It’s a bit of an odd time to write about baseball. Some trades are trickling in, but we’re about a week removed from the All Star Game. The ASG break is a great time to do some summaries, compare some first halves, look at some guys who may be surprising or disappointing. But there’s only been a handful of days since everyone submitted those stories, and very little has happened since, at least as far as big-picture stuff goes. It is for this reason, and many other selfish reasons, that I am now writing about husky guys stealing bases.
This actually started as a tweet from fellow FanGraphs-er Jason Collette. It’s a fairly innocuous thing on its own. The fact that Molina has only scored three runs is a bit of an oddity, but more on a “weird baseball” level — which I assume Jason was going for. The fact that he has three steals is even less of a big deal. Lots of dudes don’t have many steals. As of this writng, 64 players have less than 3 steals. It is slightly noteworthy that Jose Molina has as many steals as both Starlin Castro and Andrelton Simmons, but only because guys like Castro and Simmons are smaller young guys that look like they should be speedy. Conversely, Molina looks like he should not be speedy. That is, he’s 39 years old and rotund.
As I am forced to do so due to lack of options, I’m going to assume that Molina is 39 years old and weighs 250 lbs. Do “official” heights and weights differ from actual players sizes? Probably! Is it reasonable to assume that Molina is at least 250 lbs.? Quite! And as stat-friendly as the Rays are, I doubt they will let me carbon date Molina, so I’ll go with his official age of 39, as well. (Yes, I know carbon dating would be pointless as Molina is certainly not 60,000 years old. I’ll wait while you backspace through your comment.)
OK. So Molina is portly and old for a baseball player. Let’s deal with the first fact first. In the last 30 years, 66 players have had seasons in which they a.) weighed 250 lbs. or more and b.) stole three or more bases. Matt Holliday and Frank Thomas make the list, but they are a different kind of 250 lbs. aren’t they? Still, your David Ortizs, Yonder Alonsos, Adam Dunns, Prince Fielders and Carlos Lees make up most of the list. Sixty six isn’t a whole heck of a lot, all things considered. In fact, of all the players who logged three steals in a season during the same time, about 0.98% of them weighed 250 lbs. or more. A small sample, indeed.
GIF MACHINE, ACTIVATE!
7/22 (trail runner)
All of Molina’s steals come on two-strike counts, when the pitcher is theoretically paying the most attention to the batter. One happens on a double-steal. Two happen on pitches in the dirt. There’s a little bit of luck here, but there’s also the idea that Molina is picking his spots. I’m sure he knows just as well as you or I that he’s not built for speed per se. But that prejudice from the opposing pitcher allows him to sneak a steal in here and there. It may be safe to assume that Molina’s
roll role as a catcher provides him some hyper-insight into how pitchers work, though we can’t be quite sure who gave him the green light. Double steal calls usually come from the dugout, after all. Nevertheless, Molina is running on situations that play in his favor. Because of this, he has a 100% success rate. This adds him to a list of six other players from the last 30 years with big bones and a perfect steal rate.
There’s one other facet I mentioned earlier that makes Molina’s rate even more impressive, however. We know that carrying a heavier load makes stealing bases more difficult, but carrying a heavy load on 39-year-old knees makes it even harder. Here’s a list of all the players from the last 30 years who were at least 39 years old and weighed at least 250 lbs.
Hachi machi! Only one other guy makes this list, and he was pretty bad at stealing bases that season! If Molina never steals a base again, he’ll be the most successful jiggly and old base-stealer of the past three decades. I’m not sure what importance this carries, but it certainly is something. Right? I’m saying it’s something, at least.
Jose Molina is an interesting dude. He has two other brothers who also played catcher. He was the last catcher to throw out Rickey Henderson stealing. He’s a portly catcher nearing 40 years old who is excellent at framing pitches, doesn’t hit very well, and doesn’t look like he’s trying to run all that hard most of the time. Yet here he is — on pace to become the most successful base stealer in his age and body-type category in a long time. It’s only three steals, and all three likely have more to do with Joe Maddon and the Rays brain trust than with Molina specifically, but it’s something to ponder while we wait for the rest of the season to shake out. The Rays probably won’t be there at the end, but who knows? They are 19-7 since Molina stole his first base. Just saying.
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