How Valuable is Blocking Pitches?

Now that we’ve looked at a raw ranking of how catchers performed blocking pitches in 2007 (subject to concerns about pitching staff, scoring and sample size), let’s try and turn that into runs.

Using Tango’s run expectancy chart (from 99-02, so it’s likely a little off based on the lower run environment now), a catcher miss (wild pitch or passed ball) was worth about .27 runs in 2007. Using that run value, and calculating blocks above/below average for each catcher, we can determine how many runs were saved by each catcher. The average block percentage across the entire league was 86%.

Now to put players on the same scale – which might be a little unrealistic based on the possible outside influences mentioned above. There were .27 opportunities per inning in 2007. Many people use runs per 150 games as a baseline for comparison, but since we’re talking catchers here, I think runs per 120 games probably better represents a full season. So that means a full season of opportunities should be 292 opportunities. This might be a little high since there were only 12 teams that had catchers with more than 120 games last season, so I’m willing to tweak if people think it’s necessary.

We’ll sort this table according to runs saved per 120 games, limiting still to those with over 100 opportunities.

Catcher Innings Misses Opportunities Block % Blocks AA Runs Runs/120
Mike Redmond 482.67 7 135 0.95 11.9 3.21 7.1
Jason Varitek 1064 19 282 0.93 20.48 5.53 5.52
Brad Ausmus 906.67 17 256 0.93 18.84 5.09 5.52
Gary Bennett 370.33 10 139 0.93 9.46 2.55 5.52
Gregg Zaun 838.33 22 260 0.92 14.4 3.89 4.73
Yadier Molina 861.33 27 315 0.91 17.1 4.62 3.94
Jason Phillips 363.67 10 110 0.91 5.4 1.46 3.94
Chris Iannetta 496.67 12 116 0.9 4.24 1.14 3.15
Gerald Laird 987.33 38 351 0.89 11.14 3.01 2.37
Brian Schneider 1051.33 40 362 0.89 10.68 2.88 2.37
Ramon Hernandez 855 32 294 0.89 9.16 2.47 2.37
Yorvit Torrealba 935.33 22 200 0.89 6 1.62 2.37
Mike Napoli 598.67 23 205 0.89 5.7 1.54 2.37
Damian Miller 446.33 19 172 0.89 5.08 1.37 2.37
Carlos Ruiz 912.67 25 212 0.88 4.68 1.26 1.58
Josh Bard 927.33 24 202 0.88 4.28 1.16 1.58
Kurt Suzuki 539 25 202 0.88 3.28 0.89 1.58
Russell Martin 1254 40 318 0.87 4.52 1.22 0.79
Jason Kendall 1146 48 372 0.87 4.08 1.1 0.79
Dioner Navarro 956.33 34 270 0.87 3.8 1.03 0.79
Ronny Paulino 277.67 35 275 0.87 3.5 0.95 0.79
Jeff Mathis 467 27 214 0.87 2.96 0.8 0.79
John Buck 924.33 32 244 0.87 2.16 0.58 0.79
Johnny Estrada 961 37 267 0.86 0.38 0.1 0
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 372.67 16 117 0.86 0.38 0.1 0
Brian McCann 1139 34 243 0.86 0.02 0.01 0
Matt Treanor 440.67 17 120 0.86 -0.2 -0.05 0
Paul Bako 421 23 162 0.86 -0.32 -0.09 0
Victor Martinez 1042.67 29 204 0.86 -0.44 -0.12 0
Chris Snyder 891.33 34 237 0.86 -0.82 -0.22 0
Jesus Flores 395.33 15 103 0.85 -0.58 -0.16 -0.79
Michael Barrett 768 25 170 0.85 -1.2 -0.32 -0.79
Mike Rabelo 394.67 20 130 0.85 -1.8 -0.49 -0.79
Paul LoDuca 974 24 155 0.85 -2.3 -0.62 -0.79
Jose Molina 492.33 19 117 0.84 -2.62 -0.71 -1.58
Kenji Johjima 1106.67 40 237 0.83 -6.82 -1.84 -2.37
Benji Molina 1104 50 295 0.83 -8.7 -2.35 -2.37
Miguel Montero 510.67 22 122 0.82 -4.92 -1.33 -3.15
Jason LaRue 474.33 24 134 0.82 -5.24 -1.41 -3.15
Javier Valentin 471.67 22 108 0.8 -6.88 -1.86 -4.73
Miguel Olivo 990.33 65 321 0.8 -20.06 -5.42 -4.73
Joe Mauer 777.67 30 142 0.79 -10.12 -2.73 -5.52
Jorge Posada 1111.33 61 293 0.79 -19.98 -5.39 -5.52
A.J. Pierzynski 1058 44 192 0.77 -17.12 -4.62 -7.1
Dave Ross 837.33 35 148 0.76 -14.28 -3.86 -7.88
Ivan Rodriguez 1052.67 58 214 0.73 -28.04 -7.57 -10.25

Mike Redmond retakes the top spot from Jason Varitek once we scale to the same number of opportunities, while Pudge looks worse again because of his low number of opportunities. However, he played almost as many innings as Varitek, but had almost 70 fewer opportunities. I don’t know if that’s an effect of scoring, pitching staff or simple variation, but it makes me wonder if, as rlc from BBTF suggested (comment 6), Pudge isn’t calling as many low breaking pitches as other catches would.

Anyway it looks like the range in value from blocking pitches is somewhere in the order of 12 to 17 runs (at least in 2007), which actually is higher than I would have imagined going in.

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