It’s still extremely early in the season and most events can be chalked up to small sample size. This includes Robinson Cano having 0 home runs or a .441 BABIP against for Ivan Nova. Metrics that tend to stabilize much quicker include pitch velocity (because this relies on 1 guy) and pitch framing (lots of data with hundreds of pitches per game) as Jeff Sullivan from Fangraphs explains. Sullivan presents the data from Matthew Carruth’s pitch framing model. Over a sample of 592 called pitches to start the year, the Yankees have received 25 “extra” strikes. The average value of an extra strike is .14 runs (varies by pitch count). Assuming average situations, the Yankees have already received 3.5 (25*.14) extra runs saved from pitch framing according to this model. That is tops in the league over the first week-plus of the season and they have only had strikes called balls on 5 or 6 pitches when looking at the accompanying chart. Carruth’s data has the Yankees at 6% of strikes called balls and 11% of balls called strikes.
As noted earlier, pitch framing tends to stabilize fairly quickly and does not need to be regressed as much as other metrics this early in the season. The Yankees’ edge in pitch framing is real and is primarily due to Brian McCann. McCann has been one of the best at it since it started to get measured. Francisco Cervelli grades out well in this aspect of catching too. The Yankees certainly are valuing pitch framing from their catchers. Recent team catchers including Russell Martin and Chris Stewart ranked among the top backstops in the league at stealing strikes. This is extremely helpful for Yankee pitchers (league low 3.6% BB rate) and their overall run prevention.
This formerly hidden value can now be measured and teams are starting to pay for this still somewhat undervalued asset. For instance, the Rays traded for Ryan Hanigan and resigned Jose Molina primarily for their pitch framing abilities. Pitch framing is certainly something to take note of around the league as the season continues.