The theories of the 2010s pitch-framing analysts are lost to history, purged after a reactionary movement seized sports media in 2031 and instituted the Heyman Doctrine, a brutal set of reforms that made the use of any advanced statistic less predictive than ERA punishable by death. But we do know that these statistics informed the 2014 Kansas City Royals’ decision to acquire Jose Molina from the Tampa Bay Rays. Molina, a month away from turning 39 at the time of the trade, could otherwise hardly be seen as a trade target for a team that hoped to save the future of baseball in 2014. He had a career OPS hovering around the low .600s and had never received more than 350 PAs in a season. If not for the pitch framing craze of the 2010s, why else would anyone trade for Jose Molina?
T.S. Eliot once wrote that April is the cruelest month. But what the hell did he know? He wrote a book that inspired the musical Cats. His hands are stained with blood. In baseball, April brings hope and uncertainty. The passage of the month brings the first significant statistical endpoint to evaluate players or the team as a whole. However, almost all of these stats–even win/loss record–come with sample size caveats. You can’t project how well anyone will do based solely on their April. But that doesn’t keep people from trying.
Late into the month of April, it became clear that the Royal’s catcher, Salvador Perez, was suffering from overuse. He was hitting worse than anyone else on the team, which caught Player/GM Pat Burrell by surprise. Perez was supposed to be one of the few sincerely good players on the Royals. Burrell decided that the team needed a quality backup catcher and veteran presence. Someone to fill the role that Todd Pratt had during Burrell’s early years in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Todd Pratt was now 47 years old, so getting him out of retirement would be more than a chore. Burrell would have to trade for a backup, and do so without giving up anything of significant value.
With that in mind, he went to the team’s advance statistics department for advice. Unfortunately, the Kansas City Royals advanced statistics department had been gutted during the Dayton Moore years, and now consisted of nothing but shortstop Alcides Escobar sitting in a small office after every game and browsing Fangraphs.