Framing is the art of making a pitch that is near the strike zone appear to be a strike when it may not actually be one. A catcher, who can frame well, can be extremely helpful to a pitcher working the corners of the plate and has been particularly valuable in the major leagues. The act of framing is a very subtle tactic, an action which occurs just as the catcher catches the ball. Since no umpire is ever going to be fooled by a jerk of the glove to drag a pitch back to the strike zone, successful framing is a very slight action, almost indiscernible.
ESPN did this fascinating feature story, “You Got Framed,” discussing the value of a catcher who can turn a borderline pitch into a called strike. The increase in strikeouts in the major leagues, they argue, is not merely due to the propensity of hitters to swing for the fences. It also has to do with the increase in catchers who are successful at framing.
The act of framing isn’t foolproof, of course, and I’m sure that umpires do sometimes feel as Laz Diaz is comically depicted in this Onion article. “You catchers seem to think that I was born yesterday. Some of you even believe you can fool me by holding your glove there for an extra long time, as if to say, ‘See, I’m holding it here like this because it was a strike.’ Well, this umpire is not falling for that. Not today, not ever.”