Arizona Diamondbacks: Mathis, Iannetta in Forefront of Framing

May 18, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Hank Conger (24) sets to throw the ball during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
May 18, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Hank Conger (24) sets to throw the ball during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

Catchers for the Arizona Diamondbacks recognize the value of framing.

One of the first things Mike Hazen did when named manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks was to expand the use of analytics. Recognizing that the more information a club official or player can obtain, the better the team could perform.

With the advent of categories such as On-Base-Percentage, WAR (wins above replacement), and now framing, the aim is put players in the best position to achieve. Regarding framing, that is the ability of a catcher to gain a strike where the pitch may not completely cover the strike zone.

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo told Venom Strikes his approach is to take one pitch at a time, then one at-bat at a time and then one inning at a time. Breaking the game into such sequences, the hope is to win at smaller levels and then experience a cumulative effect to help produce overall positive results.

Framing is a step in that direction.

"“I don’t know a whole lot of about (framing), but I buy into this,” Lovullo told Venom Strikes. “This is a new concept and emerging as an analytic. It’s one more component to get us into winning.”"

In the off-season, Hazen brought in two veterans, defensive-oriented catchers, Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta, both of whom are strong proponents of framing. Numbers are beginning to emerge on the value of this developing dimension of the game.

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According to the website SOSH, the Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal was charted as the best framer among major league catchers last season.

SOSH reported Grandal managed to have 212 extra strikes called over the season. With the assumption that each call is worth 0.13 run per game on average, SOSH estimated Grandal’s ability to frame gave the Dodgers an extra 28 runs, or about three extra wins. These figures represent just his defensive production.

From an offensive perspective, Grandal hit .228, slammed 27 home runs and drove in 72 runs.

According to SOSH, Iannetta, catching for Seattle last season, recorded a negative number. Iannetta placed third behind Carlos Ruiz (-1.1) and Stephen Vogt (-1.11) with a calculation of -1.25.

"“Framing is really an art,” Mathis told Venom Strikes in the Diamondbacks clubhouse. “There are different ways to do this, but framing was always been important to me.”"

From a catcher’s vantage, the essence of framing can take several forms. The key element is to influence the umpire’s decision. That can be done by the positioning of the body or placement of the glove. The aim to try and create an illusion and flight of the pitch.

As numbers become more important in both evaluation and projection, framing will assume greater importance. On an equal par with first strike command, the catcher’s ability to communicate with pitchers becomes that much more critical.

"“Many times, it’s what you do with the ball after you actually catch it,” catcher Chris Herrmann told Venom Strikes. “Framing tends to be a weird concept, but this can also be a big factor. The bottom line, it’s our job as catchers to get that strike or extra strike.”"

One of the reasons why the Diamondbacks did not sign catcher Welington Castillo was his inability to frame pitches. Now, club officials are beginning to weight numbers associated with framing against swinging the bat in the same conversation.

With the increased emphasis on analytics, the methodology of how catchers handle both pitchers and the strike zone now appears to be an equal playing field with offensive production.

Let the games begin

On Saturday, the Diamondbacks open their spring schedule against major league competition. They engage the Colorado Rockies in a home-and-home set at Salt River and continue Sunday.

Since both teams use the Salt River Stadium, the Diamondbacks will be the home team on Saturday, and the Rockies will be the home team on Sunday.

Manager Torey Lovullo announced right-hander Shelby Miller would start Saturday’s game. He will be followed by right-hander Archie Bradley, right-hander Silvino Bracho, right-hander Keyvius Sampson, left-hander Daniel Gibson and left-hander Yunei Nakaushiro. Right-hander Braden Shipley will start the Sunday game.

Next: Rodney ready to close

The Diamondbacks opened their spring slate Wednesday and defeated Grand Canyon University, 9-1 at Salt River.