Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • Kurt Suzuki - Signed to be the starter?

    Mike Berardino reported this weekend that Terry Ryan expected Kurt Suzuki to start this year for the Minnesota Twins at catcher. At the time of the signing, it appeared that Suzuki was signed to give the Twins a veteran backup. On this site, there were certainly questions about his defense and concern about the workload he carried early in his career. At the time, the best available options other than Suzuki were John Buck or retaining Doumit. While Suzuki has been a poor pitch framer, Doumit and Buck are at the bottom.

    Does it matter that Suzuki is a poor at framing pitches? Perhaps he makes up for it in working with pitchers and pitch selection.

    If a catcher has an impact on pitcher performance, how might it show up in the stats? FIP uses the defense independent stats of strikeouts, walks and home runs. I am not sure how much a catcher might impact home runs, but if he impacts anything it will be strikeouts and walks. Suzuki's has worked for two clubs in each of the last two years. Add 2011 and there is a sample of over 12000 batters faced. How does he compare to the 12 other catchers who caught for Oakland or Washington in the last three years?

    Year Team Suzuki Others Suzuki Others Suzuki Others
    k/bb k/bb K% K% BB% BB% BF
    2013 OAK 1.86 2.84 17.06% 19.66% 9.19% 6.91% 381
    2013 WSN 2.78 3.31 19.68% 21.15% 7.08% 6.38% 2795
    2012 WSN 2.6 2.69 20.88% 21.80% 8.02% 8.13% 1547
    2012 OAK 2.15 2.75 17.54% 19.32% 8.16% 7.04% 2720
    2011 OAK 2.13 2.67 18.46% 20.18% 8.67% 7.51% 4811
    3yr TOT 2.31 2.84 18.79% 20.45% 8.13% 7.20% 12254

    Over the last three years, the other 12 catchers have a 23% better strikeout walk ratio, a strikeout rate that is 9% better and a walk rate that is 11% lower.

    Every year over the last three and on every team, pitchers who happen to be throwing to Suzuki strike out fewer batters and walk more batters. Small sample size? It is over 12000 batters. Maybe he has had teammates who are very good catchers? It was 12 different guys on two different teams.

    The Twins needed a backup catcher. The free agent and trade market for catchers dried up quickly and only the catchers with poor framing numbers remained. Suzuki appears to be the best of what was left. Signing a veteran catcher to start in 40-50 games seemed a good move. Before spring training, Ryan has said he expects him to start. It seems the plan all along was to seek a starter. If that is the case, is Suzuki the right guy?
    This article was originally published in blog: Kurt Suzuki - Signed to be the starter? started by jorgenswest
    Comments 48 Comments
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      The ability to strike out or walk batters is not catcher depedent but pitcher dependent. The variabilty of a pitcher from day to day to strike people out is highly variable. The variability from pitcher to pitcher to strike people out is large. you assume over time that the catchers would catch each pitcher an equall number of times. You would appear to me to then also assume that a pitcher's good day and bad days are catcher dependent.
      You see a differnce in the numbers, you have to ask yourself why. You blame the Suzuki, but do not control for any other variable. The other variables have meaning. They do influence % for the catcher.
      I agree that the catcher can't control variables of stuff. But he can help the pitcher craft outs by calling the right pitches in the right locations in the right counts. If the pitcher is capable of executing on the game plan, the catcher can really help him. No catcher can help a guy throw a slider with more bite. The catcher can frame good strikes, but if the pitcher leaves it up and over the plate, there's nothing he can do but watch it fly.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Suzuki Others
      Colon 3.80 4.17
      Detwiler 2.43 2.00
      Gonzalez 2.44 2.77
      Griffen 2.50 3.60
      Haren 3.77 5.67
      Jackson 1.80 3.13
      McCarthy 2.74 4.20
      Miline 4.27 3.48
      Parker 1.63 2.46
      Straily 1.90 2.23
      Strasburg 2.30 4.39
      Zimmerman 4.19 3.46

      The data above is k/bb data by individual pitcher in 2012-2013.

      I collected this data, but I did not share it originally because each split of a pitcher does not have enough data to draw any conclusions. It would not be accurate to state that Suzuki was better or worse for any given pitcher based on the splits. There simply aren't enough starts for an individual.

      I post it now because it is reasonable to wonder if Suzuki's numbers were biased by not catching Strasburg or the other better pitchers.

      I think it may be possible to go to the pitch level data from pitchf/x and identify the types of pitches or zones where a catcher has not done well. Two positives might result.

      - The catcher may see through video study how he needs to change a technique with a certain type of pitch or location. It should be possible with hard work and attention to improve this skill.

      - Certain catchers may match certain pitchers based on their strength. For example, Mauer does much better getting extra high strikes than low strikes

      All of that would be learned at the pitch level and not the plate appearance result level. For progress, the Twins would need to trust in the data from pitchf/x and then use it to inform roster and line up decisions as well as using it to improve the individual skill of each receiver.

      My assumption, based on their roster decisions since Mike Fast's study came out in 2011, is that they are not among the teams that trust this data yet.

      Let's hope they have taken the correct direction with the catcher position.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Suzuki Others
      Colon 3.80 4.17
      Detwiler 2.43 2.00
      Gonzalez 2.44 2.77
      Griffen 2.50 3.60
      Haren 3.77 5.67
      Jackson 1.80 3.13
      McCarthy 2.74 4.20
      Miline 4.27 3.48
      Parker 1.63 2.46
      Straily 1.90 2.23
      Strasburg 2.30 4.39
      Zimmerman 4.19 3.46

      The data above is k/bb data by individual pitcher in 2012-2013.

      I collected this data, but I did not share it originally because each split of a pitcher does not have enough data to draw any conclusions. It would not be accurate to state that Suzuki was better or worse for any given pitcher based on the splits. There simply aren't enough starts for an individual.

      I post it now because it is reasonable to wonder if Suzuki's numbers were biased by not catching Strasburg or the other better pitchers.

      I think it may be possible to go to the pitch level data from pitchf/x and identify the types of pitches or zones where a catcher has not done well. Two positives might result.

      - The catcher may see through video study how he needs to change a technique with a certain type of pitch or location. It should be possible with hard work and attention to improve this skill.

      - Certain catchers may match certain pitchers based on their strength. For example, Mauer does much better getting extra high strikes than low strikes

      All of that would be learned at the pitch level and not the plate appearance result level. For progress, the Twins would need to trust in the data from pitchf/x and then use it to inform roster and line up decisions as well as using it to improve the individual skill of each receiver.

      My assumption, based on their roster decisions since Mike Fast's study came out in 2011, is that they are not among the teams that trust this data yet.

      Let's hope they have taken the correct direction with the catcher position.
      In the Mike Fast study he looked at 5 year window. Over that 5 year span other than LuCroy and Molina at the top, Pasada and Doumit at the bottom it appeared that over 120 games the range of runs saved or lost was under 15. In terms of runs saved that is not that often it would have an effect on the game
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      In the Mike Fast study he looked at 5 year window. Over that 5 year span other than LuCroy and Molina at the top, Pasada and Doumit at the bottom it appeared that over 120 games the range of runs saved or lost was under 15. In terms of runs saved that is not that often it would have an effect on the game
      It is widely accepted that, on average, a difference of roughly 10 runs equates to a win. If you also accept that the average cost of buying a "win" on the free agent market is roughly $5-6 million, you're talking about a very significant amount of value.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      I feel that a C is much like a true or natural PG in basketball. Neither position/player can always be defined in the absolutes of statistics. In many cases its about how they run the team and a "feel" of how they do so and how the team and players around them respond. In both cases, it often can be just taking control of situations and being a calming influence to teammates.

      Like many managers/coaches, I think Gardy likes to, at least initially, trust the veteran player. I feel this may be true of Suzuki vs Pinto. And I wouldn't be surprised to see Suzuki as the primary backstop opening day. As has been pointed out, this allows Pinto to not only earn the position, but have mentoring from Suzuki, Mauer and Steinbach. Three experienced and very good sources!

      And thus far, I don't recall anything negative from Gardy in regard to his belief in Punto. I believe he slowly overtakes Suzuki and becomes the primary option by all star break at the latest.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      It is widely accepted that, on average, a difference of roughly 10 runs equates to a win. If you also accept that the average cost of buying a "win" on the free agent market is roughly $5-6 million, you're talking about a very significant amount of value.
      In theory 10 runs equalls a win. But you have to buy into the pitch framing is the cause of close pitches being called and that close called pitches have an effect on ERA
      An article referenced anothr article http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/200...e-a-nibble-the
      It is on the effect of close called pitches on ERA. Nothing I have seen would lead me to believe there have been changes since.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      In theory 10 runs equalls a win. But you have to buy into the pitch framing is the cause of close pitches being called and that close called pitches have an effect on ERA
      An article referenced anothr article http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/200...e-a-nibble-the
      It is on the effect of close called pitches on ERA. Nothing I have seen would lead me to believe there have been changes since.
      If a catcher suppressed a pitchers strikeouts and increased a pitchers walks, would that have an effect on runs scored?

      Is there a reason that the k/bb ratio while Suzuki is catching is lower than when a teammate is catching? Is it possible that his poor pitch framing numbers are driving some of that difference?

      The data presented was about strike outs and walks. I should have not distracted the thread by bringing in the possible connection to pitch framing.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      But you have to buy into the pitch framing is the cause of close pitches being called and that close called pitches have an effect on ERA
      The numbers presented show that pitchers throwing to Suzuki have a lower K/BB ratio than when throwing to other catchers. Call that framing, call it luck, doesn't really matter.

      K/BB shows a negative correlation to ERA. The lower it goes, the higher ERA goes. You raise the point as if you're saying that in these situations, that correlation won't exist. It just doesn't seem plausible... at all.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.