don't cover everything a catcher does), Pena has been better than Avila overall when accounting for controlling the running game, blocking pitching and avoiding errors. 

Table 1: Catcher Runs Saved/Cost through July 1, 2012

Player
Team
Inn
CSRuns
WPPBRuns
TERuns
FERuns
CatchRuns
Yadier Molina
STL
650
2.8
4.5
0.6
-0.5
7.4
A.J. Ellis
LAD
461
6.5
0.3
0.4
-0.2
6.9
Matt Wieters
BAL
615
3.1
2.1
0.6
-0.6
5.1
Russell Martin
PIT
529
4.7
-0.8
0.7
0.4
5.0
Joe Mauer
MIN
449
1.9
2.6
0.3
-0.2
4.7
John Buck
NYM
595
1.9
2.6
0.3
-0.1
4.7
Ryan Hanigan
CIN
349
3.3
0.2
0.2
0.3
4.0
Chris Stewart
NYY
401
2.4
0.0
0.6
0.3
3.3
Brian McCann
ATL
315
0.4
2.0
0.4
0.2
3.1
Brayan Pena
DET
282
0.3
1.2
0.1
0.2
1.8
Rob Brantly
MIA
416
1.9
-0.0
-0.3
-0.2
1.4
Nick Hundley
SDP
433
1.1
0.5
-0.5
0.3
1.3
Erik Kratz
PHI
346
-1.1
1.5
0.2
0.3
0.9
Buster Posey
SFG
556
-2.0
1.8
0.5
0.4
0.8
Derek Norris
OAK
441
-0.9
0.9
0.3
0.3
0.6
Kelly Shoppach
SEA
291
1.7
-1.4
0.1
0.2
0.6
Devin Mesoraco
CIN
356
-1.0
1.1
-0.3
0.3
0.0
Salvador Perez
KCR
547
1.6
-1.4
-0.6
0.4
-0.0
Miguel Montero
ARI
645
-0.5
-0.3
0.6
-0.0
-0.2
Kurt Suzuki
WSN
527
-4.1
3.7
-0.1
-0.1
-0.6
A.J. Pierzynski
TEX
488
-2.3
0.6
0.7
0.4
-0.6
Tyler Flowers
CHW
525
-0.6
-1.1
-0.1
0.4
-1.4
Welington Castillo
CHC
533
0.3
-0.2
-0.9
-0.6
-1.4
Jonathan Lucroy
MIL
531
-1.2
-0.2
0.5
-0.6
-1.6
Alex Avila
DET
418
-1.7
-0.3
0.3
-0.2
-1.9
Wilin Rosario
COL
517
0.8
-2.6
-0.4
-0.1
-2.3
Jose Lobaton
TBR
366
-2.5
-0.1
-0.1
0.3
-2.5
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
BOS
519
-2.7
-0.1
-0.4
0.4
-2.8
Jason Castro
HOU
513
-1.7
-1.3
0.2
-0.1
-3.0
J.P. Arencibia
TOR
590
-1.5
-1.9
0.3
-0.1
-3.2
Jose Molina
TBR
374
-2.0
-3.4
-0.3
-0.2
-5.9
Chris Iannetta
LAA
532
-5.8
-0.7
0.7
-0.6
-6.4
Carlos Santana
CLE
429
-3.2
-4.6
0.3
-0.2
-7.7
Data source: Baseball-Reference.com
   

2 comments:

  1. Mike Zunino is the guy I have been wanting and hoping somehow the Tigers would trade for him. It will be interesting to see how good his Defense is since he is an interesting prospect for both Defense and Offense. I think he has the potential to be a tremendous value overall and the next great Catcher. He has over .500 SLG and .800 OPS despite only a .239 BA this year and the potential to hit for high average as well as this nice power.

    ReplyDelete
  2. www.84score.com

    Tiger's Championship gear!!!!

    ReplyDelete

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