Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, left, and closer Brandon Morrow

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Pitch Framing Tactics Under A Bit More Scrutiny In MLB

Players, managers and umpires are becoming increasingly cognizant of the way catchers can try to influence calls.

April 16, 2018 - 11:48 am
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(AP) The concept of pitch framing is not exactly new, but it certainly seems to be under a bit more scrutiny now.

There was even a bench-clearing incident earlier this month when Arizona manager Torey Lovullo started arguing with the plate umpire about St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina's framing. Lovullo said he praised Molina while using a profanity. The two had a shouting match.

It's rare for something as mundane as pitch framing to cause such a dust-up, but it's clear that players, managers and umpires are becoming increasingly cognizant of the way catchers can try to influence calls on balls and strikes.

"I've had an umpire tell me this year that borderline pitches, I'm making them look better than what they are," Detroit catcher James McCann said. "They've known for years that we try and steal strikes. It's probably just more in the limelight now because we do have the framing numbers, and we do have umpires grades."

Lovullo's complaints aside, there doesn't seem to be too much of a backlash yet over the way catchers try to get a few extra strikes.

"People get pitches off the plate all the time. It happens. Umpires are human, they mess up, they just make a bad call every now and then," San Diego outfielder Wil Myers said. "Yadier Molina is a great catcher who can get a little more strikes than most catchers. Good for him, right? That's why he's behind the plate and that's why he does what he does."

Washington catcher Matt Wieters says he thinks umpires have become less sensitive to the idea that catchers may be trying to deceive them.

"It used to be where, when I was first starting, the umpire would say, 'Hey, stop doing that,' type thing. And now that's not really the case anymore," Wieters said. "You probably will get blowback for it as a catcher, but your No. 1 job is to get the pitcher as many pitches as you can get, so do what you can."

Wieters also says there's a financial incentive for catchers to hone that part of the skill set.

"Throughout the league it's become such a big thing because guys are starting to get contracts because of how they're able to get strikes for their pitchers," Wieters said. "I don't think it's ever the other manager's spot to say something about how the catcher's catching a ball."

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

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