D-backs make huge strides in pitch framing

June 22nd, 2017

DENVER -- D-backs catching coach Robby Hammock sat at a table in the middle of the visitor's clubhouse at Coors Field and studied video of a Major League catcher whose name he did not want to have published.

It was part of the D-backs' continuing quest to excel at the art of pitch framing, which has garnered much attention over the last several years.

"It's still an ongoing study," Hammock said. "I still can't say what exact factors go into it. You watch different guys and there's plenty of video that you can watch on certain platforms that can show you different guys and what they do, but it's hard to really pin something down."

The D-backs have their theories, which of course they do not want to publicize, and they must be doing something right.

According to Statcast™, the D-backs have gotten called strikes on just over 10 percent of the pitches they've thrown outside the zone that opposing hitters have taken. That's the second-highest rate in Major League Baseball.

Last year, the D-backs ranked 28 out of the 30 teams, and it was with framing in mind that the team let catcher go and replaced him with veterans Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta.

Mathis is regarded as one of the better framers in the Majors, and he finds the sudden interest in the stat a bit amusing. For him, framing pitches has always been a component in being a good catcher.

"What I've told everybody when they're making a big deal about it -- it's something that I feel like I've done my entire career since they've put me behind the plate," Mathis said. "It's just something that I enjoy doing and felt I was decent at and continued to work on it. It's pretty cool now that it's getting looked at."

While there are different theories as to how to improve pitch-framing numbers -- sitting back farther from the plate, starting the glove lower and bringing it up rather than starting it high and moving it down -- Hammock asks his catchers to focus on one thing.

"It's like they say with at-bats: You never want to give one away," Hammock said. "Well, this is a situation where you don't want to give any pitch away, no matter what the situation. It's every pitch that there's intent to get it called a strike."