Tyler Flowers’ attention to pitch framing is paying off. In Baseball Prospectus’ latest rankings of catchers, Flowers ranked second in the major leagues.
“It’s nice to see some statistical improvement,’’ Flowers said Tuesday. “It’s something I put a lot of effort, thought and time into, evaluating it to see how I can be better.’’
Framing gives the illusion to the umpire that a ball just off the plate actually crossed it. A little past the halfway point of the 2014 season, Flowers and Sox video coordinator Brian Johnson analyzed Flowers and the catchers most skilled at framing. Until then, Flowers thought he was pretty good at framing low pitches. A closer look changed his outlook, and he began focusing his efforts on low pitches.
“We found the common characteristic [of the best framers] was getting the low pitch called,’’ Flowers said.
“Guys can improve at it. I’m an example of that. I typically re-watch every game that night or the next morning to see it.’’
Flowers said his best framing game may have been the Sox’ 1-0 win against the Cubs at Wrigley Field when Carlos Rodon pitched six scoreless innings. Rodon walked six, allowed two hits and struck out six. But that game was filled with borderline 1-1 pitches – arguably the most important pitch in a sequence because of its pivotal consequence — that went Rodon’s way, Flowers said.
“A couple of pitches we were able to get called strikes that I know weren’t really strikes,’’ Flowers said. “It changed the outcome of the game.’’
Flowers said framing the low pitch is about timing, getting the glove below the pitch and creating momentum going up and catching the ball on the way up.
“To counteract the force of that 90 mph ball coming at you, that’s the big thing,’’ he said.
In doing so, Flowers has to guard against the passed ball on low pitches. He committed his 11th Monday in such an instance, and only Russell Martin with 17 has more.
“There’s a timing to it, the low ones in particular if you mess up that timing you might not catch it and if you do it’s not going to look good,’’ he said. “There is definitely an art to it. Some guys are good at it, certain guys aren’t.’’
The top five, in order, per Baseball Prospectus: Yasmani Grandal, Flowers, Buster Posey, Mike Zunino, Miguel Montero.