Much has been made about Willson Contreras’ poor framing negatively affecting the Cubs pitching staff. Granted, I think we were all pretty spoiled watching David Ross softly cradle Jon Lester’s cutter from off the plate into the zone. Ross was, dare I say it, almost like El Mago behind the dish. But the below heat maps show that Contreras does not have that same deft touch for framing pitches.
Let’s use Lester as an example to illustrate the consequential effect of framing. In 2016, Lester had a great many pitches off-plate to the left called as strikes when Ross caught. I mean, look, he had nearly a 100 percent strike probability off the zone. That’s insane.
But when Ross retired and Contreras took the helm, Lester wasn’t getting those same left off-plate pitches. It looks like Lester actually lost a quarter of a foot in the strike zone.
And Lester still didn’t get that same outside-the-zone call in 2018, although he did get slightly better plate coverage. Even so, it was nothing close to what he got in 2016.
The encouraging news is that Contreras is hard at work trying to improve his framing. Since he wants to be the best so badly, I’m really excited to see his improvements as opening day inches closer and closer. Just imagine if Contreras can steal his battery-mates just a few more strikes.
Plots generated by “CalledStrike” package.