The Pittsburgh Pirates keep making moves, just not the one that everyone is looking for to solve the pitching, first base and right field spots. Today the Bucs announced that they have acquired Chris Stewart from the New York Yankees and designated Michael McKenry for assignment. The Bucs will send a player back to the Bronx at a later time.
This move is all about the hot topic of ‘pitch framing,’ that Russell Martin did so well last season. The Bucs are hooked on it. The Yankees were ahead of the game on this and kudos to the Bucs for trying to catch up.
On the surface, this move is a small one. But a smart one. Look, Stewart can’t hit. The triple slash is just 211/.293/.272 in over 300 plate appearances for New York last year. But look at the glove work and look at the pitch framing. Remember that Grantland article about pitch framing?
The Art of Pitch Framing Here is the link. How far the Bucs have come since Ryan Doumit, haha (those GIFS are awesome in the article. Pretty good stuff, we liked this Stewart quote the best:
Stewart recalls a mechanical tweak that helped him in 2008: “I had my thumb pointing down. That’s kind of the natural way you learn to catch. But [Yankees bench coach Tony Pena] had me turn my glove so my thumb was more pointing toward the second baseman area instead of pointing down at the plate. It helped me work on balls coming on my left side easier. I didn’t have to turn my whole arm.”
Pitch framing is what the Yankees loved about Stewart. They grabbed him a few times over five year period because of it. We all know the rest of his game isn’t great, but he has made some leader boards defensively:
Eighth in the AL in Defensive WAR back in 2011.
Fifth in assists in the AL last year with 55.
Third in double plays turned by a catcher with six.
He allowed 12 passed balls last year, second in AL.
The fielding percentage (they still keep this?) was .997 which was second in the AL.
Back in 2011 when he was with San Francisco he threw out 39 percent of runners.
So while the Yankees load up on offense and douchebaggery with McCann, the Pirates grab Stewart who at the age of 31 probably still has something (fingers crossed) left in his tank. He also can pass along one of the hottest topics in baseball to some of the Bucs younger catchers.