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Article: Twins Catchers Focused on Maximizing the Strike Zone

mitch garvertanner swanson scouting fort myers
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#21 yarnivek1972

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 06:07 PM

A couple comments have made reference to deceiving the umpire. While that would be an incredible skill to be able to hone, framing is much more about simply making sure strikes are called as such. Here's a good quote on framing from Jason Castro from February 2017:

"The goal at the end of the day is to try to help your pitcher keep as many strikes as possible," Castro said. "And to not do anything to take away from presenting pitches that are in the strike zone to the umpires that would lead them to believe that any given pitch is not a strike."

So it's more about keeping strikes than stealing them. This data from an April 24 game Mitch Garver caught shows what an area of improvement that is for him. These were all called balls:



Maybe have umpires that actually call balls snd strikes by the rule, not what they think the zone should be. Problem solved.

#22 jimbo92107

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 07:23 PM

All I remember about framing pitches was the rule of thumb: Make it look like every pitch miraculously breaks late towards the strike zone! That's sorta what they're doing now, plus sit down like Pena. If nothing else, maybe it will save some knees from wear and tear. People will be shocked to find that a strong young catcher can fling a bb to second base from one knee. I've seen guys do that since I was a kid in the 60's. 

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#23 Parker Hageman

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 07:33 PM

A couple comments have made reference to deceiving the umpire. While that would be an incredible skill to be able to hone, framing is much more about simply making sure strikes are called as such. Here's a good quote on framing from Jason Castro from February 2017:

 

"The goal at the end of the day is to try to help your pitcher keep as many strikes as possible," Castro said. "And to not do anything to take away from presenting pitches that are in the strike zone to the umpires that would lead them to believe that any given pitch is not a strike."

 

 

Castro will be an interesting data comparison to how Garver/Astudillo this season. Both Garver and Astudillo have bought into some of Swanson's new techniques. Castro tries on occasion but doesn't drop to one knee and doesn't receive the low ball in the same manner (holds it rather than moves it).

 

Since 2017, Castro was just slightly better (21.7% to 20.5% for Garver, compared to the 24.7% league average) at getting strikes called at the bottom of the zone. 

 

From research stand point, it will be interesting to see which technique proves more fruitful. 

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#24 DocBauer

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 08:20 PM

A couple comments have made reference to deceiving the umpire. While that would be an incredible skill to be able to hone, framing is much more about simply making sure strikes are called as such. Here's a good quote on framing from Jason Castro from February 2017:
 
"The goal at the end of the day is to try to help your pitcher keep as many strikes as possible," Castro said. "And to not do anything to take away from presenting pitches that are in the strike zone to the umpires that would lead them to believe that any given pitch is not a strike."
 
So it's more about keeping strikes than stealing them. This data from an April 24 game Mitch Garver caught shows what an area of improvement that is for him. These were all called balls:

4/24 Garver


This will sound like another advertisement for my love and belief in Astudillo...which I admittedly have, lol...but I remember late last season when he was behind the plate...and I forget who was doing color...but they commented how he seemed "quiet" behind the plate. That spoke volumes to me.

As Castro said, it's more about just making sure a strike is called as such. Yes, there will always be some "allowance"from an umpire. While we all like perfection from an umpire, there has always been some leeway for a pitcher who consistently paints the edges. My understanding of this technique is to give umpires the best view to call a strike correctly.

This goes back to being "quiet" behind the plate. No umpire worth his salt should ever call a 6" glove jerk a strike. But if the catcher can be "quiet" and offer a good view for the umpire, and just receive the ball effortlessly, possibly with a subtle flick of the wrist, suddenly a strike, or borderline strike, gets called as such.

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#25 ashbury

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 06:42 AM

This will sound like another advertisement for my love and belief in Astudillo...which I admittedly have, lol...but I remember late last season when he was behind the plate...and I forget who was doing color...but they commented how he seemed "quiet" behind the plate. That spoke volumes to me. As Castro said, it's more about just making sure a strike is called as such. Yes, there will always be some "allowance"from an umpire. While we all like perfection from an umpire, there has always been some leeway for a pitcher who consistently paints the edges. My understanding of this technique is to give umpires the best view to call a strike correctly. This goes back to being "quiet" behind the plate. No umpire worth his salt should ever call a 6" glove jerk a strike. But if the catcher can be "quiet" and offer a good view for the umpire, and just receive the ball effortlessly, possibly with a subtle flick of the wrist, suddenly a strike, or borderline strike, gets called as such.

That was my first impression of Willians on TV as well. Also Ben Rortvedt when I first saw him on one of the back fields at Ft Myers a couple of springs ago. I dunno, I see a guy, and that word pops into my head. Most catchers fidget in one way or the other.

 

I'm not sure being "quiet" should be the be-all and end-all. I just know the term. And now this article informs me that maybe it's a little overrated. :)

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#26 Platoon

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 07:22 AM

You want to show the umpire the ball if at all possible, face of glove to plate makes it look better. In theory your always start away from the zone and move in. Your goal is to give the guy the best look possible. As for Garver, some of those pitches he pulled six inches were insulting to an umpire. The old "if that was a strike why do you jerk it that far"? come to mind. And yes, after you do that it diminishes your more fluent efforts. You can't turn a pigs ear into a silk purse should be remembered. Lastly, if Robo umps do become a part of the MLB game, there would seem to be no value in framing whatsoever? Then? A return to blocking and throwing? Second lastly. Some of this stuff is simply repackaged. Getting low as you can? That's been a prerequisite for a decent catcher umpire relationship since catchers started wearing masks. You better not have heard this for the first time in A ball if you had any experience behind the plate whatsoever!
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#27 MNTWINSWINAGAIN

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 11:59 AM

Since Garver readily admits that he needs improvement, it should not come as a shock to him when he is sent to Rochester to start the year.No room on the bench for three catchers and Astudillo needs to be on the opening day roster.Will give him a chance to grow/work with pitchers who are next up.

 

Bench will be:

 

Adrianza

Astudillo

Austin

Reed

 

Cave has options so he will also start the year at AAA.Wouldn't be surprised to see them play him some at 1B in Rochester.

 

Marwin will be the starting 3B and Sano will need to play himself back to MLB.

 

Looking for the Twins to make a couple trades from positions of strength(1B, OF, C) soon.Probably get a few more low level "prospects" in return.

 

 

 


#28 Doomtints

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 01:06 PM

Garver certainly improved over the course of the year in 2018. His hard work and increased playing time is paying off.

 

If the Twins want to emphasize pitch framing, maybe they can adjust the backstop at Target Field to save runs from all the passed balls and wild pitches against that are going to happen.

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#29 Parker Hageman

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 01:32 PM

...As for Garver, some of those pitches he pulled six inches were insulting to an umpire. The old "if that was a strike why do you jerk it that far"? come to mind. And yes, after you do that it diminishes your more fluent efforts.

 

 

Let me try to drive this home because the concept seems to be still lost on many...

 

I know this seems counter-intuitive, but manipulating the glove-ball is what lands more catchers strike calls at the bottom/top of the zone. This has been proven in practice at the MLB level. They lose fewer strikes in the zone and they gain more calls outside of the zone. For those in the back: IT DOES NOT DIMINISH THEIR EFFORTS. 

 

To be clear, the low strike glove movement isn't catching and pulling the pitch -- it's working underneath it and up. Watch clips of Max Stassi and Tony Wolters from 2018, two catchers who had some of the higher called strike rates at the bottom of the zone. 

 

 

 

Catchers are constantly working in motion. They are not going to nab 6 inches outside and pull it in, but they are going to keep moving as such. The second example in the Garver clip was a breaking ball two-three inches outside that he got called a strike working back over. In slow motion it looks absurd but at game speed, with all of Garver's constant movement, it seems natural in that context. 

 

Data has shown that there is a distinct like where umpires make about 98% correct calls in the zone and out of the zone. There is air space between those two areas that is up for battle right now. Catcher who have implemented this technique have seen greater success rates in that area. 

 

If robo/computer umpires are ever installed things will certainly change, and Swanson acknowledged as such. The focus will change to maximize the best returns from the new system too -- whether it is blocking, throwing, game-calling, whatever can be maximized to the team's advantage.

 

One thing we talked about how different the game might actually shift with a robo umpire calling a 3D strike zone. Most human umpires call a zone in a 2D capacity. That could change how pitchers attack hitters. One example was if a team felt they feel they could get away with high breaking balls that nip the very top back of the strike zone behind the batter (suggesting the hitter is up in the box), some team is going to exploit that. Do you get even more defensive two-strike swings and even more strike outs because hitters are protecting against some pitches that clip the very back corner. There could be other byproducts of that system no one has even considered yet. It's clear that there will be a lot of eyes on the Atlantic League's experiment this year. 

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#30 Doomtints

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 01:41 PM

Both of those examples ARE strikes. The downward motion of the ball continues after the ball passes the batter, making it look like maybe it wasn't.

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#31 Parker Hageman

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 02:16 PM

 

Both of those examples ARE strikes. The downward motion of the ball continues after the ball passes the batter, making it look like maybe it wasn't.

 

Yes, again, it's not just about STEALING strikes, it's about KEEPING strikes. 

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#32 Parker Hageman

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 02:32 PM

This will sound like another advertisement for my love and belief in Astudillo...which I admittedly have, lol...but I remember late last season when he was behind the plate...and I forget who was doing color...but they commented how he seemed "quiet" behind the plate. That spoke volumes to me.

 

 

One thing I like about Astudillo was that he bought into the new receiving practices.

 

 

(also RYNE HARPER'S CURVEBALL <fans self>)

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"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#33 Platoon

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 02:43 PM

Let me try to drive this home because the concept seems to be still lost on many...
 
I know this seems counter-intuitive, but manipulating the glove-ball is what lands more catchers strike calls at the bottom/top of the zone. This has been proven in practice at the MLB level. They lose fewer strikes in the zone and they gain more calls outside of the zone. For those in the back: IT DOES NOT DIMINISH THEIR EFFORTS. 
 
To be clear, the low strike glove movement isn't catching and pulling the pitch -- it's working underneath it and up. Watch clips of Max Stassi and Tony Wolters from 2018, two catchers who had some of the higher called strike rates at the bottom of the zone. 
 


 

 
Catchers are constantly working in motion. They are not going to nab 6 inches outside and pull it in, but they are going to keep moving as such. The second example in the Garver clip was a breaking ball two-three inches outside that he got called a strike working back over. In slow motion it looks absurd but at game speed, with all of Garver's constant movement, it seems natural in that context. 
 
Data has shown that there is a distinct like where umpires make about 98% correct calls in the zone and out of the zone. There is air space between those two areas that is up for battle right now. Catcher who have implemented this technique have seen greater success rates in that area. 
 
If robo/computer umpires are ever installed things will certainly change, and Swanson acknowledged as such. The focus will change to maximize the best returns from the new system too -- whether it is blocking, throwing, game-calling, whatever can be maximized to the team's advantage.
 
One thing we talked about how different the game might actually shift with a robo umpire calling a 3D strike zone. Most human umpires call a zone in a 2D capacity. That could change how pitchers attack hitters. One example was if a team felt they feel they could get away with high breaking balls that nip the very top back of the strike zone behind the batter (suggesting the hitter is up in the box), some team is going to exploit that. Do you get even more defensive two-strike swings and even more strike outs because hitters are protecting against some pitches that clip the very back corner. There could be other byproducts of that system no one has even considered yet. It's clear that there will be a lot of eyes on the Atlantic League's experiment this year.

From those of us in the back: "In theory you always start away from the zone and move in. Your goal is to give the guy the best look possible" As my quote from early in my piece said, yes I do understand the theory that starting away and moving in is very productive in presenting the ball. And frankly that's all this is about. Presenting the ball in its best light. Not about deception. None of this is new! Get low, set up for the proposed pitch, start out and work in subtlety, and don't pull pitches that can't be retrieved. While there are certainly new metrics, and I am sure exercises that will emphasize this, the concept isn't rocket science. The fact that Garver came up here using his glove like it was a frying pan is an indictment of both the Twins coaching and evaluation staff. It was almost embarrassing to watch him catch a baseball. I have no doubt that Mitch Garver works hard at his craft. Whether that will translate into a decent MLB starting catcher is yet to be determined. Catching is all about the hands, and some have them, and some don't.
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#34 DocBauer

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 06:13 PM

One thing I like about Astudillo was that he bought into the new receiving practices.
 


 
(also RYNE HARPER'S CURVEBALL <fans self>)


What I saw of Astudillo last season, and the clip you presented, I just don't understand anyone questioning his ability behind the plate. It's just feels like his versatility, and not "slotting" in to a certain category of hitter or potential Gold Glover has allowed him to slip through the cracks and not be appreciated.

I feel the Twins have corrected that mistake and understand his fit and potential. I love his versatility. I'd be happy with him as my catcher, at least as a backup, if not a starter. (Unless there is some game calling issue I'm not aware of). I think the bat is for real. Honesty, I'm not sure i wouldn't start him at 3B and keep Gonzalez in the role he was brought in for.

As to Harper...yeah...that curveball is magic! He's not in the handbook. I'd really like to know more about his other stuff, because he looks like a real surprise who is going to be a contributor at some point.
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#35 DocBauer

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 06:23 PM

Since Garver readily admits that he needs improvement, it should not come as a shock to him when he is sent to Rochester to start the year.No room on the bench for three catchers and Astudillo needs to be on the opening day roster.Will give him a chance to grow/work with pitchers who are next up.
 
Bench will be:
 
Adrianza
Astudillo
Austin
Reed
 
Cave has options so he will also start the year at AAA.Wouldn't be surprised to see them play him some at 1B in Rochester.
 
Marwin will be the starting 3B and Sano will need to play himself back to MLB.
 
Looking for the Twins to make a couple trades from positions of strength(1B, OF, C) soon.Probably get a few more low level "prospects" in return.


Just a few points/thoughts to throw back at you:

1] While Garver has things to work on, he showed real improvement as 2018 went on and continues to work hard. His bat plays! I think he sticks, though I see your point. I remain convinced the starting job will be his at some point.

2] I could see Cave going down, not because the Twins don't like him, but they may want to use his option for a longer look at someone else. Possibly Reed, as you have him on the team. My best guess? Cave makes it and they hope Reed slips through waivers and goes to Rochester.

3] What do you think about Astudillo starting at 3B with Sano out and letting Gonzalez do what he was brought in to do, which is "super sub" all over the place?

"Nice catch Hayes...don't ever f*****g do it again."

 

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