Baseball has always been a game of manipulating human error. Whether it’s making a pitcher uncomfortable enough to miss his location, or forcing an outfielder to try and stop you from turning a double into a triple, players at every level are always looking for an extra edge. Any Major League player will admit this was significantly easier before instant replay came around.
Yet there’s one area of the game that’s remained impervious to improvements in technology and refuses to adapt in any way. It is the height of human error and it’s been exploited since the game’s inception. It’s the strike zone. And it subtly changes from game to game, umpire to umpire.
Which is exactly why pitch framing has become more and more apparent throughout MLB over the last few decades. If a catcher can discreetly make it look like a ball is a strike by pulling it back into the zone, he’s instantly more valuable to his team.
We’ve known this for a while now. Catchers are more aware of it than ever. In fact, so much of framing has become about muscle memory that it’s extra silly when you see backstop try to frame a pitch that couldn’t be less of a strike if it were thrown straight into the stands.
With that in mind, behold this attempt by Pedro Severino at framing a Stephen Strasburg curveball that’s just a bit outside.
Pedro Severino. Pitch Framing. You're doing it wrong.
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 12, 2018
You will be shocked to find out that Severino’s efforts went unrewarded and the umpire still called this pitch a ball. Maybe that has to do with the pitch hitting the dirt. Maybe it’s because Severino’s attempt at framing was also outside the plate — not to mention caught with his bare hand after a bounce.
It was a valiant effort nonetheless.
As far as his pitch framing efforts on the season go, Severino could certainly use some more practice. Baseball-Reference has the Nationals’ catcher ranked as the 22nd-best pitch framer in the league this season with one Strike Zone Runs Saved — which is how it calculates the effectiveness of pitch framing.
The current league-leader in Strike Zone Runs Saved is Cleveland’s Yan Gomes, who is worth three runs saved through mid May. With a pitching staff that features Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, there’s no question how much extra value is added by turning balls into strikes.
As for the Nationals, as long as they’ve got Strasburg and Max Scherzer making hitters look foolish on their own, any pitch Severino pulls back into the strike zone is just an added bonus.
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