It's impossible to calculate the effort devoted to the craft of pitch framing in the past 15 years of professional baseball -- or, if you prefer the more elegant term used by some catchers, pitch presentation. Thousands of man-hours have been put in to learn the slight turn of a shoulder or a wrist that can dress up the quality of a pitch -- not to mention the countless days of video review and the daily feedback from staffers.
Along the way, there has been a dramatic evolution of style, from the manner in which Jose Molina worked to receive the ball in the center of his body to Tyler Flowers' extending his gloved hand and seemingly catching the ball at the edge of the swing path.
This refined art has made the difference in millions of dollars of earnings between catchers who received pitches properly and those who didn't, and it will basically become obsolete sometime in the near future, once major league baseball implements an electronic strike zone. The subtle shoulder and wrist turns won't matter anymore because machines will judge whether pitches passed through the strike zone before reaching the catchers.
The electronic strike zone is no longer theoretical. It's a matter of when, not if, now that the umpires have acknowledged that the league has the right to implement the technology under the terms of the recently negotiated labor agreement. (The guess here is the 2022 or 2023 season.)
The most progressive teams in baseball have greatly valued pitch framers, from the Astros to the Rays to the Brewers, in the belief that a small handful of strike calls can make an enormous competitive difference. Yasmani Grandal just got $73 million from the Chicago White Sox, and his reputation as a strong defensive catcher is built on his consistent ability to get strike calls for his pitchers.