KC Royals: ESPN Rates Salvador Perez Good Game Manager


KC Royals receiver Salvador Perez rates seventh in major league baseball according to ESPN.com’s new metric that measures a catcher’s ability to call games.

According to ESPN, Perez saved Kansas City Royals pitchers 16 runs over the the last three seasons. Salvador Perez was even better last season. He saved 1.2 “wins” with his ability to manage the game in 2014—which was best among all catchers who helped their teams make the playoffs last season.

ESPN’s Harry Pavlidis did not tell readers exactly how their new metric works. He did, however, state that that ESPN called their catching metric Game-calling Runs Above Average (GCAA). Pavlidis also indicated that GCAA involved a statistical model that considers a catcher’s ability to prevent stolen bases, batter swing percentage in certain situations, and directing pace of play.

Since Pavlidis’ piece didn’t let his readers “look under the hood”—so to speak—of the statistical model, there really isn’t any way to evaluate how sound GCAA is in the real world of games.

The results are still interesting.

Sabermetrics has been struggling for years to measure catcher defense. Until now, the most advanced model has been quantifying a catcher’s ability to frame pitches. 

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  • According to Baseball Prospectus, this ability is one of the few weaknesses in Salvador Perez’s game. He rated below average at a -7.0 runs allowed due to his inability to win “extra” strikes for his pitchers during the 2014 season.

    One interesting result from ESPN’s GCAA is that four of their top-rated catchers ranked below average in Baseball Prospectus’ pitch framing metric. This list included top-rated A.J. Ellis, along with Salvador Perez, A.J. Pierzynski, and Derek Norris.

    Kansas City Star writer Lee Judge recently wrote about catcher game calling. Judge asserted that some Hall-Of-Fame catchers weren’t really favored by pitchers because they frequently called fastballs to help them gun down runners. Since fastballs are the easiest pitch to hit, signaling for too many of them will make a catcher a bad game-caller.

    While evaluating a catcher’s defense remains a poorly-quantified area of sabermetrics, there seems to be considerable progress in this area over the last few years. At this point, it’s unclear how to relate all of these new tools with one another.

    Even so, we’re much better off than when we measured a catcher’s defense by caught stealing percentage, and anecdotal reports from pitchers about game-calling.

    Next: KC Royals Dominating All-Star Voting

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