Catcher Block Percentage

One of the things I’m interested in with the PITCHf/x data is seeing if we can better quantify a catcher’s impact on the game. The easiest thing to look at is how the individual catchers deal with balls in the dirt.

I looked at all the pitches classified by the Gameday scorers as “Ball In Dirt” with a least one runner on base – a total of 9907 for the 2007 season, spread across 96 different catchers. I considered these pitches to be the catcher’s opportunities to block a ball in the dirt. Brian Schneider led the way with 332 opportunities, with Jason Kendall and Gerald Laird the other catchers over 300 opportunities.

I then counted up all wild pitches and passed balls that occurred with the catcher behind the plate – let’s call them misses. Miguel Olivo had the most with 65, and Mike Redmond had the fewest with at least 100 opportunities at 7. Then I simply divided the blocks (opportunities – misses) by the opportunities to get a block percentage.

UPDATE: Mike Fast pointed out that I had missed the category of “Swinging Strike (Blocked)” when determining opportunities. I’ve rerun the numbers here.

UPDATE #2: I’ve added blocks above average and runs saved here

Here’s the list for all catchers with over 100 opportunities in 2007:

Catcher Misses Opportunities Block %
Mike Redmond 7 111 0.94
Jason Varitek 19 236 0.92
Brad Ausmus 17 210 0.92
Gary Bennett 10 121 0.92
Yadier Molina 27 259 0.9
Gregg Zaun 22 220 0.9
Brian Schneider 40 332 0.88
Gerald Laird 38 304 0.88
Chris Iannetta 12 100 0.88
Ramon Hernandez 32 255 0.87
Yorvit Torrealba 22 171 0.87
Russell Martin 40 280 0.86
Carlos Ruiz 25 184 0.86
Mike Napoli 23 166 0.86
Damian Miller 19 140 0.86
Jason Kendall 48 317 0.85
Ronny Paulino 35 233 0.85
Dioner Navarro 34 228 0.85
John Buck 32 217 0.85
Jeff Mathis 27 180 0.85
Kurt Suzuki 25 167 0.85
Josh Bard 24 161 0.85
Jarod Saltalamacchia 16 107 0.85
Brian McCann 34 219 0.84
Paul LoDuca 24 146 0.84
Johnny Estrada 37 221 0.83
Victor Martinez 29 173 0.83
Michael Barrett 25 148 0.83
Paul Bako 23 135 0.83
Matt Treanor 17 101 0.83
Chris Snyder 34 193 0.82
Mike Rabelo 20 113 0.82
Benji Molina 50 257 0.81
Kenji Johjima 40 215 0.81
Jason LaRue 24 129 0.81
Miguel Montero 22 113 0.81
Miguel Olivo 65 277 0.77
Jorge Posada 61 268 0.77
Joe Mauer 30 121 0.75
A.J. Pierzynski 44 160 0.73
Dave Ross 35 126 0.72
Ivan Rodriguez 58 184 0.68

Perhaps the most surprising placement on this ranking is Ivan Rodriguez in last. However, anecdotally he wasn’t very good defensively last year, and he’s always been better known for his arm than for his blocking ability. Joe Mauer is way down on the list, but it’s probably pretty tough for a tall catcher to get down to block the balls. Varitek ranks highly by this measure, which means he’s pretty good at blocking pitches that aren’t knuckleballs. Mirabelli, on the other hand, only blocked 64% of his opportunities – for which he can blame Mr. Wakefield.


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  1. Dan,
    Laying on the guilt at BTF worked; it got me over here. I’m not a stathead but this looks like an interesting surface analysis.
    I’m curious if you could split Mirabelli between Wakefield balls in dirt vs. non-Wakefield b.i.d. It would be a small sample size which leads me to …
    The next obvious step would be doing this year to year (not that you hadn’t already thought of that yourself, I’m sure).

    Comment by Edmundo — March 14, 2008 #

  2. Well I wasn’t trying to make anyone feel guilty :-)

    I’ll take a look at Mirabelli and see how he does comparatively. But I think you’re right on the sample size issue.

    As for year-to-year, unfortunately I only have PITCHf/x data for 2007, so I can’t go back any farther. Also, it’s really much easier when I can tie the pitch data to Retrosheet’s events, so block percentage is only something I can look at at the end of the season.

    Comment by Dan Turkenkopf — March 15, 2008 #

  3. Great study. Like many others I’d love to see more years, but hopefully someone out there has PITCHf/x data for past years and can build up a database. I’d personally love to see what Mike Piazza was doing with this stat vs I-Rod as this could be one of the hidden ways that explain why Piazza consistantly has caught staffs in the top 1/2 of the league for ERA while I-Rod has consistantly been in the bottom 1/2.

    Comment by John Northey — March 15, 2008 #

  4. [...] study was done recently using pitch f/x data to see how catchers rated when it came to blocking balls in the dirt. Tigers fans got used to seeing a lot more of Pudge’s back as he chased down wild pitches and [...]

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  5. This is awesome data. I too would like to see how this works out when more data are available in the future. Having watched most of the Tigers games last year, I’m not too surprised that Rodriguez was at the bottom. He had major problems blocking pitches last year.


    Comment by Lee Panas — March 15, 2008 #

  6. [...] or passed balls department. (Rodriguez’ issues with blocking pitches has also been noted in a study by Dan Turkenkopf done earlier this [...]

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