Last week, we gave out some year-end MLB Awards to hitters, infielders, and outfielders. This week, we’re specifically rewarding the work of pitchers and catchers. Here are some honors that celebrate their outstanding performance.
The Contact Minimizer
The Contact Minimizer goes to the pitcher who limited hard contact best in 2018. The winner of that honor is Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard.
Of the batted balls hit against Syndergaard, only 21.9 percent were hard-hit. He was nearly three full percentage points ahead of the next-best starting pitcher, his teammate Zack Wheeler (24.8 percent). Both were better than Jacob deGrom, who placed fifth at 26.6 percent. Not surprisingly, Mets starting pitchers had the lowest hard-hit rate in the majors last season (29 percent).
Among relief pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched in 2018, there’s a surprise name atop the list. Pirates pitcher Kyle Crick beat out some of the game’s best closers with a hard-hit rate of only 22.5 percent. Crick’s overall numbers in his second season in the majors were notably better than those in his first (which was with the Giants). He finished with a 2.39 ERA and three home runs allowed in 60 1/3 innings pitched.
Stolen Base Stopper
The award for the Stolen Base Stopper goes to the pitcher and catcher who had the most Stolen Base Runs Saved in 2018. On the mound, that was Padres starting pitcher Eric Lauer with four. Lauer pitched only 112 innings, but earned the award because of his excellent pickoff move. Lauer had an MLB-best eight pickoffs and two pitcher caught stealings to offset the five stolen bases he allowed.
The catcher winner is not a surprise. With a couple of brief exceptions, Salvador Pérez has been among the best in the game at basestealer deterrence since he became an everyday catcher in 2013. In 2018, he threw out 24-of-51 basestealers (47 percent) and picked off three more to net seven Stolen Base Runs Saved. That matched his single-season high set in 2012.
The Hall of Framer
The Hall of Framer award goes to the catcher who had the best pitch-framing numbers in 2018. This is measured by looking at extra strikes gained on a per-100-pitches basis. The winner of this award is Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, who gained 1.8 extra strikes per 100 called pitches. Barnes has shown great skill in this area. Yasmani Grandal often got credit for being a top framer for the Dodgers, but Barnes has been just as good, if not better.
Max Stassi of the Astros was the runner-up for this honor (1.7 extra strikes per 100 pitches). He got significant playing time for the first time in his career and showed that he could excel at this skill at a high level.