This is some next-level nerdery, probably. Because we’ve had catcher framing pieces. And we’ve had Edge% in these pages before. BUT HAVE WE PUT THEM TOGETHER YET???
On the other hand, I don’t have the skills of most of your research-level nerds. I only play one on the internets. So you’ll probably be able to follow along.
I saw Jeff Sullivan update his team framing pieces. And then he looked at all the pitchers that were getting extra strikes this year. And then I saw Bill Petti talk about which pitches are good for getting extra strikes on the edge. And then my brain farted.
Could we look at team framing rates and compare them to individual starting pitcher framing rates, and then use Edge% (and perhaps pitching mix) to identify pitchers that might be in line for more strikes going forward? I don’t know if we can, but let’s try.
*pushes glasses back up on nose*
Run the top pitchers that outperform their team catcher framing rates, and you get some Edge% leaders of course. Jeff Locke gets the fourth-most extra strikes over his team average, but he also had an Edge% that was better than 76% of the sample. Same for Jake Peavy. Kevin Slowey gets extra strikes on the worst team in baseball for catcher framing, and it’s because he’s an elite edger.
Here are your top ten pitchers at getting extra strikes at a higher rate than their team rate without having an extra special ability at hitting the edges of the strike zone!
Let’s call one guy out fairly quickly. Lucas Harrell has a bad walk rate, doesn’t get hitters to reach and whiff at stuff outside the zone, is terrible at hitting the edge, is on a team that’s barely above-average with respect to getting extra strikes, and somehow he’s gotten 25 extra strikes per 1000 pitches. But not many people own Lucas Harrell, so it probably won’t matter if he starts losing those strikes.
More interesting might be Tim Hudson’s track record. He throws the split-finger a lot and the split-finger is not known for doing well on the edges. He’s around the zone, but not great at hitting the edges. He is great, however, at getting extra strikes this year. We probably won’t get to see much regression this year, though, and wish him the best of luck in his recovery. Ditto Jake Westbrook, but at least his team is good at framing the ball. Marco Estrada might just be matching up well with the best catching tandem in baseball, similarly.
How about Jeremy Hefner and Zack Greinke who found love from the umpire in hopeless catcher’s mitts? Greinke might actually have this skill and has shown great control his whole career. Hefner, on the other hand, hasn’t always had control like this. And he’s outperforming his peripherals. Let’s make this a minor black mark against his current walk rate.
Let’s look at the other side. This time we have to remove pitchers that are hopelessly bad at hitting the Edge, so that we don’t just find all the guys that don’t have command but happen to have a good framer behind the plate.
Your bottom ten (decent Edge%) pitchers at getting extra strikes beyond their team’s extra strike rate! Another mouthful.
That’s strange. Look at the zone percentages in this sample, and the one above. These guys are in the zone a lot. And yet they get less strikes than they are supposed to. And this group also has some pretty great walk rates. This could mean something about the way umpires perceive pitchers.
Garrett Richards is on the low end for Edge% and isn’t known for sharp command. Miguel Gonzalez and Justin Masterson might just be suffering a bit more at the hands of a bad catching tandem. In general, the lesser catcher framing teams are showing up here.
But Brandon McCarthy. Great at hitting the edge. Always in the zone. Has a good framer behind the plate. Why has he suffered? If you point to his great walk rate, you have to remember that a called strike can also help lead to a strikeout, and his strikeout rate is at a four-year low. Bartolo Colon, good situation, rotten luck so far. Even Anibal Sanchez could do a little better going forward.
One thing that might muck this up is the personal catcher thing. It happens, some. And if you pitched always to the backup catcher, and he was worse at framing, well then you’d “deserve” your worse rating. Tim Lincecum used to only pitch to Hector Sanchez. Greg Maddux famously avoided pitching to Javy Lopez. But a cursory search of the names listed in these paragraphs hasn’t found a mention yet.
Another possibility is that a pitcher has good fastball control, but throws a crazy secondary pitch all over the place. In other words, maybe Tim Hudson has a great Edge% on his fastball, but not on his splitfinger, and that’s making him look more likely to regress. In order to clear that up, I bugged Bill Petti about fastball Edge%. Maybe we’ll get a better sense of how fastball command factors into framing factors into walk rates.
Because an expected walk percentage has to be possible. And it’s just out of our grasp right now.