Fangraphs has decided to embrace pitch framing and include it not only on their site, but even in their calculations for both catcher and pitcher Wins Above Replacement. Regardless of anyone’s opinions on WAR and whether or not the controversial statistic should use an even more controversial component, pitch framing is being scrutinized more and more by both statisticians and front offices. So what does that mean for us?
The answer is not rosy, but it could definitely be worse. One table in the piece explaining their methodology is very telling about the outlook for Jonathan Lucroy and Kevan Smith.
The table has good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news.
Jonathan Lucroy, holder of one of the all-time best seasons of pitch framing in the history of the stat, is just flat-out not good at it these days. Lucroy steadily worsened from 2013 to 2016 before completely cratering in 2017. He bounced back to merely bad in 2018, but could theoretically have a resurgence and become mediocre this year. Kevan Smith and Jose Briceno are merely average and don’t look to help or hurt too much in terms of stealing strikes.
Thank goodness there is light at the end of the tunnel. The entire division is basically on that table sans the Rangers. If Isiah Kiner-Falefa wins plate appearances over Jeff Mathis, they could very well be near the bottom of the majors as well. It appears we have no more to fear from employing people who may be unable to do their job than anyone else in the AL West.
If Jonathan Lucroy can hit somewhere in the vicinity of a .725 OPS, we will have far more pressing matters to worry about than his framing...
Of course, whether or not his framing can hold its own against that of the division might not be very important if the mediocrity he gives us with his glove is completely offset by his game calling. Lucroy gets a lot of credit from many esteemed talent evaluators regarding his game calling and his direction of pitchers.
on the very same Advanced Fielding table where FRM (Framing Runs) can be found, further to the left is a disconcerting number. It’s worrisome to see that per the dreaded rCERA (Catcher ERA Runs Above Average), Lucroy has been worth -9 runs two of the past three seasons, almost completely tanking his defensive value per Defensive Runs Saved! We might have all scoffed when Mathis was defended with the statistic, but I guess we’ll finally get to see the other side of the coin!