By StatCorner’s estimates, the elite framers — of which Lucroy is certainly one — are usually worth 20 to 30 runs per season. In 2011, StatCorner estimated Lucroy’s framing value at +41 runs, and Brian McCann was rated as +44 runs in both 2008 and 2009. If this high-end range of framing value is correct, then Lucroy is the best player in baseball this year, McCann had a peak worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, and Jose Molina is worth roughly $20 million per year.
I don’t know anyone that actually thinks Lucroy is the best player in baseball, that McCann has put himself on track for induction to Cooperstown, or that Molina adds as much value to a pitching staff as Jeff Samardzija. Even though nearly every framing model comes out with similar estimates, and framing has been shown to be correlated strongly from year to year — suggesting there is real skill here and not just random noise — it’s difficult to wrap our minds around the range of value that the numbers suggest.
Even the most analytically progressive Major League teams don’t buy really buy into the numbers…
Dave isn’t suggesting that the data is so terribly misleading; some catchers are pretty clearly getting more close calls than other catchers. What Dave’s suggesting is that the pitchers might well deserve some of the credit for this. If (to use Dave’s example) Kyle Lohse knows Lucroy is getting the calls in certain spots, doesn’t Lohse deserve some of the credit for hitting those spots.
By the way, at the moment we’re essentially double-crediting Lohse and Lucroy. In the pitcher metrics, Lohse is getting credit for all his strikes … and in the pitch-framing metrics, Lucroy’s getting credit for some of them, too. But the math doesn’t come out right. If one run is prevented, you can’t give 0.9 runs to the pitcher and 0.2 runs to the catcher.
Except we’re doing that now. Somebody’s gotta figure who gets what. Actually, I’m sure the smarter teams are doing that already. Which is why, as Dave notes, the Astros didn’t actually go hard after one of the free-agent, high-achieving pitch-framers last winter.
Anyway, tremendous food for thought. Thanks, "Grabber Dave."