This has been a not good season for the Texas Rangers. They have a bad record, their hitting has been terrible, and their pitching hasn’t been all that great.
But Fangraphs notes today that there is one area where the Rangers have been head and shoulders above every other team in MLB.
That area? Pitch framing.
As Justin Choi over at Fangraphs notes, both Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim have been among the best catchers in baseball at framing this year. That combination means that the Rangers have been far and away the best framing team in MLB in 2021.
The Rangers place a heavy emphasis on defense with their catchers, and in particular, what we tend to think of as the “softer,” less measurable aspects of catching — game calling, pitcher handling, and the like. Framing has generally been one of those skills, although that is something that we can measure now, due to the availability of pitch f/x data.
Trevino has been viewed as an elite defender throughout his time as a professional, and Heim’s defense was said to be a strength when the Rangers acquired him from Oakland this past offseason. I don’t know if their defensive abilities outweigh their offensive issues — Heim has a 67 wRC+ currently, while has a 49 wRC+ — but the framing numbers so far suggest they are extremely strong in that particular skill.
Of course, Robo-umps will be coming soon, which will make framing ability moot. There will still, though, be a demand for catchers with strong pitching handling skills, and so even if framing goes away, Trevino and Heim would likely still be seen as having enough defensive value to be valued.
Oh, and after I finished this post but before it published, Fangraphs did a “Isiah Kiner-Falefa is good, actually” type post, using his tweeting about not being in the top 10 in the A.L. All Star voting among shortstops as a jumping off point.
So read that, too...