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  1. Agreed. Though I have have to choke back the bile in saying so

    Cannot stand Molina’s constant crying

    Comment by Buck — September 28, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

  2. I HOPE THA CREW INJOYS WATCHING THE CRYING BIRDS IN THE PLAYOFFS

    Comment by Tony Plush — September 28, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

  3. Now why would Tony Plush say he hopes his own team enjoys watching their rivals play in the playoffs? I would infer that this is actually not Nyjer Morgan and instead is someone else. I would guess its Jose Molina. Jose is upset that Tampa Bay has little chance of making the playoffs at this point and is re-directing his anger towards another easy target: The Brewers. Obviously he doesn’t like his younger brother being called a crybaby since everyone really knows Jose is the crybaby in the family.

    Comment by Really Tony? — September 28, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

  4. I think part of the reason more people run on Posey is because the Giants staff is notoriously slow in their release. Molina’s reputation is why players don’t steal against him. Similarly, the Giants’ staff’s reputation is why players do try and steal against Posey. Assigning an arbitrary 50% blame/reward to each for SB/CS scores is a pretty poor way to judge their play in context.

    While I agree that Molina is certainly a better defensive catcher than Posey and a real MVP candidate (I’d rate him third after Posey and Braun) some of the methodology used here is mediocre.

    Comment by Jack — September 28, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

  5. So confused.

    Comment by BVHeck — September 28, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

  6. No one’s assigning anything. There’s no real argument for a catcher being less than half responsible for SB/CS, so I was simply setting a lower bound to show that, if you take the most extreme position possible on running game responsibility, Molina’s still got a significant advantage. Catchers almost certainly have more than 50% influence on the running game. The pitcher is the minor variable, not the major one.

    And, if you want to isolate the Giants pitchers without Posey, that’s not tough to do. This year, non-Posey SF catchers have thrown 15 of 51 basestealers (29%), and opposing runners have tried to steal off them once every nine innings. In other words, the same CS% and a slightly better rate of discouraging runners to go.

    Or, just go back to last year, when Posey was hurt for most of the year. Non-Posey SF catchers threw out 44 of 141 basestealers (31%), and they ran at a rate of once every eight innings. Basically, Posey this year is matching what non-Posey catchers in SF did last year.

    If you do the same thing with Molina’s backups, he’s clearly ahead. Tony Cruz has thrown out just 28% of base stealers this year, and they run on him far more often than they run on Molina.

    There’s a huge gap here between Molina and Posey. It’s somewhere between 6-12 runs. I think it’s probably closer to 12.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — September 28, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

  7. Is Molina’s reputation also the reason he’s thrown out 47% of (lazy, victimized) basestealers?

    And is the Giant pitchers’ reputation the reason Posey has only been able to throw out 26.5% of basestealers?

    The reputations account for, at most, the difference in the rate at which runners try to steal. They can’t account for the difference in how often basestealers are successful.

    Comment by Tony — September 28, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

  8. You’ve got 2 pieces on the defensive side of a stolen base attempt. While 50% may not be 100% accurate its definitely not arbitrary.

    You should also stop and think of HOW Molina got the reputation for guys not to run on him. It hasn’t always been his staff’s aid. Guys don’t run on Yadi because he’s thrown the best out since 2005. Posey hasn’t done much in his young career to discourage guys from running.

    Comment by Ty — September 28, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  9. This is a totally valid thing to say – and adds into why baseball pundits have so much trouble buying into WAR and defensive metrics: they are context dependent, and that allows any writer citing them to manipulate them to make a greater point than is probably true. Historically, Molina has been worth about a win with the glove according to fangraphs, while Posey has been worth between an quarter and a half a win with the glove by the same metric – I don’t really buy the case that the difference is enough to overcome Posey’s offensive superiority, or that the difference is really that high in reality if you are basing catcher defense on arm and ball blocking.

    If you really want to make a case that there is a difference between the two that would put Molina onto equal ground, pitch framing is someplace that you could look – Mike Fast’s work showed that Molina was the second best regular at framing pitches behind Russell Martin, Posey didn’t make it into those numbers – but he certainly is a poor pitch framer and could lose value in that department.

    Comment by AK7007 — September 28, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

  10. Does the position adjustment consider that Posey has played ~20% of his time at first base?

    Comment by Anon — September 28, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

  11. Yep.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — September 28, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

  12. Totally incorrect! Here’s pitch framing numbers where Posey does show up: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/evaluating-catchers-framing-pitches-part-3/

    The numbers are from 2010, but that’s the most recent I could find. Posey is 10th in MLB at +8.8 runs. That’s worse than Molina, but still quite good. There are also Matt Klaassen’s catcher defense rankings at http://blogs.thescore.com/mlb/2012/08/09/fogging-the-measure-catcher-defense-ratings-penultimate-august-2012-edition/, which take into account blocking pitches and throwing out runners. Posey comes out well there too (but still behind Molina).

    Comment by Scott — September 28, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

  13. Whoops, formatting got messed up. I was quoting AK7007′s comment about Posey being “certainly a poor pitch framer”.

    Comment by Scott — September 28, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

  14. No, but the fact that the Giants staff is slow to release does account for some of the difference. With a faster releasing staff, I think Posey would throw out a higher percentage of basestealers, and less would run on him. I also think that if Molina caught the Giants staff, more people would run on him, and he’d have a lower CS%. But since there’s no good way to measure that, its really irrelevant.

    But as Dave points out above, Giants’ pitchers are run on (when other catchers are catching) in ~12.5% of innings. League average is ~10%. On a league average (in this component of pitching at least) staff, Posey gets run on less, and most likely throws out more baserunners. Does he come close to Molina? Probably not. The difference is likely in the 5-7 fewer stolen bases on Posey. But that moves the range of runs Molina gets on defense that Dave has provided from 6-12 closer to 4-10. Even if it is still on the higher end of that scale, then Posey’s offense keeps him at least equal to Molina in value. If its closer to the lower end, then Posey is looking at a half win lead over Molina.

    I think there are two morals to this story. First is that Catcher defense has so many intricacies, that without a deep look into the stats, much of the perceived value is missed. Secondly is that there are two catchers in the NL having MVP seasons, which is a pretty rare sight to see.

    Comment by Jack — September 28, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

  15. Talking about Molina throwing out baserunners, i think this article from the St. Louis Dispatch might add some value:
    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/birdland/how-fast-did-molina-throw-that-ball-to-second/article_dc42994c-fea5-11e1-b8c1-0019bb30f31a.html

    Comment by Stefan — September 28, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

  16. I asked this a few weeks ago: Have we ever had an MVP vote where the winner and the runner-up were both catchers? I think that it’ll happen this season, as voters will stupidly punish Andrew McCutchen for the Pirates’ late season collapse and will obviously punish Ryan Braun for the PED fiasco. Molina, in addition to having the career year (and an excellent year) with the bat, is an outstanding defender, gets credit (deserved or not) for expertly handling the Cardinals pitching staff, is perceived (probably correctly) as a future manager and the leader of this Cardinals team, and his team is going to make the playoffs (unlike McCutchen’s team, or Braun’s, or David Wright’s, or Chase Headley’s). In other words, Molina has all sorts of intangibles working in his favor and the other contenders for the award (besides Posey, who is a shoo-in for the award at this point) have intangibles (rightly or wrongly) working against them (especially Braun). My projected top three MVP voting:

    1 Buster Posey
    2 Jadier Molina
    3 Andrew McCutchen

    Comment by Robbie G. — September 28, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

  17. There’s a perfectly good way to measure that – the performance of the team’s other catchers. And there’s nothing like the effect you’re describing.

    To believe there’s only a five rund difference here means you think the net difference between them is ~20 steals. The actual difference is 50 steals. In other words, you’re arguing that SB/CS is 60% pitcher/40% catcher. That’s not a defensible position. History clearly shows that the catcher is the dominant variable in holding down the running game, not the pitcher.

    If your hypothesis was true, teams would have run wild on the Giants last year, and they’d have been much more successful. That is not what actually happened. Same thing this year when Posey isn’t catching. There’s no discernable difference.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — September 28, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

  18. baserunning?

    Comment by grant — September 28, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

  19. If you think Molina whines/cries, then you have been spoon fed that nonsense by your biased fanbase. Molina is a pro.

    Comment by John — September 28, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

  20. One more bonus for Molina’s MVP candidacy: he’s the only one of the 4 players who’s been “clutch” in higher leverage situations this season.

    While I wouldn’t use WPA for any evaluation of a player’s talent, I do think it should be a factor in MVP voting. Evaluating all season stats in context-neutral environments doesn’t do a great job of telling us who contributed the most value to the team that season.

    Molina’s 1.11 Clutch rating helps him close the WPA hitting gap with Posey/Braun (and almost draw completely even with McCutchen).

    Comment by todmod — September 28, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  21. not all 140 OPS+ seasons are the same. One guy did it with .280 batting average, ~35 homers and 100-120 RBI while the other is doing it with .320 batting average and maybe 22 homers.

    I don’t dispute that Molina is a top-3 MVP player this season. He’s great. But it just doesn’t logic out with me when I read…

    “we essentially have a modern day Johnny Bench this year”

    or

    “his overall performance is essentially a perfect match for any other season of Bench’s career”

    Comment by Doug B — September 28, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

  22. Inexplicably, Molina has double digit SB totals with a solid %. How he got here from a few years ago, nobody will know.

    Comment by A — September 28, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

  23. Molina also has 5 pickoffs this year. Another reason they don’t run on him very much.

    Comment by jj — September 28, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

  24. Who is the major recipient of Molina’s throws, 2B or SS?

    Comment by channelclemente — September 28, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

  25. “There’s a perfectly good way to measure that – the performance of the team’s other catchers.”

    It seems like that way of measuring could be flawed. Imagine that Molina’s backup is Ivan Rodriguez, and Posey’s backup is Mike Piazza. This method is going to tell you that Molina is average or possibly below average, while Posey is excellent.

    I don’t think you can definitely make the assumption that the Giants’ backup C is equally good/bad at controlling the running game as the Cardinals’ backup C.

    Comment by Mike — September 28, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

  26. this! i’m curious

    Comment by snoop LION — September 28, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

  27. Or as Sparky Anderson said in his unique syntax, “Don’t ever embarrass nobody by comparing them to Johnny Bench.”

    Comment by NeverJamToday — September 28, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

  28. I think a better way to measure “that” is with a stopwatch.

    Comment by NeverJamToday — September 28, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

  29. Other catchers who have won an MVP award:

    Joe Mauer, Twins (2010)
    Ivan Rodriguez, Rangers (1999)
    Thurman Munson, Yankees (1976)
    Johnny Bench, Reds (1972)
    Johnny Bench, Reds (1970)
    Elston Howard, Yankees (1963)
    Roy Campanella, Dodgers (1955)
    Yogi Berra, Yankees (1955)
    Yogi Berra, Yankees (1954)
    Roy Campanella, Dodgers (1953)
    Roy Campanella, Dodgers (1951)
    Yogi Berra, Yankees (1951)
    Ernie Lombardi, Reds (1938)
    Gabby Hartnett, Cubs (1935)
    Mickey Cochrane, Tigers (1934)
    Bob O’Farrell, Cardinals (1926)

    To answer my own question, we’ve never seen two catchers finish 1-2 in the MVP voting in either league, so Posey-Molina (which I have talked myself into thinking will happen this year) will be a first.

    Comment by Robbie G. — September 28, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

  30. Mr. Cameron, your assessment of Molina is incomplete. What you failed to mention (and this really is a huge part of his game), is the number of players Yadier picks off every season. Has Buster Posey ever caught someone napping at 1b? I doubt it. Molina on the other hand is already among the career leaders in runners pick off base. That’s a huge defensive play that literally stops rallies in their tracks. Look that up and you’ll see what I mean. When opposing teams play the Cards, their pre-game meetings for both position players and pitchers include briefings on the talents of Yadier Molina and how not to become one of his stats. Buster Posey only gets mentioned in the pitchers rundown.

    Comment by Wileyvet — September 28, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

  31. Every player in professional baseball is a pro. Some cry.

    Comment by BlackOps — September 28, 2012 @ 8:20 pm

  32. Great write-up Dave, thanks for the comparison.

    Comment by Hot Turd — September 28, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

  33. Molina’s CS% is even better when you compare success rates of base stealers today versus those of the past. He also, as Wileyvet mentioned, continues to pick off an incredible number of runners despite his reputation for doing so. Reliable defensive metrics are so woefully behind dependable offensive metrics, but chicks dig the long ball, right?

    T Plush’s own teammate and last year’s MVP, Ryan Braun, said no player impacts the game more than Yadier Molina. He is clearly the best catcher in the game. He squats; he frames; he lobbies; he calls pitches; he blocks potential wild pitches; he runs down the first-base line with all that gear on to back up throws or nab unsuspecting runners who take too wide of a turn. The catcher controls the defensive side of the game and that value has not yet been justly appreciated. It’s not hard to understand if you’ve played the game or know how to watch a game, yet numerous people who are otherwise brilliant (including many Hall of Fame votes) still don’t get it even though we supposedly live in an enlightened age of transparency through metrics.

    Comment by Earnest Seamhead — September 29, 2012 @ 12:27 am

  34. Molina will finish 5-6, sorry. Not saying he doesn’t deserve better.

    Comment by TKDC — September 29, 2012 @ 3:27 am

  35. DRaysbay thinks his brother is the Rays MVP! http://www.draysbay.com/2012/9/26/3411970/rays-2012-mvp-ben-zobrist-or-jose-molina

    Comment by LOL — September 29, 2012 @ 10:39 am

  36. @ Robbie G

    randomness, but…

    That 1934 MVP voting was ridiculous. Lou Gehrig that year had 11.5 WAR, .363/.465/.706, 49 HR, 165 RBI (led MLB in all those categories) and somehow finished 5th…

    Comment by big red machine — September 29, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

  37. Are you surprised by my tears, sir? Strong men also cry; strong men also cry.

    Comment by astrostl — September 29, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  38. OPS+?

    Comment by NS — September 29, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

  39. Molina doesn’t get enough credit for helping his pitchers out. Buster Posey is at least partially responsible for Tim Lincecum’s disastrous season, and that should be counted against him. CYA pitchers don’t suddenly become the worst in baseball for no reason, and Lincecum suffered in August 2010 with Posey as well.

    Comment by Bertolli Finish — September 29, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

  40. Molina’s season is very interesting in that after he signed his new contract, he’s having his best season.

    Also interesting that his new manager is a former cardinal catcher and that he was supposed to start declining at his age and position.

    It’s possible, amazingly given his past performance, that maybe Yadi is increasing the skill parts of his game while his athletic aspects are holding form.

    We all know I am Cards fan, but what the organization continues to do in the absence nationwide acclaim/respect (for the current FO, not the organization as a whole) is impressive. The FO continues to make good moves, and the chances they take (last year’s trade), Berkman, Beltran, Yadi, etc continue to pay off. Now, if we could just keep the big 3 SP’s all healthy at the same time while adding in the improved Lynn and Lohse, and the team could be very good … but in some regards that’s true of all teams.

    I didn;t get in on the L MVP discussion, but Miggy Cabrera is just damn impressive. No, he’s probably not the best choice for MVP, but still a very solid choice. The guy is a metronome for hitting excellence, both in statistics and mechanics.

    I agree with Tango that baseball is at its best when you can’t tell who is more valuable, the slugger or the speedster. This is where baseball is at presently, IMO … and it’s awesome. Granted we can “tell” somewhat by our advanced metrics, but when considering error bars around single data that requires them, it can be very fuzzy. It’s great for everyone when we have such wildly different players up for MVP consideration. Not so much fun when it’s just home run guys.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — September 29, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

  41. Partially responsible? Look at how many times Posey has caught Tim this year. Posey decreased his fastball speed? Holy shit you are a fucking idiot.

    Comment by qat — September 29, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

  42. Molina’s pitch framing and game calling are tailored to whatever pitcher he’s catching, but Posey always tries to impose his own style. Yadi is sensitive to the game environment and calls pitches that are still effective even when his pitcher is struggling.

    Molina’s skill with the entire staff is critically underrated, while Posey only catches 3/5 starters on the Giants rotation because two of those pitchers have a poor rapport with him, so much that those pitchers prefer replacement-level backups to him. Even considering the offense he brings.

    Comment by Bertolli Finish — September 29, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

  43. Pretty silly to spout off nonsense like that with no actual evidence to back it up. Nowhere has Zito or Lincecum said that they prefer Hector over Posey because it would be absolute nonsense to anyone who actually watches the games.

    Posey doesn’t catch 2/5th of the staff because Bochy chooses not to have him catch 2/5th of the staff. He’s coming back from a terrible injury and in order to keep him as healthy as possible Bochy chooses not to have him catch the two wildest pitchers on the staff. You should see the beating Hector Sanchez takes on balls in the dirt from Lincecum and Zito. Posey would be getting time at first no matter what because the Giants want to keep him healthy. It makes sense that Bochy would rest him against the same guys who beat up the catcher the most, especially since it allows Sanchez to get comfortable with two pitchers rather than sporadically catching all five.

    BTW Lincecum must have also hated throwing to Posey the second half of 2010 and the playoffs to right? Or in April and May of 2011? Ya, his rapport with Buster must just be terrible.

    Comment by Mike — September 30, 2012 @ 3:43 am

  44. dave cameron usually has such impeccable analyses. i guess that’s what makes the glaring flaw in this article so startling. re: assigning a percentage of “blame” between a catcher and pitcher for an opponent’s stolen base. the “lower bound” isn’t 50 for a catcher. it’s 0. the upper bound is 100. the number 50 was just pulled out of thin air. you need to know the pitcher’s delivery to plate time and the catcher’s glove-to-base time for EACH stolen base attempt. then you’re working with real numbers. and even then you’re leaving out a bunch of variables. (pitcher’s pick-off move quality. pitch type and location. catcher’s accuracy). sabermetrics have revolutionized our understanding of the game but they fail badly when it comes to measuring catchers’ defensive abilities. good defensive catching is like art and pornography: you know it when you see it. yadier molina is clearly the best defensive catcher in the league and is superior to buster posey when it comes to throwing out baserunners. but posey is far better at throwing out runners than his numbers suggest. the giants’ pitchers are the worst in the league at keeping runners at first honest. the reason buster’s backup doesn’t throw runners out at a lower clip is because he (hector sanchez) has a cannon for an arm too. you need to go back to 2010. bengie molina 23% CS. buster posey 37% CS.

    Comment by swing 4 the cove — September 30, 2012 @ 8:29 am

  45. Hi Dave. I’d buy that Molina is up to 10-12 runs better defensively than Posey. Where I think your comparison misses though is on the offensive side. You point to their batting runs adjusted for position to say there is <10 runs difference between them, but throw in park effects too and look at their Adjusted Batting Runs (from B-R.com):

    Posey 54
    McCutchen 53
    Braun 50
    Molina 29

    Even if you stretched the case for Molina's defense I don't see how it could make up the difference between Posey and Molina offensively once you give proper weight to the run scoring environment that each plays in. It's not that your overstating the difference between them defensively, it's that you're inevitably going to understate how much more Posey has contributed offensively if you don't take into account park effects also.

    Comment by ElJimador — September 30, 2012 @ 10:14 am

  46. Great article. I wrote a piece similar to this a week ago. I tried to quantify Molina’s incredible, out of this world defense, but you’ve done it quite well. Bench was the last catcher to win the MVP in the NL, and I agree, Molina has to be in top consideration. It’s too bad he probably won’t be given the true credit he deserves by the voters.

    Comment by Ben — September 30, 2012 @ 10:58 am

  47. http://summerpastime.blogspot.com/2012/09/senior-circuit-circus.html

    Comment by Ben — September 30, 2012 @ 10:59 am

  48. To be fair, Molina does rank 1st among catchers in steals since 2009. He has 33 over the last four seasons combined. He’s good at picking his spots to steal obviously.

    Comment by Michael — October 1, 2012 @ 2:04 am

  49. My thoughts exactly. I would be interested in seeing how many catchers have picked off players at first base. Molina seems to do it more than anyone else (seems to me, of course).

    Comment by TheUser — October 1, 2012 @ 8:57 am

  50. sorry… I guess around here it is wRC+.

    Comment by Doug B — October 1, 2012 @ 10:54 am

  51. Yeah the more I think about it the more unpersuaded I am by Dave’s assertion that “Catchers almost certainly have more than 50% influence on the running game. The pitcher is the minor variable, not the major one.” I don’t know what he’s basing that on but a look at the Giants’ starting pitchers this year seems to disprove the notion. Their stats from good to awful:

    Zito 8 SB / 7 CS in 178 IP = 53% SB%, attempt every 11.9 IP
    Vogelsong 10 SB / 9 CS in 185 IP = 53% SB%, attempt every 9.7 IP
    Cain 18 SB / 9 CS in 219 IP = 67% SB%, attempt every 8.1 IP
    Bumgarner 27 SB / 10 CS in 208 IP = 73% SB%, attempt every 5.6 IP
    Lincecum 25 SB / 2 CS in 186 IP = 93% CS%, attempt every 6.9 IP

    The surprise here is Bumgarner who does have a good balk move (4 of his 10 CS have been on pickoffs) and did a good job controlling the running game last year but who is very slow to release and who teams have now figured out is easy to steal on if runners guess correctly (or if as the Giants increasingly suspect, Bumgarner is somehow tipping them) when he’s going to home or first. In fact he’s so slow that he’s had at least 3 or 4 runners steal on him when he threw to first and the 1B couldn’t get the ball to second ahead of them either (usually Belt who is a former pitcher and has a great arm).

    So anyway, if the catcher is at least 50% responsible regardless of who’s on the mound then how would anyone explain such a wide variance between pitchers? If anything I’m inclined to believe it has a lot more to do with the pitcher than the catcher. Take another data point, the career SB/CS stats of Zito and Lincecum. Both have pitched to a number of catchers over the years and no matter who is behind the plate Zito has always been good at controlling the running game and Lincecum has always been bad at it. Now look at how Posey has done w/each vs. their career numbers:

    Zito 61% SB% (71% mlb ave), attempt every 10.6 IP
    w/Posey 43% SB%, attempt every 19.9 IP

    Lincecum 81% SB% (73% mlb ave), attempt every 7.9 IP
    w/Posey 81% SB%, attempt every 9.3 IP

    To me the evidence suggests that Posey is an above average thrower no matter who he’s catching but that randomly assigning 50%+ of the SB credit or blame to the catcher is misguided, and that you can’t just assume everything averages out across different pitching staffs either. I think we need a lot more data on the pitchers’ side here and until then attributing 50% of the run value of the SBs to the catcher is not just arbitrary but probably too high also.

    Comment by ElJimador — October 2, 2012 @ 10:45 am

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