Zoning in on Chris Iannetta
Zoning in on the 2016 Mariners is a daily series in which we’ll examine one player every day, 30 total, in the lead-up to Opening Day. We’ll explain their role on the field, what they’re like off of it and provide highlights and photos. On deck tomorrow: Ketel Marte.
Chris Iannetta and Jerry Dipoto go way back. When the Mariners signed Iannetta away from the Angels, where Dipoto also had just come from, that link was what first came to mind for many, but there was one before that—going back to when Dipoto was head of the scouting department for the Colorado Rockies.
“I’ve seen him play since he was a first-year minor league player, and I’ve always thought a lot of his skillset—it’s a very distinct skill-set,” Dipoto said at the time of Iannetta’s acquisition.
“He brings us a veteran bat with an idea when he gets in the box. This is a .350 career on-base guy who knows how to drive a long at-bat.”
He’s a .351 career on-base guy, to be precise. In terms of a skill the Mariners have been looking to build on in a significant way, that being controlling the strike zone, Iannetta is as good as any Mariners catcher we’ve seen.
In fact, only two times in Mariners history have they had a catcher exceed Iannetta’s .351 career OBP in a season, given a minimum 350 plate appearances—John Jaso’s .394 in 2012 and Dave Valle’s .354 in 1993.
Even last year, a down year for Iannetta, he still displayed the same batting eye that’s made him who he is, as he was fifth-best in baseball at not chasing pitches outside the strike zone.
“Even relative to a rough year for batting average, the other numbers all stacked up,” Dipoto said. “As a result, I think Chris is a good candidate for a bounce-back year offensively.”
It isn’t all offense for Iannetta either. He’s always proven more than capable at the fundamental skills of being a catcher, but in terms of one of the more en vogue talents, he’s improved himself in a big way—that being pitch framing.
Pitch framing, sometimes called “pitch presentation,” is the act of doing what you can as a catcher to make sure pitches that are strikes are called strikes, and maybe picking up a few extra strikes on close calls, too.
According to Statcorner, which ranks catchers on their framing ability, Iannetta was below average in 2014, actually 88th among Major League catchers at value contributed (or in his case, detracted) from framing. In 2015, after deliberately working on the skill, he took a huge leap, to fifth-best.
“I really worked on it in the offseason and watched a lot of video of guys that did it well and tried to emulate some of those things,” he recently told Greg Johns of Mariners.com.
“We always work on our receiving,” he said. “But the way the game is kind of scored now, we get held accountable for framing, and it’s a huge part of what we do from a numbers standpoint, and teams and front offices are starting to look at it.”
Off the Field
Iannetta is a big guitar player and, in the past, it’s been part of his pregame routine. Last year, he had the opportunity to meet someone we’ve had around Safeco Field quite a bit, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.
By the sounds of it, it looks like his hobby may be coming with him on the road this season.
Iannetta also owns a winery with former teammate Vernon Wells. It’s JACK Winery in Napa, California.
More in the Zoning In on the 2016 Mariners Series:
- Norichika Aoki
- Luis Sardinas
- Chris Taylor
- Boog Powell
- Nathan Karns
- Vidal Nuno
- Justin De Fratus
- Mike Zunino
- Steve Clevenger
- Adam Lind
- Wade Miley
- Charlie Furbush
- Shawn O’Malley
- Dae-Ho Lee
- Tony Zych
- Jesus Montero
- Steve Cishek
- Franklin Gutierrez
- James Paxton
- Joaquin Benoit
- Taijuan Walker
- Seth Smith
- On deck: Ketel Marte
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