Re: A Realistic View at 2013: Part II
posted at 3/17/2013 10:21 PM EDT
In response to RedSoxKimmi's comment:
Well put, and I am pretty sure that smart management teams are not waiting for the proper expalnation as to why most pitchers do better with one catcher over another. If they do, they realize it and begin to make moves to maximize those gains.
In response to pumpsie-green's comment:
Here is one good quote from the article. It says what I have been saying all along: that there is no current methodology to measure how good a game a catch calls and that this represents a significant portion of his CERA. Not all of it, I realize, since you can measure how many pitches a catcher pulls back into the strike zone and how many balls he blocks from becoming passed balls and how many base stealers he throws out (though this data set is frequently due to the pitcher and not the catcher). There are some other links that I looked at that are very complicated but failed to convince me that you can measure the ability of any catcher to call a good game and hence reduces the value of CERA as a valuable measure for catchers. If you only have an understanding of 50% of someone's performance, as the article you cited implies, how can you really claim you understand the performance of a player? It would be like evaluating you on your job taking into account only 50% of what you do. Is it totally useless? No. But pretty close to it. I would have hated to have my raises determined by an evaluation of half of what I did if it was the bad half.
Here is the relevant take home message IMO:
We've made great strides with the last few years of PitchFX data and now have a basic understanding of the effects of pitch blocking and framing. Measuring game calling is probably the last big unknown, at least when it comes to the game on the field. To me, game calling will be the biggest single aspect of catcher defense, and also the hardest to isolate. Without it, we're probably 50-60% of the way to understanding.
As with any other stat, you can't get a complete picture of a player's performance by just looking at the one stat. CERA is no different. That doesn't mean it should be disregarded. If used in the right context, along with other stats and the results of these studies, you can get a very good idea of a catcher's impact on a pitcher.
The fact that the stat geeks are 50-60% of the way to understanding doesn't mean that what they have quantified isn't accurate. It will be refined and tweaked, but the overall picture will likely remain the same. I've read the same thing about defensive assessments in general, that the saber geeks are about 60% of the way to completely understanding defensive contributions.
This hasn't stopped them from using said stats in their assessments of players. It also hasn't stopped just about every MLB team from employing these very same saber guys to interpret these very same stats to make assessments for them.
FWIW, I have also read that the saber community is only about 80% (IIRC) of the way to completely understanding the offensive contributions of players. Again, it doesn't mean that the stats they have are inaccurate or that they have should be disregarded.
The Angels clearly value the CERA related are of a catcher's game. They started Mathis over the much better hitter, Napoli more often than not. The team record when Mathis started was way better than when Napoli caught, even though mathis was one of the worst hitters in MLB during his tears with the Angels, and Napoli was one of the best hitting catchers of that time. (Another point in the argument of defense over offense at certain important positions.)
I know wins and losses are team stats, and crediting or blaming a win or loss on a catcher is heading into very speculative areas, but take a look at these numbers when Jeff Mathis was the Angel catcher vs when he was not:
w/Mathis w/others (Mathis OPS/Team catcher OPS incl Mathis)
2007 34-18 60-50 (.627/.672)
2008 58-32 42-30 (.593/.755) Napoli .971
2009 46-32 51-33 (.569/.725) Napoli .817
2010 29-33 51- 49 (.497/.667) Naps .801
2011 45-34 41-42 (.484/.555) Conger .656/Wilson .546
Look at the massive offensive disparity between Mathis and Napoli, and yet the team won more with Mathis. Can't say why, so let's ignore the numbers right?
The wins and losses are even more astounding between VTek and the other Sox catchers over the years, even the years where VTek was the worse offensive catcher:
These are the numbers after VTek's offense went south.
w/VTek w/others (VTek's OPS/Team catcher OPS including VTek's)
2008 73-47 22-20 (.672/.650) Cash .620
2009 61-45 34-22 (.703/.750) VMart .907
2010 18-9 71-64 (.766/.793) VMart .884
2011 42-22 48-50 (.723/.737) Salty .741/Lava .833
Total 194-126 175-156
Now you can see why I value catcher defense and CERA-related areas of a catcher's game. I have also done studies on opponent's OPS with each catcher- very similar results as CERA.
Even if you take away Beckett's 20-10 team record in his starts in 2011 from VTek, the team still went 22-12 when Vtek was the catcher. This is much better than 48-50 with other catchers with pitchers not named Beckett.
I know this will upset some Yankee fans, but Posada's CERA numbers were usually worse than his back-up, and sure enough, even though he outhit his back-up by a ton, his winning percentage was lower than his back-ups'. I don't have the numbers, but harness did the legwork, and I trust his data like I trust my own above.
Teams win with good game callers. They can win much more, even if the other catcher is a way better hitter. Just because it can not be quantified with specific data, does not mean the catcher behind the plate doesn't have a large influence on how ell the pitcher does and hence how well the team does.