Jump to content
Brewer Fanatic
  • William Contreras' Catching Defense, Part 1: Pitch Framing & Pop Time


    Jason Wang

    Catcher is the hardest position in baseball - end of story. They have the same offensive expectations of any position player (that is, to hit the dang ball), and their defensive responsibilities are incredibly specialized. While you may see many utility players such as Luis Arraez, D.J. LaMahieu, and Ketel Marte switching between different infield and outfield positions, you rarely see catchers do anything else but catch. 

    Image courtesy of © James A. Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

    Brewers Video

    So what exactly makes their defensive role so unique? First and foremost, they have to catch the ball. They are on the receiving end of whatever their pitcher decides to throw and must secure the ball, no matter where it goes, in their glove or with their body. If a catcher cannot secure a pitch, it will result in a wild pitch (pitcher’s fault) or a passed ball (catcher’s fault), which may allow a runner to advance without getting a hit.

    Additionally, catchers are responsible for catching pitches in a way that increases the likelihood of being called strikes, even when outside the zone. This is called framing and is one of the main ways catchers can increase their defensive runs saved. In 2022, the AL Platinum Glove Winner was Jose Trevino, who saved an incredible 17 runs purely from his framing prowess. 

    Their other defensive responsibilities include protecting home plate from dastardly baserunners trying to score for their team, catching runners trying to steal bases, coordinating pitch sequences, and signaling what pitches they believe should be thrown in an at-bat. Because of this special relationship between catchers and pitchers, the tandem is often called a set of batterymates. Chemistry is important, and long-lasting duos can be incredibly successful. Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina recently set a record for the greatest number of starts as a pair, notching 325 appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals.

    With William Contreras coming over in one of the most convoluted 3-way deals in recent memory, I wanted to take a closer look at his defensive capabilities as a catcher since one look at this 2022 slash line of .278/.354/.506 and OPS+ of 138 tells you that he’s pretty dandy at the plate.

    Frame Finish
    JRucd__V2Xj2AdQ9w0uplVmJUHPcvVRYDbDloZ1C

    So how does framing work, exactly? The key is to deceive the umpire by catching pitches in a way that makes it seem like they ended up in the strike zone, essentially earning their team more strikes than were thrown. This is a massive advantage since good framing allows pitchers to get ahead in the count and potentially earn more strikeouts. It can also put opposing batters on tilt and push them to capitulate mentally.

    A memorable example of this in recent Brewers memory is Kyle Schwarber’s ejection after getting struck out by Josh Hader on a highly questionable called strike three. In the ninth inning of a 1-0 game, Schwarber worked a full count before a Hader pitch on the bottom right corner that should’ve been called a ball was instead ruled a strike by your favorite umpire’s favorite umpire, Angel Hernandez. While this call was probably due to an umpiring error more than anything, there is some framing being done by Omar Narvaez, which makes the pitch look like it landed just inside the right side of the zone. 

    Not only did this allow Hader to record a crucial out, but Schwarber was also ejected for his emotional outburst, undoubtedly affecting the overall attitude of the Phillies dugout and playing a part in the Brewers notching the win.

     

    It's Poppin' Time
    aSFgdqs0UP2ICfcvtpgXqMPxGQebhDdJ2jZIUlju

    Pop time is a much simpler statistic. It simply measures how long a catcher can get the ball to his intended fielder after receiving a pitch. While this typically measures throws to second base, third-base pop time is also measured, although with much smaller sample sizes. This is done to put out runners trying to steal and is an integral part of being a catcher.  Those with excellent pop times can consistently shut down steal attempts and keep baserunners from moving when they shouldn’t be.

    Pop time and base stealing are a game of milliseconds. Of all catchers with more than five attempts thrown to second base, J.T. Realmuto led the league with an average pop time of 1.82 seconds. The slowest pop time in the league was Stephen Vogt, with a pop time of 2.12 seconds, a difference of less than half a second.

     

    What About William?
    oTETJPzOrIEvAE2aT6io0gcXul7dSLy_VDDn5fSD

    While he’s had a relatively short career in the major leagues, Contreras’s stats indicate that he is a far better player offensively than defensively. His -4 defensive runs saved paint a lukewarm picture of his ability behind the dish, primarily driven by his relatively poor framing. His pop time was slightly above average at 1.97 seconds in an albeit small sample size, but his -3 catcher framing runs stands out as the main driver behind his defensive weakness. To diagnose the problem, let’s compare and contrast his Statcast Catcher Framing results to the framing-extraordinaire mentioned above, Jose Trevino.  

     

    William Contreras

    Jose Trevino

    Catcher Framing Runs

    -3

    17

    Strike Rate

    45.1%

    53.8%

    Zone 11 - % of Called Strikes

    OErNI-M_FPloMxJ3l9R6l58ItTtobl0VZVeLAJ61

    18.8%

    20.6%

    Zone 12 - % of Called Strikes
    kWPHBdWRzVX9OLSPjLHu1dJrf37qVem0sFGOzYen

    49.6%

    44.9%

    Zone 13 - % of Called Strikes

    _DWU-_FT6w_UdhET6VI4aAaUcRnHh9bD9qAhK6Qz

    23.8%

    19.7%

    Zone 14 - % of Called Strikes

    dSu-lAQ1c6IC_8fCHXq369EMRMzYHsLoNgZXLoR-

    59.5%

    71.1%

    Zone 16 - % of Called Strikes

    at09w-SPuOF4r831X8l2iyDSqf012hkIw-bQ2Cgt

    64.5%

    69.1%

    Zone 17 - % of Called Strikes

    sdEopYBDf5M0dB6ftIZMnl_eibHRcFKZAOncj3vf

    25.9%

    40.5%

    Zone 18 - % of Called Strikes

    4jnnGGh9AzZW6lfy0OxGltryAjo3ZIA7lN_MC0gm

    43.6%

    62.3%

    Zone 19 - % of Called Strikes

    ae3ljXmvwHyJYg-cmv0y_Ri7Xz5otXZzebuexLFj

    20.3%

    30.9%

    While Contreras is adequate at framing high pitches, he needs help with the rest of the zone, particularly low pitches, compared to Trevino. This means that pitches with a downward break (e.g., sinkers, curveballs, sliders, change-ups) may cause issues and result in more balls and, consequently, more walks. He’s also slightly better at handling pitches on the ride side of the zone than the left, so he’ll frame right-handed cutters more effectively than two-seamers and vice versa for their left-handed equivalents.

    Of course, much of this data is dependent on who is actually throwing him the ball. Last year, Contreras was catching for the likes of Max Fried, Charlie Morton, and Spencer Strider. Those pitchers have different arsenals, styles, and preferences than his new squad, so it remains to be seen whether he'll end up being better or worse defensively, but we can actually make some assumptions based on available data. We'll be exploring that train of thought tomorrow in part 2: how does Contreras' catching style mesh with the tendencies of Brewer pitchers?

    Think you could write a story like this? Brewer Fanatic wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

    MORE FROM BREWER FANATIC
    — Latest Brewers coverage from our writers
    — Recent Brewers discussion in our forums
    — Follow Brewer Fanatic via Twitter, Facebook or email

    • Like 2
     Share


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Featured Comments

    Just finished having a look into some of his ratings and reviews when coming through the minors while working my last blog, and noticed that he was actually getting a lot of praise for what is a strong arm, and what they called "average framing skills". It seems there is quite a disparity between his top of the zone vs bottom of the zone framing, and these stats are brilliant! Thanks for the well put together article

     

    • Like 2
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    3 hours ago, jakedood said:

    Just finished having a look into some of his ratings and reviews when coming through the minors while working my last blog, and noticed that he was actually getting a lot of praise for what is a strong arm, and what they called "average framing skills". It seems there is quite a disparity between his top of the zone vs bottom of the zone framing, and these stats are brilliant! Thanks for the well put together article

     

    Thanks Jake! He has so much raw talent and room for improvement, I can't wait to see him pair up with our pitchers.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Great article! I appreciate the attention to detail with Contreras' framing data as this is something I rarely dig into. Looking forward to the follow-up piece

    • Like 2
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    9 hours ago, Davey said:

    Great article! I appreciate the attention to detail with Contreras' framing data as this is something I rarely dig into. Looking forward to the follow-up piece

    Yeah, Jason did a hell of a job breaking down the zone in this piece and highlighting Contreras' strengths and weaknesses... and this is his first story on the site.

    Well done, Jason!

    Also, I'll try to push the second part of this piece out later today. I'm a bit underwater this morning.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Guest
    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...