Over the course of the 2022 regular season, Jose Trevino was an unsung hero for the New York Yankees. Not only was he a great presence in the clubhouse and on social media with his lovable and humble personality, but he was an All-Star, too (and a snazzy one at that).
Trevino was great at the plate, slashing .248/.283/.388 with a wRC+ of 91 (two higher than his previous career high in 24 games during the COVID-shortened 2020 season), and his overall value was represented by a 3.7 fWAR, far and away the best of his career and second on the Yankees only behind 11.5 fWAR Aaron Judge.
However, Trevino was not only a player to take seriously at the plate, but he was primarily known for his defensive capabilities. He accumulated an absurd 21 defensive runs saved (DRS) and a 29.1 defensive value per FanGraphs, both of which led all catchers in MLB, including studs on defense like Adley Rutschman, J.T. Realmuto, and Christian Vázquez.
There are even more numbers to talk about as well. Trevino sat tied with Rutschman at the top of MLB with 18 blocks above average. Then, to top it all off and get into what I want to focus on for this season, he sat first in Catcher Framing Runs with 17 — five more than Jonah Heim of the Texas Rangers — and with a 53.8-percent strike rate, which was 2.2-percent higher than Heim as well per Baseball Savant.
Trevino made his presence felt last season in the batter’s box and behind the plate defensively, and even though he regressed at the plate (like many predicted he would, although maybe not to the 54 wRC+ extent), it's his defensive regression that is most concerning.
The 30-year-old backstop’s framing numbers have dropped significantly, with last season’s percentile ranking sitting in the upper 90 percentile range and 2023 ranking in the 58th percentile.
Don’t get me wrong, the 58th percentile is still technically above average. However, there’s something to be said that a player who had such a tremendous year in 2022 and is getting paid to play excellent defense has regressed as much as Trevino has.
So, what’s the cause of this sudden regression? Not being able to get as many strike calls on pitches that end up directly below the zone or to the bottom right.
In case you’re someone (like me occasionally) who sees a bunch of colors and gets sidetracked, let’s focus on the two zones I mentioned above, which in this case are zone 18 (bottom) and zone 19 (bottom right) in the chart, and the differences in the percentages between 2022 and 2023 specifically.
So far in 2023, Trevino’s strike rate below the zone is 49.5 percent compared to an incredible 62.3 percent in 2022. And in the bottom right area outside of the zone, the percentage has decreased from 30.9 to 23.5, which is also a significant drop. The video highlighting his Platinum Glove-worthy plays holds some great examples of the kind of framing work he was doing last season and the kinds of calls he was getting.
As much as Trevino’s framing might not make a noticeable difference on a game-to-game basis, the kind of defense the Yankees were getting behind the plate over the course of 162 games last year was noticeable, and it made a difference in their win-loss record. This season, the team is lacking any offense outside of three or four players (including Trevino), and when the catcher can’t save as many runs with nuances like framing, that only spells disaster.
If the Yankees aren’t going to be capable of scoring runs, they need to prevent them. That responsibility falls on their starting pitching, but it also falls on the guys behind the plate. There’s still plenty of time for Trevino to sort everything out, but there could be bigger implications in the standings for an offense-starved team if they can’t limit the number of batters that step into the box through whatever means necessary.