Yadier Molina is Having a Johnny Bench Season

Yadier Molina has always been an amazing defensive catcher, but like most amazing defensive catchers, he hasn’t always been a very good hitter. In fact, for the first three years of his career, he was a pretty terrible hitter, and then he spent four years as an average-ish hitter before his breakout season last year. Well, we thought last year was his breakout season anyway. This year is Breakout 2.0, as Molina has put himself among not just the elite hitting catchers in the game, but has produced at a level that is outstanding for any position. And in the process, he’s having one of the best all-around catcher seasons in baseball history.

There have always been catchers who can hit but can’t throw, and throw but can’t hit, but there haven’t been many who have hit and thrown like Molina has this year. Below is a table of every season in Major League history where a catcher posted both a 140 wRC+ or better and threw out 45% or more of attempted base stealers.


Name Season PA wRC+ SB CS CS%
Joe Torre 1966 614 156 36 34 49%
Johnny Bench 1972 652 155 24 31 56%
Elston Howard 1961 482 149 20 20 50%
Johnny Bench 1970 671 144 32 30 48%
Darrell Porter 1979 679 144 64 57 47%
Ed Bailey 1956 446 144 30 25 45%
Yadier Molina 2012 541 143 38 34 47%
Carlton Fisk 1977 632 143 60 50 45%
Rick Wilkins 1993 500 142 66 56 46%
Johnny Bench 1975 605 142 32 27 46%
Johnny Bench 1974 708 141 37 35 49%
Gene Tenace 1979 582 141 42 38 48%

This is only the 12th time that combination has ever been achieved, and because Bench did it four times, Molina’s only the ninth different catcher to ever pull this off. While invoking Bench’s name might seem like heresy, the reality is that Molina’s 2012 season fits perfectly into Bench’s peak.

Using the custom leaderboards here on the site, we can put all of Molina and Bench’s individual seasons together on one page, then sort as we see fit. Between them, they’ve played in 26 different seasons – Molina’s 2012 ranks 1st in BA, 2nd in OBP, 6th in SLG, 5th in wOBA, and 3rd in wRC+. While Molina can’t quite keep up with what Bench did in 1972 — it might be the best catcher season of all time — his overall performance is essentially a perfect match for any other season of Bench’s career. This year, Yadier Molina is basically performing at Johnny Bench’s normal levels during the prime of his career.

Buster Posey is probably going to win the NL MVP award, and he’s a terrific candidate. Unlike in the AL, there is no real clear cut best player, and you can make strong, valid cases for Posey, Ryan Braun, or Andrew McCutchen. However, given that we know that catcher defense is still something of a black box, and all of the evidence available points to Molina being the best defensive catcher in the game, we shouldn’t overlook Molina as a legitimate contender for the award. He’s hit a little less than the others — though, he still ranks 5th in the NL in wRC+ — and played a little less than Posey, but it’s not that much of a stretch to believe that Molina could have made up the offensive gap with his defensive performance this year.

If you just look at Batting Runs, the totals for the four NL MVP contenders are:

Braun: +55.6
McCutchen: +48.6
Posey: +43.1
Molina: +30.8

Molina’s 25 runs behind Braun, 18 runs behind McCutchen, and 12 runs behind Posey as a hitter. We know that it’s much tougher to find a good hitting catcher than it is to find a good hitting outfielder, so Molina and Posey get a boost from the positional adjustment, while Braun takes a bit of a hit because of where he plays. Including Batting and Position together, the list changes.

McCutchen: +50.8
Posey: +49.1
Braun: +48.9
Molina: +40.3

Now the gap from top to bottom is only 10 runs, with the top three in a virtual tie and Molina lagging just a bit behind. UZR likes Braun’s defense more than McCutchen’s (relative to their peers, which we’ve already adjusted for), which is why he’s the NL leader in WAR, but of course there is some variance in single season defensive data, and Braun hasn’t historically been known as much of a glove guy. But, for us, the question is more along the lines of whether we think Molina could be as many as +10 runs better defensively than the three guys ahead of him.

I see no reason why we wouldn’t consider that a possibility. The range of defensive performance at other positions over significant periods of time has proven to be about +15 to -15, and there isn’t much reason to think that catcher defense matters less than, say, third base defense. If anything, we’d probably want to default to it mattering more, since they are also interacting with the pitcher on balls not in play. And, while we’re limited to currently measuring things like blocking pitches in the dirt and controlling the running game, we know Molina is amazing at those things.

The NL has averaged one stolen base attempt per 10 innings this year, and they’ve been successful 73.5% of the time. Against Molina, the league has averaged one stolen base attempt per 16 innings and been successful just 53 percent of the time. In other words, the only guys trying to steal against Molina are those who are really good at taking second base, and he’s still gunning them down at a league best rate. Meanwhile, runners have taken off against Posey once every eight innings and have been successful 70% of the time.

Pitchers have an affect on SB/CS as well, so maybe we don’t want to lay all of the blame for team’s aggression against SF on Posey, but he’s certainly not deterring the running game in any significant way, nor is he taking advantage of all those extra opportunities to create more outs for his team. Opponents have stolen 51 more bases off Posey than off Molina, and yet he only has two additional caught stealings.

Even if you only give each catcher half credit for the bases advanced and the outs they’ve created, you’re still looking at a net of 25 fewer stolen bases for Molina. The average run value of a steal is about +0.25 runs, so again, you’re looking at a minimum of a six runs difference. If you think the credit for SB/CS should be 100%, then you’re looking at a 12 run difference. In this one area, Molina makes up almost all of the offensive gap between he and Posey.

And it’s not much of a stretch to think that he’s probably better at other parts of catcher defense that we can’t easily measure as well. While Dave Duncan got most of the credit for being the guru who turned mediocre pitchers into aces, he’s been away from the team this year and Kyle Lohse has still put together the a ridiculously great season seemingly out of nowhere. Even without Chris Carpenter, and with Jaime Garcia missing a good chunk of the summer, the Cardinals pitching staff has still been one of the better groups in baseball. Molina is part of that, even if we don’t know exactly how much of that he’s caused.

I don’t have any problem with anyone deciding that they prefer Braun, McCutchen, or Posey for the MVP. They’re all great candidates. Let’s just not ignore the fact that we essentially have a modern day Johnny Bench this year, and Yadier Molina is a pretty great candidate himself.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


51 Responses to “Yadier Molina is Having a Johnny Bench Season”

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  1. Buck says:

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

    Cannot stand Molina’s constant crying

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    • Tony Plush says:

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

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      • Really Tony? says:

        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.

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    • BVHeck says:

      So confused.

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    • John says:

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

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    • astrostl says:

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

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  2. Jack says:

    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.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      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.

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      • ElJimador says:

        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.

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    • Tony says:

      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.

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      • Jack says:

        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.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        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.

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      • Mike says:

        “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.

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      • NeverJamToday says:

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

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    • Ty says:

      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.

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    • AK7007 says:

      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.

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  3. Anon says:

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

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  4. Stefan says:

    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

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  5. Robbie G. says:

    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

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    • Robbie G. says:

      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.

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      • TKDC says:

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

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      • big red machine says:

        @ 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…

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  6. grant says:

    baserunning?

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  7. todmod says:

    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).

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  8. Doug B says:

    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”

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  9. jj says:

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

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    • TheUser says:

      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).

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  10. channelclemente says:

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

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  11. Wileyvet says:

    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.

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  12. Hot Turd says:

    Great write-up Dave, thanks for the comparison.

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  13. Earnest Seamhead says:

    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.

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  14. Bertolli Finish says:

    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.

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    • qat says:

      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.

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      • Bertolli Finish says:

        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.

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      • Mike says:

        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.

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  15. CircleChange11 says:

    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.

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  16. swing 4 the cove says:

    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.

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    • ElJimador says:

      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.

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  17. Ben says:

    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.

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