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Pitch Framing: A sabermetric based analysis of Twins play-by-play broadcaster Dick Bremer

Posted by TwinkiePower , 19 April 2019 · 1,075 views

dick bremer pitch framing strike zone analytics sabermetrics
Pitch Framing: A sabermetric based analysis of Twins play-by-play broadcaster Dick Bremer Over the past decade, pitch framing has become a hot topic, not only in how we've begun to identify its value, but also in finding methods to quantify it, and coming to grips with its influence on the game. However, I contend that our focus has been far too narrow, and we must look beyond the catcher- in fact, past the backstop, into the stands, up to the media boxes, and directly at the role of play-by-play broadcaster. How the game's on-camera talent describe the action shapes our measurement of every pitch, even when most telecasts have live strike zone graphics present.
In this post, we'll be looking at the tendencies of long time Twins play-by-play broadcaster Dick Bremer, who has a very specific methodology: Since it sounds more impressive when a pitcher hits the corner of the strike zone, any and all parts of the strike zone and its immediate surroundings qualify as "The Corner", and will be described as such when the opportunity arises.

Our analysis will include video breakdowns of the 11 instances of the word 'corner' being used by Bremer during the Twins' April 17th game versus the Toronto Blue Jays. To quantify each pitch, we will use an Actual Corner Value (how close a pitch actually comes to a corner of the strike zone) as well as a Broadcaster Corner Value (how close the pitch comes to the corner, as perceived and presented by Dick Bremer).

Pitch #1: Bottom 2nd, 2 outs, 1-2

Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez
Throw: 96 mph fastball
Result: Strike 3

Dick's call: "On the outside corner, didn't waste it at all. Buried it on the outside corner."

Analysis: On a 1-2 pitch, Toronto pitcher Aaron Sanchez throws a 96 mph fastball at the outside edge of the plate, though it lands in the center third of the height of the zone with room to spare. Already, at this first sighting, we understand the challenge presented to Dick due to working on a television broadcast rather than radio, where pitch framing is sometimes less of an art and more the act of a used car salesman, free to invent whatever fiction will sell their desired narrative. Here, on TV, viewers can plainly see that this pitch is not on a corner. Dick, however, is unfazed, and reaches into his bag of tricks, declaring it on the corner not once, but TWICE - and not only stating its location, but insisting that it was BURIED there. This is the act of a seasoned professional, understanding that repetition and commitment are key to manipulating our perception, if not our very understanding of reality.

Actual Corner Value (ACV): 4/10
Broadcaster Corner Value (BCV): 10/10
Adjusted score: +6

Pitch #2: Bottom 3rd, 2 outs, 0-0

Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez
Throw: 96 mph fastball
Result: Strike 1

Dick's Call: "Strike on the outside corner."

Analysis: Someday, electronic strike zones will lord over our game as unfeeling adjudicators, but until that day, they serve merely as proxy armchair quarterbacks - a tool we rely on as viewers to feel validated in our desire to maim and/or injure the home plate umpire for their imperfections. On this pitch, Fox Trax smugly refuses to fill in the outline of the ball's arrival point, declaring that this pitch was a ball and all those who disagree are filthy heretics.

How comforting it is, then, for Dick to step in and remind all of us that in the end, the strike zone is defined solely by what the umpire says it is, no matter how many cameras and scanners say otherwise. This pitch is not outside. It is on the corner. The umpire's corner.

ACV: 7/10
BCV: 8/10
Adjusted score: +1

Pitch #3: Top 4th, 1 out, 1-0

Pitcher: Kyle Gibson
Throw: 94 mph fastball
Result: Strike 1

Dick's Call: "And now an outside corner fastball to even the count."

Analysis: Kyle Gibson started the 2017 season as someone fans understood to be roster filler, but ended it on an underappreciated upward trend. In 2018, he broke out with his best season to date and cemented his position at the front of the Twins rotation. Now, in 2019, he has started off somewhat shaky, with a suspect ERA and the need to make it deeper into ball games.

On this pitch, Dick has his pitcher's back, finding the corner where one does not exist. Catcher Mitch Garver positioned his glove exactly on the corner, and while Kyle missed his target high, he still found the edge and a called strike. For Dick, this is enough. He has earned approbation in the eyes of the telecast.

ACV: 5/10
BCV: 8/10
Adjusted score: +3

Pitch #4: Top 6th, 0 outs, 0-1

Pitcher: Kyle Gibson
Throw: 93 mph fastball
Result: Strike 2

Dick's Call: "On the outside corner with a fastball."

Analysis: Freddy Galvis must be listening to Dick through AirPods under that helmet, because his face says what we all know in our hearts: That was a meatball of a pitch, and Dick Bremer is a hero for carrying on the cause, however lost it may be.

ACV: 2/10
BCV: 7/10
Adjusted score: +5

Pitch #5: Top 6th, 2 outs, 0-0

Pitcher: Ryne Harper
Throw: 74 mph breaking ball
Result: Strike 1

Dick's Call: "Breaking ball on the outside corner, strike one."

Analysis: Is this pitch actually in the corner of the strike zone? Yes! The arc of the baseball tucks itself into the furthest nook available to it. In times like these, where no deception is necessary, you might expect that Dick Bremer would bluster and harangue us with unfettered righteousness, knowing that there can be no doubt as to where the ball landed. However, Dick finds a gentle touch in his commentary, content to let the pitch speak for itself, a simple declaration of its corner-ness being satisfactory. It needs no help, and will be allowed to lift its own weight.

ACV: 9/10
BCV: 9/10
Adjusted score: 0

Pitch #6: Bottom 6th, 0 outs, 0-0

Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez
Throw: 94 mph fastball
Result: Strike 1

Dick's Call: "Strike on the outside corner."

Analysis: A location extremely similar to pitch #2, though now delivered with an additional hint of defeat, as it arrives against the hot bat of Jorge Polanco. Immediately after listing his current bona fides, Polanco falls victim to the quantum state of the umpire's zone. While he was fooled, Dick was not, and he wearily sheds the burden he has carried throughout this pitch, allowing us all to taste from the tree of knowledge.

ACV: 9/10
BCV: 9/10
Adjusted score: 0

Pitch #7: Bottom 7th, 2 outs, 0-0

Pitcher: Thomas Pannone
Throw: 74 mph breaking ball
Result: Strike 1

Dick's Call: "Breaking ball over the inside corner."

Analysis: The work of a true master is present here, and we must parse the commentary carefully. The Twins are behind, but the tying run is at the plate. Now is the time for hope, and Kepler has watched a first pitch strike sail past him. Does the pitch find the corner? By exact definition, no. However, it is an excellent pitch - if one ignores that catcher Danny Jansen is set up on the exact opposite spot of the strike zone. Dick refuses to give Pannone the total satisfaction of finding the corner - stating that it is simply OVER the corner - while still testifying that it is a fine pitch. By Dick's standards, this is a backhanded compliment.

ACV: 8/10
BCV: 9/10
Adjusted score: +1

Pitch #8: Top 8th, 0 outs, 2-2

Pitcher: Tyler Duffey
Throw: 95 mph fastball
Result: Strike 3

Dick's Call: "On the outside corner. 95 on the outside edge or thereabouts, one away."

Analysis: NO! This is Duffey's first game back in the majors this season, and wanting to bolster his confidence, our protagonist has overextended himself, daring to go where others fear to tread, well outside the zone and at the exact vertical center. Corners have not existed in these parts since the days of Marty Foster's gift-wrapped delivery of Joe Nathan's 300th save. And yet, with zero hesitation, Dick plants his flag - immediately realizing that he has made a grave error. It will not be enough to double down on his argument, as was the case on Pitch #1. He knows when he has been beaten, and he retreats at the first opportunity.

It must also be noted that at the end of the clip, one can hear a chuckle from today's analyst, Jack "Back in My Day" Morris. This will be one of the few times during today's broadcast that I agree with him.

ACV: 1/10
BCV: 0/10
Adjusted score: -1

Pitch #9: Bottom 8th, 0 outs, 3-0

Pitcher: Joe Biagini
Throw: 94 mph fastball
Result: Strike 1

Dick's Call: "On the outside corner."

Analysis: Matter of fact. All business. The pitch arrived enough within the margin of error that Bremer presents his truth with the cadence of a trusted newsman.

ACV: 7/10
BCV: 8/10
Adjusted Score: +1

Pitch #10: Bottom 9th, 0 outs, 0-0

Pitcher: Ken Giles
Throw: 87 mph "fastball"
Result: Strike 1

Dick's Call: "On the outside corner, strike 1."

Analysis: The drama is beginning to rise, as the Twins are down to their final 3 outs, behind by a single run, and sending Nelson Cruz to the plate as a pinch hitter. Once again, the ball is only in the corner's general aura, but Dick knows we are too excited to notice, and continues past it without pause.

ACV: 6/10
BCV: 8/10
Adjusted score: +2

Pitch 11: Bot 9th, 1 out, 3-1

Pitcher: Ken Giles
Throw: 97 mph fastball
Result: Strike 2

Dick's Call: "Strike two on the outside corner... 97 in a REAL GOOD SPOT."

Analysis: Perfection. Mastery. Finally, near the climax of this game, we find what has eluded us: A true corner, spotted in the wild for all of us to enjoy, and Dick refuses to let it go to waste. His initial hushed tones give way to wonder and amazement, before his final accentuation that not only hammers home the exact precision of this corner, but makes us feel that we too knew it all along, even if we didn't happen to be looking at the TV at the time. Even if we didn't know what a strike zone was. All of us, collectively, knew what we had seen. We are enlightened and made whole. We are one with baseball, and one with each other.

ACV: 10/10
BCV: 12/10
Adjusted score: +2
Final Score: +20 Adjusted Corner Value

This concludes part one of this series. Stay tuned for part two, when we extend our gaze to the rest of the strike zone, and learn about the subtext necessary when one is not allowed to call a professional baseball player a 'belly itcher' and get away with it for long. In the meantime, for my research purposes, please share any high-BCV highlights for your team of choice in the comments.

  • Kevin, Sconnie and nclahammer like this



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Channing1964
Apr 19 2019 04:07 PM
Wow i really miss watching the Twins every single day....
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theBOMisthebomb
Apr 20 2019 05:31 AM
I once called Bremer a talentless hack and Twinsdaily.com deleted the comment so I not will say it now. I guess I need to come to grips with the fact we are shackled with Mr. Bremer behind the Mic for at least another 20 years. The on the corner analysis is hilarious.

Unfortunately for baseball, many of these announcers have none of the game calling skill of earlier broadcasters. Perhaps they grow lazy because they figure "Why call the game when the viewer can see it?" During a Detroit game a couple of years ago the announcers were blathering about some off-the-wall subject which had very little to do with the game while a big play was occurring.

 

I have noticed that many strikes for Bremer are on the "outside corner," and today was no exception. A called strike that was just above the belt and slightly INSIDE of the heart of the plate was "the outside corner."
 

Now to be honest, I have always considered the outside corner as seen from directly above the plate, so vertical height makes no difference as to whether it's a corner or not. Hence, I might say "high outside corner" or "low inside corner." But that's just me and I don't claim to be anywhere near an expert in calling games (since no one has heard me call a game of ANY kind yet (for which you may all be thankful!)).