Carlos Corporans Valuable Skill Set and How He Can Make Gallardo Better

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics
After weeks of inactivity, general manager Jon Daniels and the Texas Rangers satisfied the agitated fan base by completing two trades which figure to improve the club’s chances of competing in the AL West in 2015. The more heralded trade was for former Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo. Despite awful mechanics, and a K% which has decreased every season since 2009, Gallardo has managed to remain healthy and log over 180 innings six consecutive seasons. The dwindling strikeout percentage could be attributed to a concerted effort to attack the lower part of the strike zone to induce more worm burners, which has contributed to Gallardo increasing his ground ball percentage every year since 2010. Gallardo generated some numbers which portend future success in 2014, increased velocity and xFIP, but with park and league adjustments, Steamer sees Gallardo as more of a slightly below average pitcher in the AL next season. While the projection might be somewhat pessimistic, Gallardo is probably an improvement over what was already here.

This article was not meant to be all about Gallardo. I am not a huge fan of his, but the deal made sense from a Rangers perspective. The trade I wanted to discuss was for a catcher who could augment Gallardo’s success in ‘15, Carlos Corporan. Corporan had been designated for assignment two days prior by Houston, and with the gluttony of catchers the Astros wielded, Corporan was the superfluous hood ornament the Astros no longer needed after they signed Colby Rasmus.To acquire Corporan’s services, the Rangers had to part with minor league pitcher, Akeem Bostick.Baseball America breaks down the trade more thoroughly here if one is interested, but Bostick had fallen out of the Rangers Top 30 prospects according to BA this past season. Corporan projects to serve as Robinson Chirinos’ back up, and don the tools of ignorance 50 to 60 times in ’15.Normally, trades for back up catchers are not very interesting or noteworthy, but Corporan’s particular skill set is one which should be interesting, his framing. I am not going to inform the reader as to how this skill set is valuable because I assume one is cognizant of how this is valuable. If one is not enlightened as to how framing provides value, read this and this. Anyways, Corporan grades out as a significantly better framer than Chirinos according to StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus framing metrics. Here is a possible explanation as to why the Rangers had interest in Corporan, and why he can contribute in ’15.

Steamer projects Corporan to be worth 0.5 fWAR, but that number does not include what he provides through framing. For one to compare to a couple of his peers visually, I collected some data from the spectacular website, Baseball Savant. This .gif shows the called strikes caught in ’14 by the incumbent, Robinson Chirinos, new Rangers catcher Carlos Corporan, and I decided to include noted framing specialist, Jonathan Lucroy. (Shout out to the great Nick Pants for throwing these together for us)

Lucroy’s sample is larger than both Chirinos and Corporan, but framing is a skill which stabilizes pretty quickly. One should notice Corporan and Lucroy’s called strike heat map extend slightly lower than Chirinos, which means they are both more adept at stealing lower strike calls. Chirinos does however seem to do well at nabbing strikes on the outside corner to lefties, and inside to righties. Now we will view the pitches hitters took for balls last season received by the three catchers.

Robinson’s heat map extends slightly higher into the zone than both Corporan and Lucroy. This is not meant to denigrate Chirinos game as he controlled the running game quite well the majority of last season, but he did not do quite as well at stealing strikes as he did eliminating runners who were attempting to steal.

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This very finely constructed graph should be further indicative of what the heat maps showed above. Chirinos has a substantially higher amount of balls caught in the strike zone which are called balls (zBall%) and lower amount of pitchers caught outside the zone which are deemed strikes (oStr%), and actually loses strikes for his pitcher each game on average. The average amount of called strikes for Chirinos are higher off the plate, as are his called balls. Despite the smaller sample, Corporan does quite well, and performed pretty similarly to Lucroy, albeit in a much smaller sample.Despite Chirinos struggles in the framing department, he will be the Rangers primary catcher in ’15. Robinson offers much more offensive upside than Corporan, and with catchers producing more offense behind the plate than in past years, the reasoning is justified. Framing is also a skill which can be refined with some proper instruction, so Chirinos improving in that department is not impossible. However, Corporan could be a very shrewd pick up which can provide value the projection systems will not credit him for. With the bottom 60% of the Rangers rotation not excelling at missing bats, and Gallardo and the recently acquired Ross Detwiler’s preference for throwing their two-seamer to induce ground balls, Corporan’s ability to turn low pitches into strikes could be extremely valuable. With Gallardo now projected to generate 1.7 fWAR, and Corporan’s ability to steal low strikes, it is not unreasonable to think that Corporan could be the more valuable player, or at the very least make Gallardo a more productive player. Gallardo was heavily reliant on Lucroy and Martin Maldonado in Milwaukee, and with Corporan here in Texas, the right hander could have a similar advantage. As odd as this may seem, the trade for Gallardo becomes more palatable due to the acquisition of Corporan.
Dustin Dietz
Dustin graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in Radio/TV/Film, and a minor in history. He will often write about pitching mechanics and analytical baseball stuff. You will more than likely disagree with the majority of what he writes or says. In his spare time, Dustin time travels and plays at a replacement level in slow pitch softball leagues.

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