Tyler Flower has joined the Atlanta Braves
Before reading, take a deep breath. Tyler Flowers is not joining the Atlanta Braves in the capacity that you may have dreaded. There is a reason we have not seen any official roster moves involving the former backstop.
Flowers is not joining as a player. David O’Brien reported in TheAthletic (subscription required) that it will be a non-playing position that focuses on helping the team with its use of analytics.
It may seem odd at first that the Atlanta Braves would be bringing him back in that capacity. After all, he became known as a guy that was prone to the passed ball. His offense also regressed so much so that he barely played in the postseason last year with only 3 plate appearances.
Why did the Atlanta Braves bring in Tyler Flowers?
His stats that you can see with the naked eye are not where Tyler Flowers excelled. This is not why he was brought on. Where Tyler Flowers really stood out was in an area that is very hard to see to the untrained eye, pitch framing.
Analytically, Flowers is arguably one of the best pitch framers of our time. In 2019 Flowers tied for first in all of baseball with Austin Hedges in Runs Extra Strikes.
Runs Extra Strikes
First calculated in 2015, Runs Extra Strikes is an analytical stat that essentially measures runs saved by pitch framing. The crazy part is that Flowers tied Hedges for 1st , yet with 432 less pitches seen. Runs Extra Strikes is a counting stat like Hits, not a rate stat like Batting Average.
How good was Tyler Flowers?
Outside of 2020, when he only saw 600 pitches, Flowers has never ranked below 7th in MLB. Not only is that impressive, but Flowers accomplished this with only averaging 92 games a year from 2015-2019.
If you look at all years from 2015 on, Tyler Flowers trails only Yasmani Grandal in Runs Extra Strikes, and has done it seeing 5,284 fewer pitches. If we want to show how truly close it is, we can look at runs saved per pitch seen. Grandal is averaging saving 1 run per 210 pitches seen, while Flowers is right behind averaging 1 run saved per 213 pitches seen.
Will this hiring even matter?
This hiring makes sense for the Atlanta Braves because they could use some help in the pitch-framing department. In 2020, which was Flowers’ worst pitch framing year, he tied with Travis d’Arnaud in Runs Extra Strikes while only playing in 21 games. For more context, it may be eye-opening to see that d’Arnaud saves 1 run per 532 pitches seen.
d’Arnaud is not terrible, as he is 15th in MLB since 2015.
The gap between Flowers and d’Arnaud is massive. If Flowers can help d’Arnaud with his pitch framing, it could be a huge win. So far in 2021, d’Arnaud sits at 0 Runs Extra Strikes after seeing 343 pitches.
This move is a win-win for the Braves. It’s safe to say that Tyler Flowers knows a thing or two about the analytics behind pitch framing. If he can translate that into helping the current catchers on the Atlanta Braves Roster, that can only help. Welcome Back Tyler!