Tyler Frank versus Gunnar Lambert: comparing the numbers behind FAU baseball’s catching platoon

Neither player had any collegiate catching experience prior to this season.


Photo of Tyler Frank by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer. Photo of Gunnar Lambert by Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor.

Brendan Feeney, Sports Editor


t this time last year, it appeared that Florida Atlantic head baseball coach John McCormack would have two experienced catchers at his disposal during the 2016 campaign.

However, Ryan Miller, who started 31 games during his freshman season in 2015, chose not to return to FAU for his sophomore year. Then in December, doctors diagnosed projected starting catcher junior Kevin Abraham with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The lone catcher left on the roster was sophomore Gunnar Lambert, who only recorded five official at-bats and didn’t catch a single inning during his freshman season. Incoming freshman Tyler Frank — who was recruited as a shortstop and most likely the heir apparent to junior CJ Chatham — only had experience with the position from his youth baseball days.

Posed with a problem of who to fill the position with, McCormack decided to deploy a platoon at the catcher position by swapping the starting role between Lambert and Frank.

In 31 more at-bats than Lambert, Frank has recorded 13 more RBIs. Lambert on the other hand holds a higher batting average than the freshman (Lambert has hit .307 while Frank currently sits at .292).

FAU’s offensive runs scored per game based on starting catcher:

  • Gunnar Lambert: 6.65
  • Tyler Frank: 6.26

On the defensive side of home plate, pitchers allow 8.03 hits and 2.56 walks per game when Frank is catching. When Lambert is behind the plate, opponents reach base via 7.85 hits and 3.16 walks per game. Frank has caught 62 more innings thus far.

FAU’s ERA based on starting catcher:

  • Gunnar Lambert: 3.39
  • Tyler Frank: 2.99

Even though FAU’s ERA is 40 points higher (3.39) and its run differential (ERA versus offensive runs per game) of +3.26 is .01 lower than Frank’s mark of +3.27, the team has found more success when Lambert is starting.

FAU’s record with each starting catcher behind the plate:

  • Gunnar Lambert:    16 wins – 4 losses (.800 winning percentage)
  • Tyler Frank: 18 wins – 11 losses (.621 winning percentage)

There are two ways to dissect this conundrum of why the team has a significantly better record with Lambert calling the game. The first is his ability to keep base runners from taking extra bases. Lambert has allowed only five passed balls to Frank’s 16. The sophomore has also been able to throw out 9-of-20 attempted base stealers, while Frank has thrown out 3-of-21.

The other explanation is that one may not exist. As McCormack said after a series in which his team stranded 27 runners, “Left on base is a funny stat. The good news is guys are getting on, bad news is no one’s driving them in.”

Possibly like the left-on-base statline, there is no clear explanation. The one thing McCormack can look forward to with each catcher is the big-game success. Against nationally ranked teams this season, the team is 6-4 — 3-2 when Frank starts and 3-2 when Lambert starts.

The Owls have one more series left in their regular season (at home against Western Kentucky University) before the Conference USA Tournament begins.

Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @feeney42.