Yasmani Grandal May Want To Put the ‘Catch’ In Catcher

Yasmani Grandal is here for two reasons. One is that he can hit, and that he’s likely to hit better than ever in 2015. (And lest you think that this is me showing some bias, do remember that I wrote for ESPN about how he was a breakout candidate back in November, when he was still with the Padres.) The second thing is that he’s a pretty well-regarded pitch framer, which is important because A.J. Ellis is not.

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The problem with that latter part is that while he’s a very good framer, he also tied for the MLB lead with 12 passed balls in 2014. One of the two catchers he tied with, Travis d’Arnaud, caught 300 more innings. The other, Wilin Rosario, caught over 200 more, and was considered so unacceptable by the Rockies that they went out and got Nick Hundley to team with Michael McKenry and are now trying to convert Rosario to another position. If you use Baseball Prospectus’ catcher PB/WP numbers, he came in 103 of 105, ahead of only Tyler Flowers and d’Arnaud.

Intuitively, that makes sense, to a certain degree. Framing is all about catching the ball smoothly without excess movement and making it look like a strike. Sometimes, that means catching the ball with the edge of your glove, and that’s harder. After all, any catcher could make a big exaggerated move to receive the ball in the sweet spot, but then you’ve lost all hope of it being a strike. The trick is to catch it smoothly, but, of course, still catch it. It’s not something the team doesn’t know about; we know that Steve Yeager is working with Grandal on improvements.

Still, it’s something to be aware of, and in Monday’s game against the Giants in Scottsdale, we got a taste of it, as three pitches got past Grandal. The first came from Erik Bedard

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…and as Rick Monday said, while this went as a wild pitch, it really should have been a passed ball. You can almost see Grandal short-arming it, hoping to keep it a strike.

In the fifth, after Brandon League looked awful, Carlos Frias came on and looked pretty awful himself. But before the Giants could hit him hard, his very first pitch got past Grandal for a run…

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…again, a wild pitch, and again, probably one Grandal should have had. Two pitches later, it happened again

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…though that was clearly a bad pitch, one that bounced well in front of Grandal. (Frias did not look good.)

So I’m willing to give Grandal a pass on the third one, and it’s probably also worth noting that Grandal is new to the team, as is Bedard, and Frias has spent most of his eight-year professional career in the minors. There’s some unfamiliarity there, to be sure, and perhaps simply getting to know how a particular pitch moves from a particular pitcher is going to help. But for as thrilled as most of us were to get Grandal — and regardless of whether you liked Matt Kemp heading out, having Grandal coming in was undeniably a plus — this is still something to be worked on. I’m not going to pretend I care all that much about what happens in Scottsdale on March 9. I will care what happens in Los Angeles on April 6.

About Mike Petriello

Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.