Baseball Prospectus' Regressed Probabilistic Model (RPM) breaks down a certain pitch, in a given location, in a specific count, to determine the value of a catcher's frame. (The impact of luck, the specific pitcher and the umpire are also factored.) So if a catcher, on an 0-2 count, gets a called third strike on the border of the zone, he can potentially save his team up to .62 runs. Add up a catcher's chances to save runs in one game, multiply by 162, and a good framer can save up to 50 runs a year. No other position player comes close to that.
Brian McCann, the Yankees' new $85-million catcher, may have started slowly at the plate, but behind it, nobody, with the exception of Jonathan Lucroy, is a better pitch-framer year after year. Through Thursday, McCann was leading all catchers again in framing runs saved with 15.5. On the other hand, there are some big-name backstops who are poor framers, including Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whom the Red Sox let go after last season. The new Marlin has a league worst -13.3 framing runs saved. Angels catcher Chris Iannetta (-10.2) and the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis (-8.2) aren't far behind.
Unless Jonathan Lucroy is your fantasy catcher, you may not have even heard of the Brewers' backstop. But he should be in the MVP discussion. Consider that 10 runs saved translates into one Win Above Replacement. Lucroy is a remarkable framer who piles up runs saved -- and, unlike McCann, he's raking this year, with a .328/.399/.509 performance through Thursday. So if you couple his 3.8 WAR with the 0.7 wins he's earned from framing, you have a combined WAR of 4.5, which nearly equals that of Mike Trout, a.k.a. The Greatest Player in the Game. It might be time to reconsider who should have that title.