In his oft-cited study on framing, Mike Fast identified two physical movements by the catcher that correlated well to getting, or not getting, borderline calls. Exaggerated movements of the head and glove by the catchers served to distract or somehow detract from the pitch and often nudged pitches on the edge to being called a ball. The catchers with the best marks did well at holding their glove still and not dropping their head.
Since reading that study, those are two things that I'm always noticing with catchers. Which is why a pitch that Jesus Montero handled about a week ago, during Millwood's last start against the Rangers in Seattle, caught my attention.
Click through to see a .gif of some hot Jesus Montero technique.
It may appear that Montero does dip his head here, but the most of that is vertical movement from his entire body (covered later) and not what Fast was actually referring to. Here's a link to a .gif of Fast's example of head dropping. There's a clear difference there. One pitch isn't proof, but it has been a theme that I've noticed quite a bit out of Jesus when I've looked.
The more interesting part to me is how Montero swivels on his right leg out and drops his entire body to receive the ball that's dipping lower than he expected. That maneuver does two things. It makes it easier for Montero to keep his head looking steady since his eye level gets closer to the pitch. At the same time, it also puts his glove in a lower position without him having to make an arm movement to get it there. That means that Jesus doesn't generate momentum with his glove moving down which would difficult to instantly stop and would also make reversing (bringing the glove up, to the knees of the batter) more noticeable to the umpire.
I obviously can't say for certain that Montero is prioritizing keeping his head and glove as still as possible. His movement here may just be how he's always done it or how he's been taught without any regard on trying to frame a pitch. No matter, the result is that Jesus ends up in a position to stay still after the catch. I think many catchers would have stayed in their crouch and swiped down with their glove to get that ball. Montero appears to exert effort in getting into position beforehand to receive the pitch and then he does a fairly solid job at staying still through the catch.
Does that mean Montero is going to grade well on pitch framing? No. It's just one pitch. Also, there's a possibility that Fast's research is incomplete. Or that Montero's body movements are similarly distracting to the umpire. Or a myriad of other things. And of course, this was called a ball when pitch F/X labels it as within the lower bounds of the strike zone. It's smack in the middle of the plate and given where Montero makes the catch it's almost certain that the ball crosses the plate at or above Murphy's knees.
I cannot make a quantitative judgment of Montero's framing ability. I can make a qualitative one though and I like it. I like that he keeps himself as quiet as possible once the pitch arrives and I like that he puts in effort to get there. As Ryan Divish stated "I will take effort (Montero) over laziness (Olivo) every time."