Date of Submission
Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
Professor Ricardo Fernholz
© 2022 William DeForest
How professional baseball players are compensated for their on-field performance and contribution to winning baseball games has been studied many times by baseball analysts, yet no real attempt has been made to focus solely on the catcher position. As one of the most demanding and specialized positions in the game, a talented catcher is vital to a team’s success. This paper attempts to utilize Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Offensive Runs Above Average (OFF), leading statistics that use Statcast data to measure defensive and offensive productivity, to determine which area of catcher defense is the greatest differentiator between elite defensive catchers and average defensive catchers and to determine how teams are compensating catchers for their on-field performance.
Analyzing data collected on catchers who played in the MLB between 2016-2022, I find that strike zone runs saved above average (rSZ), which measures the pitch receiving ability of a catcher, has the highest standard deviation (4.65 runs saved) of all the DRS components by a statistically significant margin. This implies that teams should prioritize signing, and should be willing to pay more for, catchers who are elite receivers because this ability will save the team more runs over the course of the season than if they sign a catcher who is elite in another defensive component. To determine how teams compensate catchers for their on-field performance, I regress DRS, OFF, and their various components on annual salary while controlling for contract type and year. I find that a one run increase in DRS causes a 1.2% increase in salary while a one run increase in OFF causes a 1.1% increase in salary. This indicates that teams are efficient with their compensation of catchers and pay them nearly evenly for their overall defensive and offensive contributions.
DeForest, William, "Modeling the Performance-based Compensation of MLB Catchers" (2023). CMC Senior Theses. 3155.