Historical Catcher Block Percentage

Ok, so not so much historical, but at least I can share 2005 and 2006. Joe Arthur clued me into the fact that the GameDay information was still available starting from 2005, so I dutifully went and grabbed the data, so now we have three years to look at.

UPDATE: MGL let me know about what turned out to be a rounding error that was pushing the numbers off a bit. I’ve updated the charts to fix the issue, but things might look a little different than you remember.

For those of you who haven’t been following this series, I’m using the GameDay data to measure how each catcher performed in blocking pitches by looking at their misses (wild pitches + passed balls) and their opportunities (balls in the dirt with runners on base).

Before we get to the results, a couple words of warning. There’s definitely something up with the scoring of balls in the dirt. Each year had widely varying counts for opportunities, as you can see below. If we assume that these scoring differences affected every catcher equally, then we’re ok if compare the runs saved columns since those are based on average numbers. I think this might be a reasonable assumption because the opportunities look to be somewhat depressed for all the catchers in 2006.

Year Opportunities Avg. Block %
2005 9271 .84
2006 7375 .77
2007 11523 .86

Opportunities and Block Percentage By Season

Also, I’m still wary of the effect of pitching staffs and of course random variation. One of the next steps is to try a With or Without You (WOWY) analysis to see if I can tease out the impact of the pitchers.

Enough of the warnings, let’s look at the results. I’ll go year by year, including 2007 for those who don’t want to look back at other posts, and then look at the leaders and trailers over the three seasons (by summing runs per season). Remember, I’m calculating an average block percentage for each season individually. I’m still limiting this to those catchers with more than 100 opportunities and assuming a run value of .27 runs per miss. I’ve changed the sort order to sort by actual runs saved rather than runs per 120, since I think the actual value is more interesting.

2005

Catcher Innings Misses Opportunities Block % Blocks AA Runs Runs/120
Mike Matheny 1122 24 327 0.93 26.93 7.27 6.76
Jason Kendall 1286 34 353 0.9 20.98 5.66 4.4
Gregg Zaun 1088 23 251 0.91 16.09 4.34 5.18
Jason LaRue 914.67 28 271 0.9 14.21 3.84 4.4
Yadier Molina 959.33 27 242 0.89 10.69 2.89 3.61
Mike Lieberthal 998.67 20 193 0.9 10.06 2.72 4.4
Johnny Estrada 826.33 23 211 0.89 9.86 2.66 3.61
Brad Ausmus 1065.67 29 243 0.88 8.85 2.39 2.82
Victor Martinez 1233 24 200 0.88 7.15 1.93 2.82
Gary Bennett 523.33 14 130 0.89 6.25 1.69 3.61
Damian Miller 917.33 33 252 0.87 6.25 1.69 2.03
Toby Hall 1061.67 47 332 0.86 4.71 1.27 1.24
Henry Blanco 422.33 13 108 0.88 3.82 1.03 2.82
Joe Mauer 999.67 26 180 0.86 2.04 0.55 1.24
Geronimo Gil 349.33 17 122 0.86 2 0.54 1.24
Jason Phillips 774 19 132 0.86 1.56 0.42 1.24
Humberto Cota 681.67 28 186 0.85 0.97 0.26 0.45
Brian McCann 449.33 15 102 0.85 0.89 0.24 0.45
Mike Piazza 809.33 15 102 0.85 0.89 0.24 0.45
Paul Lo Duca 1033.33 30 197 0.85 0.68 0.18 0.45
Ramon Hernandez 806 17 100 0.83 -1.42 -0.38 -1.12
Ryan Doumit 422 19 110 0.83 -1.87 -0.5 -1.12
Rod Barajas 1025.33 34 202 0.83 -2.54 -0.69 -1.12
Michael Barrett 1017.67 38 225 0.83 -2.96 -0.8 -1.12
Jorge Posada 1076.67 37 215 0.83 -3.51 -0.95 -1.12
Sal Fasano 417 25 136 0.82 -3.82 -1.03 -1.91
Bengie Molina 873.33 40 231 0.83 -4.02 -1.09 -1.12
Javy Lopez 628.67 26 140 0.81 -4.19 -1.13 -2.7
Jose Molina 480.33 25 133 0.81 -4.28 -1.16 -2.7
Miguel Olivo 690 28 152 0.82 -4.33 -1.17 -1.91
Javier Valentin 508.33 22 111 0.8 -4.71 -1.27 -3.49
Jason Varitek 1089 44 243 0.82 -6.15 -1.66 -1.91
Brian Schneider 926.67 34 169 0.8 -7.68 -2.07 -3.49
J.D. Closser 565.67 24 104 0.77 -7.8 -2.11 -5.85
John Buck 976.67 42 215 0.8 -8.51 -2.3 -3.49
Chad Moeller 520.67 32 145 0.78 -9.42 -2.54 -5.07
Danny Ardoin 591 28 119 0.76 -9.47 -2.56 -6.64
Chris Snyder 915.67 40 191 0.79 -10.25 -2.77 -4.28
Ivan Rodriguez 1032.67 40 159 0.75 -15.24 -4.11 -7.43
A.J. Pierzynski 1117.67 46 181 0.75 -17.81 -4.81 -7.43

Catchers With More than 100 Opportunities in 2005
One big surprise in 2005: Jason Varitek, who the top catcher in 2007, is near the bottom here. He had 44 misses this season, while never having more than 24 in the other two seasons. I thought maybe he had been catching Tim Wakefield more in 2005 than in the other seasons. Turns out that Wake wasn’t the biggest cause of Varitek’s misfortune. Matt Clement actually led to 13 misses for Varitek that season, by far his highest number. This seems to be somewhat of a trend for Clement. Just looking at his WP numbers over the previous seasons he often has at least 10 wild pitches (and 23! in 2000), which puts him near the league leaders. Obviously Clement missed the large majority of 2006 and 2007, reducing Varitek’s misses. This quick look definitely highlights the need for a WOWY study.

Other than that, nothing too surprising. Mike Matheny, long considered a top defensive catcher, is number one. Pudge and Pierzynski are near the bottom. I’m happy to see the range of runs is roughly 12-15, right where it was for 2007.

2006

Catcher Innings Misses Opportunities Block % Blocks AA Runs Runs/120
Brad Ausmus 1124.67 24 202 0.88 21.77 5.88 8.4
Yadier Molina 1037.33 32 231 0.86 20.34 5.49 6.83
Jason Varitek 822.33 24 180 0.87 16.78 4.53 7.61
Brian Schneider 990.33 27 186 0.85 15.14 4.09 6.04
Jason Kendall 1254 39 235 0.83 14.25 3.85 4.46
Brian McCann 1016.33 32 190 0.83 11.05 2.98 4.46
Josh Paul 400.33 46 250 0.82 10.64 2.87 3.67
Damian Miller 840 36 198 0.82 8.86 2.39 3.67
Mike Rivera 352.67 15 101 0.85 7.88 2.13 6.04
Paul Lo Duca 1027 39 195 0.8 5.18 1.4 2.1
Mike Lieberthal 484 21 115 0.82 5.06 1.37 3.67
Gregg Zaun 541.33 21 112 0.81 4.38 1.18 2.88
Mike Napoli 716.33 32 158 0.8 3.8 1.03 2.1
Henry Blanco 526 21 108 0.81 3.47 0.94 2.88
Bengie Molina 842 32 152 0.79 2.44 0.66 1.31
Toby Hall 628 27 126 0.79 1.55 0.42 1.31
Miguel Olivo 971.33 43 193 0.78 0.73 0.2 0.52
Eliezer Alfonzo 700.33 26 117 0.78 0.51 0.14 0.52
Sal Fasano 518 28 124 0.77 0.1 0.03 -0.27
Rod Barajas 825 23 102 0.77 0.11 0.03 -0.27
John Buck 930.33 46 200 0.77 -0.68 -0.18 -0.27
Ivan Rodriguez 1054.33 34 146 0.77 -0.92 -0.25 -0.27
Joe Mauer 1059.33 37 154 0.76 -2.11 -0.57 -1.06
Russell Martin 1015 39 159 0.75 -2.97 -0.8 -1.85
Ramon Hernandez 1094.33 60 247 0.76 -4.04 -1.09 -1.06
A.J. Pierzynski 1125 45 170 0.74 -6.48 -1.75 -2.64
Jorge Posada 1050.67 45 168 0.73 -6.94 -1.87 -3.42
Victor Martinez 1110 38 126 0.7 -9.45 -2.55 -5.79
Jose Molina 603.33 37 121 0.69 -9.58 -2.59 -6.58
Dioner Navarro 653.67 36 113 0.68 -10.4 -2.81 -7.37
Michael Barrett 852 45 150 0.7 -11.01 -2.97 -5.79
Kenji Johjima 1172.67 53 148 0.64 -19.47 -5.26 -10.52

Catchers With More than 100 Opportunities in 2006
Looking at this list makes me question even more the validity of the raw data from 2006. The range from top to bottom is still the same 12-15 runs, but the relative ranking is very different from 2005 and 2007. Of course that could just imply there’s a whole lot of random variation built into this measure, but I think there’s some systematic scoring issue that’s changing things.

2007

Catcher Innings Misses Opportunities Block % Blocks AA Runs Runs/120
Jason Varitek 1064 19 282 0.93 21.5 5.81 5.8
Brad Ausmus 906.67 17 256 0.93 19.77 5.34 5.8
Yadier Molina 861.33 27 315 0.91 18.24 4.92 4.23
Gregg Zaun 838.33 22 260 0.92 15.34 4.14 5.02
Mike Redmond 482.67 7 135 0.95 12.39 3.35 7.38
Gerald Laird 987.33 38 351 0.89 12.41 3.35 2.65
Brian Schneider 1051.33 40 362 0.89 11.99 3.24 2.65
Gary Bennett 370.33 10 139 0.93 9.96 2.69 5.8
Ramon Hernandez 855 32 294 0.89 10.23 2.76 2.65
Yorvit Torrealba 935.33 22 200 0.89 6.73 1.82 2.65
Mike Napoli 598.67 23 205 0.89 6.44 1.74 2.65
Jason Phillips 363.67 10 110 0.91 5.8 1.57 4.23
Damian Miller 446.33 19 172 0.89 5.7 1.54 2.65
Carlos Ruiz 912.67 25 212 0.88 5.45 1.47 1.86
Russell Martin 1254 40 318 0.87 5.67 1.53 1.07
Josh Bard 927.33 24 202 0.88 5.01 1.35 1.86
Chris Iannetta 496.67 12 116 0.9 4.66 1.26 3.44
Jason Kendall 1146 48 372 0.87 5.43 1.47 1.07
Dioner Navarro 956.33 34 270 0.87 4.78 1.29 1.07
Ronny Paulino 277.67 35 275 0.87 4.5 1.22 1.07
Kurt Suzuki 539 25 202 0.88 4.01 1.08 1.86
Jeff Mathis 467 27 214 0.87 3.74 1.01 1.07
John Buck 924.33 32 244 0.87 3.04 0.82 1.07
Johnny Estrada 961 37 267 0.86 1.35 0.36 0.29
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 372.67 16 117 0.86 0.8 0.22 0.29
Brian McCann 1139 34 243 0.86 0.9 0.24 0.29
Matt Treanor 440.67 17 120 0.86 0.24 0.06 0.29
Paul Bako 421 23 162 0.86 0.27 0.07 0.29
Victor Martinez 1042.67 29 204 0.86 0.3 0.08 0.29
Jesus Flores 395.33 15 103 0.85 -0.21 -0.06 -0.5
Chris Snyder 891.33 34 237 0.86 0.04 0.01 0.29
Michael Barrett 768 25 170 0.85 -0.58 -0.16 -0.5
Mike Rabelo 394.67 20 130 0.85 -1.33 -0.36 -0.5
Paul LoDuca 974 24 155 0.85 -1.74 -0.47 -0.5
Jose Molina 492.33 19 117 0.84 -2.2 -0.59 -1.29
Miguel Montero 510.67 22 122 0.82 -4.48 -1.21 -2.87
Jason LaRue 474.33 24 134 0.82 -4.75 -1.28 -2.87
Kenji Johjima 1106.67 40 237 0.83 -5.96 -1.61 -2.08
Javier Valentin 471.67 22 108 0.8 -6.49 -1.75 -4.44
Benji Molina 1104 50 295 0.83 -7.63 -2.06 -2.08
Joe Mauer 777.67 30 142 0.79 -9.61 -2.59 -5.23
Dave Ross 837.33 35 148 0.76 -13.74 -3.71 -7.6
A.J. Pierzynski 1058 44 192 0.77 -16.42 -4.43 -6.81
Jorge Posada 1111.33 61 293 0.79 -18.92 -5.11 -5.23
Miguel Olivo 990.33 65 321 0.8 -18.9 -5.1 -4.44
Ivan Rodriguez 1052.67 58 214 0.73 -27.26 -7.36 -9.96

Catchers With More than 100 Opportunities in 2007
I’ll present 2007 without much comment except to say that I feel more confident in the raw data than in either 2005 or 2006 because of the improvements to the GameDay system. Of course most of the improvements were technological and the scoring decision that leads to a measured opportunity is in the hands of the human stringer.

Leaders and Trailers

As a close, I’ll leave you with the top and bottom three in actual runs saved over the last three seasons.. I’ll admit I eyeballed this a little, so I may have missed someone. Also note that there were a bunch of catchers who might have made these lists but didn’t receive enough opportunities in all three seasons.

The Best:
Brad Ausmus 13.61
Yadier Molina 13.3
Jason Kendall 10.98
The Worst:
Ivan Rodriguez -11.72
A.J. Pierzynski -10.99
Jorge Posada -7.93

14 Comments »

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  1. First of all, are the opportunities with runners on base only? If not, you can’t use .27 runs per miss. You have to know what percentage of misses or opps are with runners on base.

    Second of all, what are you using as the baseline (average) block percentage for each year? It looks like you are not zeroing out per year, which you want to do. You have got virtually everyone negative in 06 and a majority positive in 07. You want everyone to be a total of zero in each year when you think you have data consistency problems from year to year, which there appears to be.

    Comment by MGL — March 20, 2008 #

  2. MGL: The opportunities are only for runners on base, mainly for the reason that many catchers don’t try too hard to block balls when there’s no one one.

    I am zeroing out each year. The average block percentage over all catchers is listed in the first table in the post. That is to say, it’s the aggregate block percentage for all of MLB. In 2005, it was 84%, in 2006, 77%, and in 2007, 86%.

    I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why things aren’t summing to 0. I’m calculating blocks above average by (Opportunites * (1-Avg BP)) – Misses, which technically gives me misses below average. But that’s really the same thing as blocks above average.

    Now that you’ve pointed out it doesn’t sum to 0, I feel like I’m missing something, but I’m not sure what it is. Any ideas?

    Comment by Dan Turkenkopf — March 21, 2008 #

  3. Ah. Found it. It’s actually due to the rounding error on the average BP. If remove the pretty formatting on the average BP, then things zero out correctly. I’ll update the charts to match the new information.

    Thanks for calling my attention to this MGL.

    Comment by Dan Turkenkopf — March 21, 2008 #

  4. Dan, thanks for the insight and I am glad that you are using only opportunities with men on base. I agree that probably not all catchers put as much effort into blocking balls with no one on base as they do with runners on, although they generally do put quite a bit of effort with the bases empty, otherwise they would tend to get lazy when there are men on base. It is just that some may be more lackadaisical than others with bases empty, which would screw up the numbers.

    I have not checked if everything zero’s out, but the charts look more reasonably balanced now. Good work!

    Comment by MGL — March 22, 2008 #

  5. One more thing. Any chance you can either compute a y-t-y correlation for players with a certain min number of opps, or a variance (or SD of course) for all players in the entire sample (again, with a min number of total opps), after combining each player’s 05, 06, and 07 data?

    That way we can estimate how much to regress the sample data. IOW, how much of the spread we see in any given number of opps is random and how much is skill.

    Thx.

    Comment by MGL — March 22, 2008 #

  6. For the 52 catchers who had at least 200 opportunities combined from 2005-2007, the mean runs above average/100 opportunities (used to get everyone on the same scale) was 0.07 and the standard deviation was 1.1. There were only two catcher (Ivan Rodriguez and Doug Mirabelli) outside 2 standard deviations, and Pierzynski and Matheny were just less than 2 standard deviations away.

    The correlation in runs above average/100 opps between catchers with over 100 opps in each of 2005-2006 was .37. In 2006-2007 it was .5. Between 2005 and 2007, it was .47.

    I’ve forgotten most of the stats classes I’ve taken, so I’ll leave it to you to tell me what those mean.

    Comment by Dan Turkenkopf — March 24, 2008 #

  7. [...] in the links provided. Versions of WOWY for catchers have also been done by Brian Cartwright and Dan Turkenkopf. I would do it that way if I could. The main issue is that 1) it’s pretty complicated, and [...]

    Pingback by 2009 Catcher Defense: Filling in the Holes (yet again) — October 13, 2009 #

  8. [...] good behind the plate as I mentioned earlier. However, as shown in past blogs by Dan Turkenkopf in 07, 08, and 09. Bard has been about average defensively. He has continually gotten worse and I suspect [...]

    Pingback by Seriously… A New Post??? « Far From Port — February 4, 2010 #

  9. Dan,

    This stuff is great! I have a question for you: why not take this method to its logical extreme? You’re limiting yourself to pitches in the dirt, but why not divide the area the catcher covers into a number of zones, calculate the average passed ball/wild pitch rate for each zone… and then compare each catcher’s WP/passed ball for each zone to the norm. This would make the stat very much like an UZR for catchers.

    Would this be too much work? Most of the math for this should already be in place.

    Comment by shawndgoldman — April 17, 2010 #

  10. [...] perhaps, previous steps? There are at least two other researches on this topic. Dan Turkenkopf wrote about it more than three years ago and Dave Allen took a similar approach as I did back in 2009. When I [...]

    Pingback by Another one bites the dust | bojankoprivica — January 18, 2012 #

  11. There’s definately a great deal to learn about this topic. I really like all the points you have made.

    Comment by Premium Cardsharing — May 2, 2013 #

  12. [...] in the links provided. Versions of WOWY for catchers have also been done by Brian Cartwright and Dan Turkenkopf. I would do it that way if I could. The main issue is that 1) it’s pretty complicated, and [...]

    Pingback by Fogging the Measure: Catcher Defense Ratings, June 27, 2013 — Pro All Stars — July 1, 2013 #

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