TAMPA, Fla. — When Brian McCann was a promising catching prospect for the Atlanta Braves, they appreciated his powerful bat, his intuitiveness in calling a game, his strong arm and quiet hands behind the plate. Putting a value on his bat was straightforward. The logic of pitch sequencing could be deconstructed. His arm strength could be quantified with a stopwatch.
But how much were those soft hands worth?
The modern art of pitch framing — presenting a borderline pitch to the umpire in such a favorable light that it is more likely to be called a strike — has been around at least since the late 1960s, when Johnny Bench popularized one-handed catching.
But the science behind it is relatively new.
“There wasn’t any,” McCann said of the emphasis on pitch framing…