Anyone who’s ever had an MLB MVP debate knows how difficult it can be to quantify “value.” In the age of sabermetrics, the task has become even more complicated – turns out .330/44/139 just isn’t as dominant as it used to be. But here’s an even more astonishing factoid uncovered by the union of technology and advanced statisticians:
Your team’s part-time catcher may be more valuable than its most feared slugger.
Wait, what? You heard me. Okay, it helps if that catcher is Jose Molina who happens to be the game’s best “pitch framer.” Over the course of a season, a receiver like Molina can save your team a cool 30 runs or more with the turn of his wrist.
Using PITCHf/x, an advanced camera and tracking system installed in MLB parks since 2006, we now know that some catchers are simply better at fooling umpires into calling strikes for their pitching staffs – a lot better.
What does this have to do with the New York Mets? Well, it just so happens that in his limited time with the team, prospect Travis d’Arnaud, centerpiece of last year’s R.A. Dickey trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, got “extra strikes” at a rate (3.8 percent above league average) matched by only five other big-league catchers: Yadier Molina, Jose Molina, Chris Stewert, Jonathon Lucroy and Buster Posey.
Having already gained the pitching staff’s respect for his dedication to game management, d’Arnaud’s particular skill and his ability to stay on the field are going to be major factors in how well the rotation holds it together while Matt Harvey rehabs from October Tommy John surgery.
Giving up thirty less runs in a season sounds like the kind of thing that makes the difference between playing cold weather baseball and wasting sunny days around the putting green.
And it wouldn’t hurt if d’Arnaud started hitting a little, either.