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Comparison of Kendall and Pena as Greinke's Catcher

This past week a couple of sources (here and here) looked at catcher framing and its effects on pitchers.   The following is a look at how Jason Kendall and Brayan Pena handled Zack Greinke in 2010.

The reason I selected only to look at only when Greinke was pitching was to have some level of control.  If I looked at every Royals pitcher, one of the catchers may have only caught a certain pitcher and the data would be skewed.  Greinke was also chosen because he was one of two starters that were healthy the entire season (Davies the other).  Even with selecting just to look at Greinke, the data is little uneven since Kendall caught 24 of Zack's games and Pena only caught 9. With the disparities in games caught, there were some noticeable differences with each was catcher.

Warning: 30-40 images are viewable after the jump.  It may take a while to view all on a slow connection.

Game Results

The actual game stats were not much different as seen in the following table:

Jason Kendall 19.3% 5.7% 2.2% 160 3.99 0.304
Brayan Pena 20.8% 6.4% 1.2% 60 4.65 0.320

The main difference I notice in the 0.015 difference in BABIP between Pena and Kendall which could easily explain the higher ERA when he was catching.

Pitch Selection

The following are two charts that show the percentage of pitch types that Zack threw with each catcher.  The pitch counts are ordered from left to right from most pitcher to most hitter friendly counts.  I like these graphs quite a bit and plan on doing them for each pitcher (that is still on the team) and catcher combo from last season.



Pitch Types

  1. FF: 4-seam Fastball
  2. FT: 2-seam Fastball
  3. SL: Slider
  4. CU Curveball
  5. CH: Change-up
The big item that stuck out to me is the complete lack of sliders Zack threw to Pena once the count was in the hitter's favor.

Pitch Framing

Besides the type of pitches, how well did the catcher do at making border line pitches called strikes when compared to the official strike zone.   Here is table of all the called (non batted) pitches in the strike zone and the resulted call:
Name Results All % Called Balls Fastballs % Called Balls Sliders % Called Balls
Kendall Balls 145

Called Strikes 388 27.2% 244 30.5% 26 36.6%
Pena Balls 51

Called Strikes 158 24.4% 106 24.8% 11 38.9%

Pena was able to get a few more called strikes then Kendall, the main difference being in fastballs.

Here is the data turned around by looking at the number of called strikes each catcher was able to get out of the strike zone:

Name Results All % Called Strikes Fastballs % Called Strikes Sliders % Called Strikes
Kendall Balls 767

Called Strikes 45 5.5% 34 7.2% 1 0.7%
Pena Balls 313

Called Strikes 16 4.9% 13 6.2% 0 0.0%

First, the small size of the called strike zone versus the official zone it is pretty obvious because only ~5.5% of the pitchers are called wrong outside the zone and ~25% insides the offical zone.  Also, there is not much difference between the two getting extra strikes, but Kendall did have a slight advantage.

So, what are the reasons behind Pena and Kendall having pitches called in correctly?  Kurt Romeiser, a reader at RR was able to help me out, by looking at 10 fastballs according to Pitch FX that were called balls, but were in the strike zone.  Thanks to Kurt for the descriptions.


Hitter Date Home Away Inning Ball Strike Pitch ID
Abreu Bobby 08/11/10 ana kca 8 0 0 2711159
Tolbert Matt 09/08/10 min kca 7 0 0 2839923
Kelly Don 09/03/10 kca det 5 0 1 2884854
Inge Brandon 09/03/10 kca det 5 1 0 2884858
Damon Johnny 09/03/10 kca det 4 3 2 2884898
Jaso John 09/30/10 kca tba 1 0 0 2895011
Gross Gabe 09/14/10 kca oak 6 0 1 2910194
Barton Daric 09/14/10 kca oak 1 2 2 2910408
Cust Jack 09/14/10 kca oak 1 0 0 2910413
Lewis Fred 07/21/10 kca tor 1 1 1 3273138


Abreu - Pena’s glove was all over the place, Zack probably missed his spot, but the angle of Pena’s wrist when he caught it makes  you think it was outside, added to the movement of the glove and really a poor job framing the pitch. (Actually when I look back at the pitch, Pena is just holding his glove right down the middle of the plate when the pitch comes in.  This is surely not where Greinke wants to through his fastball to Abreu in a tie ballgame in the 8th.)




Tolbert - The camera angle looks like it is straight behind Zack, and the pitch looks outside.  Pena sets up on the outside corner and looks like he does everything right to me.




Kelly - The pitch looks great.  I think Pena did well, it looks like the pitch might of tailed back into the zone a bit, maybe that fooled the ump. 



Inge - I wonder if Zack's fastball was tailing on this day, because this one tailed also.  In fact it had some wicked movement, and the gun had it at 96.  The next pitch was also hard with a lot of movement.  In fact Pena dropped the next pitch, it was called a strike, and Frank and Ryan commented on how much Zacks fastball was moving. 



Damon - Zack hit the inside corner, but it was supposed to go the outside.  Pena had to reach for it, the ump had a perfect view, but Zack missed his spot by a lot. 


Jaso - Zack paints the inside corner.  Pena moved his glove a little to the inside, ump was setup on the inside and should of had a good view.  Looked good to me. 


Gross - Pena had to reach a lot for this one.  Zack missed his spot by a mile.

Barton - Pena reached for it. Ump had a good view.  Pena setup on the outside, it was down the middle at the bottom of the zone.


Cust - Inside corner, ump is setup with Pena on the inside, should know if it is inside or not.  He might of thought it was low.  Maybe the way Pena held his wrist when he framed the pitch made the ump think it was low.  Or maybe he was influenced by Jack straitening his legs, or maybe he just thought it was low.

Lewis - Everything looked good.  Framed well, no movement, ump was in good position.  Ump blew it.



Hitter Date Home Away Inning Ball Strike Pitch ID
Votto Joey 06/13/10 cin kca 1 0 0 2664241
Moore Adam 08/06/10 sea kca 2 0 0 2703384
Brantley Michael 08/28/10 cle kca 2 0 0 2810850
Hafner Travis 08/28/10 cle kca 1 1 0 2810960
Patterson Corey 05/18/10 bal kca 6 2 2 2994508
Hudson Orlando 04/16/10 min kca 1 2 0 3118336
Bautista Jose 04/21/10 tor kca 4 0 0 3153172
Scutaro Marco 04/10/10 kca bos 3 0 2 3159174
Varitek Jason 04/10/10 kca bos 2 2 2 3159205
Saunders Michael 07/06/10 sea kca 5 2 2 3192408


Votto - When you look at the shot where Kendall catches the ball and you see the angle of his wrist compared to where he is setup at it makes you think that this is a ball.  However, when you watch it real time you see that there is real late tailing action in this pitch, and that is probably all Kendall could of done.  Too bad it wasn't called a strike, it might of changed the course of the at bat. (Votto goes deep in a few more pitches).  Other than the fact the Kendall has to move his glove a little everything looks good.  The ump had good a view and really Kendall did a pretty good job of being still.  In fact by focusing completely on the catcher and watching the same pitch over and over, this exercise has reinforced that Pena is not a good defensive catcher.

Moore - This pitch has some tailing action also, into the right handed hitter.  You can see that Kendall was lined up for the pitch on the outer half.  Which means this pitch got a good chunk of the plate.  You can see that the ump had a great angle, he was setup in between the batter and Kendall, and Kendall framed it well.  I like the angle of his wrist.  If his wrist was angled the other way you would of immediately thought the pitch was inside.  I guess the ump thought "you missed your spot, so you don't get the call."


Brantley - This pitch was the opposite of the tailing fastball we saw in the previous two pitches.  I'm not sure if it is cutting into the left handed batter or if he just flat out missed his target.  Either way, Kendall is setup on the outside and Zack hits the inside part of the plate.  It's really a good pitch to hit.  Kendall has to reach for it from where he is setup which must be why it wasn't called a strike, because the ump had a great look.




Hafner - This is pretty much the exact same situation as above.  Same setup by Kendall, same setup by the ump and same results.  I think Zack is lucky this isn't the Hafner from his prime, because on a 1-0 count with a fastball on the inner half around knee high seems like something that would be right in his wheel house.


Patterson - Wow, the ump really blew this call.  This ball is right down the middle of the plate.  It's obvious that on the two two count Zack decided to challenge the weak hitting Patterson with a high fastball.  If I had to critique Kendall you can see his glove movement when you pan between the first shot and the second.  But that is really being picky, because this one is easy.  Obviously the TV announcers were a little perturbed  also because the showed the FOX TRAX when i included in the fourth shot.



Hudson - This ball is cutting in on Hudson.  It's not where Zack planned to pitch it.  I'm sure the fact that Kendall had to move his glove so much is the reason why it was called a ball.  It doesn't hurt that Hudson did the move where he throws his hips back like he's trying to avoid getting hit.  (that move never worked for me in little league) .


Bautista - This pitch can't be a fastball.  I think its  a Changeup. And it's a damn good one.  Can't believe he's using that one the first pitch of the count.   It moves into the right handed batter and dives at the end.  You can see by the radar gun on the 5th shot that they clocked it at 84.  I have no clue what the ump was looking at.  He has good positioning, and Kendall does everything well. 






Scutaro - Perfect pitch.  Zack hit his spot right on.  Kendall never moved and framed the pitch well.  My only guess in that the ump was located on the inner half of the plate, while Kendall setup on the outer half.  So maybe from his viewpoint it might of seemed outside.  Wasn't there just recently an article about calls going your way when you play at home.  Guess that doesn't apply when your KC playing Boston.



Scutaro BONUS - You didn't ask for it, but in the same at bat with Scutaro.  First Zack got screwed on the 0-2 pitch.  This time on the 2-2 pitch.  I'll let these pics speak for themselves.



Varitek - This pitch is similar to the Hafner pitch and the Hudson pitch.  Kendall setup on the outside, ball hits the inside corner.  Kendall had to move his glove a lot to catch the pitch, so even though the ump had a great angle because he was setup between the catcher and the hitter, he called it a ball.

Saunders - Wow, is that Kendall or Pena?  This was a 2-2 count and a good framing of this pitch would of been strike three instead of the walk that it ended up being.  Now, this wasn't a fastball.  It was a change up that backed up to the outside of the plate. At first I thought maybe Kendall got mixed and was expecting something else, but Kendall had dropped to  one knee expecting a pitch that might have some movement.  But as you can see kendall bobbled it and finally dropped it.






I thought 10 pitches for each catcher might be enough to get some idea of each catcher's miscues.  Instead, it ended showing a wide spectrum of the various ways a pitched in the strike zone can be called a ball.   The five main cause I could find from just these 20 pitches were:

  1. Pitcher Missed Spot
  2. Blown Call by Umpire
  3. Catcher Glove Work
  4. Late Movement on Pitch
  5. Borderline Call by Umpire


Looking through all the data, I didn't really find much of a difference between the catchers with helping Zack Greinke out last season.  To get a complete picture tough, every pitch would need to be looked, but hopefully this give you a some understanding of how a catcher can have on a game.