BY MARK SIMON
On this week’s edition of the Sports Info Solutions Baseball Podcast, we talked to Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh about the team’s success and his work behind the plate this season.
Raleigh rates as one of the top pitch framers in MLB in 2022, so this seemed like a good time to look at the leaderboard for that stat.
MLB’s best pitch-framer this season, in the aggregate, is Yankees catcher Jose Trevino. Trevino has an MLB-best 7 Strike Zone Runs Saved (our metric that measures how often catchers get strikes above an expected strike total, converted to a run value).
If that number seems small relative to other seasons, that’s because it is.
The number of catchers recording high totals in Strike Zone Runs Saved has shrunk. From 2014 to 2016, there were 12 instances of a catcher recording at least 10 Strike Zone Runs Saved. In the last three full seasons (2018, 2019, 2021) there were seven such catcher seasons.
The only catcher to reach 10 Strike Zone Runs Saved last season was Max Stassi of the Angels.
One thought is that the gap between catchers has shrunk. Many are now good at pitch framing and there isn’t one that rates far beyond his peers. Trevino, given how often he plays and how skilled he is, is the class of the field at the moment.
On a per-pitch basis, Austin Barnes of the Dodgers is just about as good as Trevino. He just doesn’t play as often. Barnes has 4 Runs Saved in 288 innings this season. Trevino has 7 in 496.
Since becoming the Dodgers’ regular backup catcher in 2017, Barnes ranks tied for fourth in Strike Zone Runs Saved despite ranking 31st in innings caught.
Raleigh, with 4 Strike Zone Runs Saved ranks tied with Barnes and a host of other catchers for second. He’s one of the more adept catchers at framing high pitches, while still being able to stick the low ones on the bottom edge of the zone for a strike.
“I like to get into a rhythm,” Raleigh said, explaining his technique and how he brings his glove down at or near the dirt before setting up. “I know some guys stay as still as possible. I can’t get into a rhythm that way. I’d get stuck, so I’d end up losing some strikes. My approach is to stay loose, let the ball travel as deep as I can, and then at the last second make a move to the ball and give the umpire the best viewpoint of it.”
For all the talk about Julio Rodríguez, Raleigh’s value might go unnoticed. But Raleigh’s work behind the plate and his improvement at the plate (his .762 OPS is 230 points better than last season) are worth mentioning. The Mariners are 38-22 when Raleigh starts, 16-24 when he doesn’t.
To learn more about our methodology for Strike Zone RunsSaved, read our award-winning paper from the 2015 Sloan Sports Conference.
2022 MLB Strike Zone Runs Saved Leaders
|Player||Team||Strike Zone Runs Saved|