“José Molina Framed Me!” Claims Pitch Outside of Strikezone

Back at the end of the 2011 season, Mike Fast at Baseball Prospectus posted a study that suggested José Molina might be the best at framing pitches. Last night at Tropicana Field, as Molina caught Alex Cobb, his talents were in full effect.

Witness the following two called-strike-threes. While there’s considerable glove movement on Molina’s part in both cases, as Mike Fast’s article points out, it’s much more important for a catcher to keep the rest of his body — especially his head — stable as he receives the pitch. A catcher is going to have to move his glove to receive most pitches, and some of that movement can be disguised when the catcher closes his glove around the ball. Outside of his glove hand, Molina is pretty steady in receiving both of these pitches.

That pitch, according to Brooks Baseball’s PitchF/X, might have actually been a strike, but Travis Hafner certainly didn’t think so.

From Brooks Baseball.

This pitch to Francisco Cervelli, however, passes neither the eyeball test nor the PitchF/X test:

From Brooks Baseball.

When Fast’s article first posted, I was very excited, because it felt like another baseball mystery was on the verge of being explained in a tangible way (even though other people had worked on this before, whom Fast references in his piece) — the mystery of the value of catcher defense. It’s not that I want baseball to be devoid of mysteries and surprises; thankfully, no matter how much anyone learns, it never will be. But to read that article was fulfilling, and by having read it (and other articles that attempt quantify/understand aspects of catcher defense) I was more fully able to appreciate José Molina’s skill last night.

Also, I would be remiss to not mention this article by Ben Lindbergh, which documents some of Molina’s fine work from last week.

In conclusion…

Hire Robert J. Baumann to live-blog your next birthday party, family reunion, or corporate event. You will not want to forget it soon.

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Ray Fosse
Ray Fosse

Look at the position of the umpire in both gifs.

In the first one his head is right over the inner half of the plate, directly above Molina’s head, as Molina sets up slightly inside. In the second gif, Molina sets up noticeably outside and the umpire’s head is directly above the inside edge of the plate. How does he possibly expect to have an accurate view of the outside of the plate at that angle?