MLB catchers wary of looming robo umps amid rules changes Phillies’ Dombrowski: Harper likely to report in 2 weeks
Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais played part of 11 seasons and nearly 800 home court games as a four-franchise catcher, mostly in the 1990s.
In an era dominated by Hall of Famers Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez, the skills needed to support were well defined.
“Could you throw the guys out, how did you block the ball and could you hit with power?” Serve said. “That’s how the position was judged.”
A generation later, these qualities were joined by a more subtle but no less important skill: tone framing. During the information revolution in baseball, it was discovered that the art of turning border fields into strikes was a game-changer—it could be as impressive as Piazza’s power or Rodriguez’s arm.
However, the calculus may be about to change, as is the equation that has included the human factor for nearly 150 years.
While pitching clocks, increased bases, and other rule changes will debut at the major league level this year, the Automated Ball-Strike System will get the biggest experiment on Triple-A. The ABS will be used four days a week to announce every inning at the top level of minor league baseball. In the remaining three days, the referees will traditionally announce balls and strike using the challenge system – teams will be able to appeal several calls in the so-called robo-zone in each game.
For many, ABS began to seem inevitable. The referees have already agreed to allow him at the major league level when he is ready. This means that within a season or two, everything around the home court can change.
“It will be here,” Serve said.
Others think Major League Baseball, and Commissioner Rob Manfred in particular, don’t realize how much such a shift could change the sport.
“I don’t see that happening,” said the Yankees All-Star and prominent pitcher. Jose Trevino. “I don’t think Manfred has any idea what’s going on when he talks about stuff like that. Obviously he never wore gear, so he doesn’t know.”
Manfred, who told ESPN last summer that ABS could reach major markets by 2024, warned this spring that ompa robots remain in the “evaluation phase.” To be accepted into the major leagues, ABS must be approved by an 11-member competition committee that includes four players.
“There are issues that are still under serious discussion within the ownership group, and even more issues that need to be resolved in the joint committee process with the players,” said Manfred. “The problem of framing is one of them. I mean, it’s a legitimate concern on the part of at least some of the players.”
The subset also includes some coaches, including New York Yankees catching director Tanner Swanson, somewhat of a pioneer in teaching backstops to intercept strikes.
Field building recognition began nearly a decade when Swanson quit college coaching and joined the Minnesota Twins organization ahead of the 2018 season.
Among his most impressive ideas: if catchers were to receive pitches on one knee instead of in the traditional crouch, they would have more opportunities to intercept hits in the bottom of the zone. In just a couple of seasons, the one-knee approach he coached in Minnesota was used in every major tournament.
“When I hit a professional ball, I think it really kind of pulled back the curtain to say, ‘OK, now this is not only extremely valuable, but this is something that we should prioritize in terms of the frequency with which it happens. . compared to all other skills,” Swanson said.
Swanson preaches graceful glove movements in every boundary field – enough cunning to sway even the most well-trained judge. Even if it came at the cost of blocking fields or throwing out runners, the data showed that framing outperformed all other skills.
Swanson has had several notable successes, starting with Mitch Garver in Minnesota and most recently in Trevino, who was an All-Star and Golden Glove winner last season. According to MLB Statcast, Trevino converted 53.8% of his non-swing shots at the edges of the zone into strikes, the best in major tournaments.
The technique of the knee-down catch is already being taught to young catchers, and now there is a whole generation of major league catchers trained to prioritize pitch presentation.
“Framing has always been important,” said the Baltimore-based catcher. Adley Rutchman, who was runner-up last year for Rookie of the Year. “Probably, starting from the first year of high school, a lot of attention was paid to this. Went to college, same thing, pro, same thing.”
Robot judges, of course, cannot be deceived. So what happens when the crop goes out of focus?
One name comes to Serve’s mind: Piazza.
“Mike was actually a pretty good receiver. But he could hit, he really could hit, and he just changed the position in my era,” Serve said. “Therefore, more attention will be paid to the attack.
“The reception won’t make any difference. You’ll see guys standing on base in shooting position, their bodies half turned because it doesn’t matter. In this way, you will teach the position in a different way.”
Unless, of course, receiving still matters.
“When you have two alternatives, some of them are better suited to solve problems,” Manfred said. “Obviously challenge number one dramatically reduces the problem of framing for catchers in terms of the value placed on framing. So, you know, there’s more to follow, but I think it would be a mistake to automatically assume that ABS will appear on any particular timeframe.”
Despite this, Swanson believes drop knee stances are likely to remain because they take pressure off catchers’ bodies and put them in a better position to block the serve, with their body already centered below the ground.
But scores and scores will change if the value of framing decreases.
“I don’t think it’s good for the game,” Trevino said. “There are guys here who have been good catchers for a very long time. The guys who are still in the game are protected by the catchers. I think it detracts from the art of the catcher.”
Bryce HarperWe’re a couple weeks away from arriving at spring training camp as the Philadelphia Phillies batter is recovering from elbow surgery.
Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said Thursday that Harper is batting at home in Las Vegas and will report March 8 or 9.
Harper underwent surgery on his right elbow in November after leading the Phillies to the National League pennant. The Phillies then said that Harper was expected to return as a designated hitter by the All-Star break and be able to play on the right field by the end of the season.
“He’s doing great in terms of recovery,” Dombrowski said. “In his progress, doctors are happy where he is.”
Phillies manager Rob Thomson said the next step in the rehabilitation process would be for Harper to hit the ball and make a soft shot in the cage.
In April, 30-year-old Harper suffered a minor tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. He last played right field in Miami on April 16.
In May, Harper was injected with platelet-rich plasma and switched to DH. He went on to help the Phillies reach their first World Series since 2009, and they lost to Houston in six games.
He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.
Harper missed two months last season after breaking his thumb on the field in late June. The two-time NL MVP hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs in 99 games.
THOMPSON OFFERS ARBITRATION ANALYSIS
Tampa Bay pitcher Ryan Thompson called for more transparency in the arbitration process after losing his case last week. Thompson would make $1 million, not the $1.2 million he was looking for.
“The biggest problem with this process for me is that the arbitrators can make whatever decision they come up with without explaining or defending the decision,” Thompson said in a long Twitter thread. “In any other court case, the decision is public, for some reason it is very secretive and secret.
“If the process is created for the sake of justice, then why don’t we study the laws of the country? In a sense, we were shooting in the dark, not knowing what the referees relied on and what they did not pay attention to. This understanding matters.”
Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association agreed when they established arbitration for 1974 that only an award would be made without any explanation.
Thompson said he had no hard feelings towards the Rays and said that they were “as professional and respectful as you can get, given the circumstances.” But he had problems with the statistics that were used to gauge his worth as a center pitcher.
Thompson said he considers holding and leverage index to be the most important statistic for the average pitcher or a lineman like himself. He said the Race discredited his stats in those categories and noted his botched saves, lack of use against left-handers, and what he called a Fangraphs metric called “melts”, which essentially measures whether or not a pitcher increased the likelihood of a loss. his team due to a certain amount.
Thompson also noted that he was told not to disclose the date of his case, so that the arbitrators would not investigate it in advance and create bias.
“However, they all have phones when they enter the hearing and use them freely during breaks,” Thompson tweeted. “After the case, they don’t sit in the room and discuss the decision, but had to go to the hotel bar. It is extremely embarrassing that the arbitrators communicate, drink and use their devices before making a decision. (Not at all assuming foul play.) Just an obvious flaw that I’ve witnessed.”
Thompson, 30, went 3-3 with three saves and a 3.80 ERA in 47 games last season.
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burns said last week…