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Pitch Framing – Which is it Gonna Be, Atlanta?

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Last week, the Atlanta Braves added Kurt Suzuki as their backup catcher behind Tyler Flowers. With this new addition, let’s examine how the Braves stack up defensively at the catcher position. There are five different components of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) for catchers: Stolen Base Runs Saved, Bunts Runs Saved, Good Play/Misplay Runs Saved, Adjusted Earned Runs Saved, and Strike Zone Runs Saved.

Strike Zone Runs Saved gives the number of runs a catcher saves or costs his team due to his ability or inability to draw extra strike calls. Here are the leaders in Strike Zone Runs Saved from 2014 to 2016:

Catcher Strike Zone Runs Saved
Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves 38
Miguel Montero, Chicago Cubs 32
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants 30
Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners 29
Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers 28
Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays 25
Jonathan Lucroy, Texas Rangers 22
Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates 19

Here are the trailers in Strike Zone Runs Saved from 2014 to 2016:

Catcher Strike Zone Runs Saved
Kurt Suzuki, Atlanta Braves -29
Dioner Navarro, Free Agent -29
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Free Agent -23
Nick Hundley, San Francisco Giants -18
Wellington Castillo, Baltimore Orioles -18
A.J. Ellis, Miami Marlins -17
Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics -16
Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals -16

We can see that the Braves now have the best and worst pitch framers in baseball. Over the last three seasons, Tyler Flowers has saved his teams, the White Sox and Braves, more runs (38) due to his pitch framing than any other catcher. He led the league in both 2015 and 2016 with 16 and 14 runs saved, respectively, due to his ability to draw extra strike calls. Conversely, Kurt Suzuki was the worst pitch framing catcher over the last three seasons, costing the Twins 29 runs.

Suzuki ranks as the worst catcher from 2014-16 in overall DRS, costing his team a total of 38 runs. He has not only had difficulty framing, but he also ranked as the worst catcher in Stolen Base Runs Saved for two of the last three seasons. Both Flowers and Suzuki have been very poor at preventing stolen bases. They cost their teams a combined 24 stolen base runs over the past three seasons—10 from Flowers and 14 from Suzuki. In 2016, they had a combined 127 stolen base attempts against them and only 15 of the runners were caught stealing. This gives them a combined caught stealing percentage of only 12 percent. The overall caught stealing percentage for catchers was 28 percent.

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