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Yadier Molina is absolutely ridiculous

Sep 14, 2012, 8:52 AM EDT

yadier molina getty Getty Images

In an age where  everything is hyped to the nth degree, it’s hard to find something that can’t be overstated. But I’ll give you one candidate: Yadier Molina‘s defense.  Dude has been around for almost a decade now, and I feel like, while most people would agree that he’s the best defensive catcher in baseball, not everyone appreciates just how astoundingly good he is.

He put some of that astoundingly good on display last night.

In the bottom of the seventh, Don Mattingly put in Dee Gordon to pinch run for Luis Cruz after Cruz reached on an error. Mattingly has probably had his team run too damn much lately — Matt Kemp was gunned down by Molina in the fourth inning, and the Dodgers had been unsuccessful on their three previous stolen base attempts before that —  but in a close game where runs were hard to come by, it wasn’t totally crazy to have one of baseball’s fastest men try to swipe second.

Gordon actually got a pretty good jump too. But Yadier Molina made what is one of the most fantastic throws you will ever see and nailed him cold. Here’s the GIF, via FanGraphs:


Just sick, really. Absolutely sick.  Look how quick he releases that ball.  Look how tight that thing is to the ground in flight compared to what you see from most other catchers.  And look how hard he throws it, too. It has the same kind of movement you see on a fastball from some assassin closer or something. I’d love to see a radar gun reading of that throw.

Yadier friggin’ Molina, kids. Yadier friggin’ Molina.

  1. redbirdfan81 - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    Yes, our beloved Yadi is a stud & a clutch hitter to boot! What a laser to 2B and the tag was high, but the ball beat the runner by so much. Amazing! If he’s not HOF material as a defensive catcher, I don’t know what is. He’s better than Jim Sundberg of the 1970s and he hits too.

  2. yahmule - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    Thanks for linking this, Craig. That was an amazing play even by Molina’s standards.

    • Ryan - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:04 AM

      A *seriously* amazing play.

      And a radar gun would be way better, but some back-of-the-envelope math suggests he threw it around 85 mph.

      distance from home to 2nd base: ~127 feet; the throw was caught a little short and off of 2nd, so ~125 feet
      timing with a crappy cellphone stopwatch: ~1.0 seconds from release to catch
      125 feet/second = 85 mph

      A lot of potential error in the timing measurement, but mid-eighties is probably about right. I wonder any catchers can throw any harder?

      • dan1111 - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM

        It’s even more impressive when you consider that pitch speed is measured at the release point. 85 mph average over that distance is at least a low 90s fastball.

      • cur68 - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:51 AM

        Motte: that’s why he’s a pitcher these days.

      • townballblog - Sep 14, 2012 at 2:01 PM

        Dan1111: Excellent point! Even more though, if you look at pitch track (let’s MLB at Bat app or something similar), a fastball released at ~92mph will reach home plate at ~86mph or so; that’s 60 feet. SO, for a ball to get there in the mid-80s, traveling a distance of over 125 feet, oh man! At least upper 90’s

        Also, and sorry if someone else already mentioned this…THE PITCH WAS AN 87MPH CHANGEUP!!!!!

  3. number42is1 - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    does this make up for the choke?

    • dcfan4life - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:33 AM

      Different writer, different outlook on Yadier…

      • townballblog - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        Yeah, but it’s the same audience :)

  4. stex52 - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Smartest dealing by any team last winter goes to St. Louis. Let Albert walk for 240 MM$. Sign up Yadier for six years for 79 MM$. Albert is great, but you lock up the best catcher in the MLB for his prime years and have a little spare change left over to do other things.

    • blues1988 - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:13 AM

      not to mention the wonders he does for pitchers. he’s great at calling pitches, knows how to calm a frazzled pitcher down and they are never scared to throw a nasty curve ball in the dirt because they know it won’t get past him.

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:28 AM

      No doubt Suzie. TLR was in the booth during a game earlier in the year and they asked for his thoughts on A.P. going to the Angels. He said they really wanted to lock him up but just couldn’t get it done. He said more so however, the player currently in the batters box at that time was the player (over all others) they could least afford to lose. That player was Yadi. & he promptly singles on cue. With Yadi on 1st they pan back to the booth and the pitcher throws his pitch.
      You see/hear TLR laughing and they pan back to the field and Molina is standing on 2nd (after swiping the bag). TLR said he is the smartest, most instinctive player he has ever managed.
      With the way he handles the pitchers, the situations, the defense…
      And when he’s on base you better not go to sleep cause ‘ he will even steal you 10 – 15 bags a year!

      • stex52 - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:08 AM

        My favorite player on any team is usually the catcher. Those guys have to do so much right or the whole team suffers. It’s hard to overvalue the contribution of an elite catcher.

  5. natslady - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    That is fantastic. Every catcher should watch it about 1,000 times.

  6. whodeytn - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:10 AM


  7. maynardstool - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    Huh. And here I thought he sucked because he has a neck tattoo. Huh, I’ll be damned

    • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:18 AM

      No, but his neck tattoos definitely suck.

      • stlouis1baseball - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:18 AM

        Not a tattoo fan at all (regardless of where they are located).
        I realize I am in the minority with this as it has been the trendy thing to do for the last 10+ years or so.
        But something I am curious about…
        What are your thoughts on Prince Fielders neck tattoos? Does his suck?
        Strangely, I don’t ever hear anyone mention his.

  8. koufaxmitzvah - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    That throw knocked my optimism on its ass. Heartwrenching.

    To pick on one of Craig’s point, I don’t think the Dodgers are running nearly enough. Granted, I can do without Hanley thinking he can swipe 3rd with no outs in the 9th and a left handed batter at the plate, but Gordon and Kemp (and Hanley, for that matter) should be trying to mix things up on the basepaths. Hit-and-run, run-and-hit. The lineup has been failing in station-to-station ball most of the second half this year. You got to mix it up, and if an amazing throw ends the inning, then just go out there and try to do better next time.

  9. maynardstool - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    So do Chip Carays eyebrows.

  10. baseballisboring - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    He’s not quite the beacon of physical perfection and athleticism that his brothers Jose and Bengie are, but a nifty little player nonetheless.

    • cur68 - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      I claimed him as my Faux Brother some time ago. For this irony laden insult to my family I shall have to fight you. Choose your weapons from the tools of ignorance, sir, and prepare to take a beating.

  11. RickyB - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    Awesome throw without a doubt. However, Dee Gordon made a ridiculously bad slide. His entire body is inside second base toward home plate, making the tag very simple. If he slides to the outside corner of the bag, it would be a much tougher tag, especially since the fielder caught the ball well in front of the bag.

    • danaking - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      Gordon also hits the bag with the wrong foot. His left foot might have beat the tag, but it was above the base. It’s a bang-bang play either way. be nice to see it on a super slo-mo.

  12. saints97 - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    He’s the best defensive catcher ever, and it’s not particularly close.

    • danaking - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:30 AM

      Molina is great, no question, but anyone who has seen Johnny Bench play sets an awfully high bar for greatest ever.

      • stex52 - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:50 AM

        It is in no way a slight to Molina to say that Bench was more likely the best ever. Molina is great. Bench was from another world.

      • stex52 - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:54 AM

        And I forgot Pudge in the last note. Greatest ever is tough in any case. I might still say Bench, but Pudge in his prime was unbelievable, too.

      • paperlions - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:47 PM

        It is tough to compare a 70s catcher to a 00s catcher. Pitchers seem to throw a lot more stuff in the dirt these days with the smaller parks, larger/stronger players, and focus on keeping the ball down, more diving hard cutters, sliders, and splitters (which didn’t exist when Bench caught). Both Bench and Yadi were/are among the best at blocking preventing WP/PB, but not necessarily THE best. Both were/are the best at controlling the running game during their eras, but the eras are very different, teams now understand that losing a runner on the bases has a big cost and success rates need to be pretty high for SBs to be worth while, so….in general, only the better base stealers are running…previously, anyone that was kind of fast ran, with the fastest guys running more….but SB success rates of 60% weren’t considered bad back then.

        Seems to me that both guys had/have elite combination of catcher skills within the context of their eras and arguing about who was “best” is an exercise in futility….both were/are great defensive catchers, that’s should be good enough.

      • bbk1000 - Sep 14, 2012 at 2:23 PM

        Didn’t Johnny Bench once say “if Jerry Grote was on my team, I’d be playing third base.”?

      • chuckleberry1974 - Sep 14, 2012 at 6:05 PM

        Paperlions, those pitches certainly did exist when Bench caught. Players like Bruce Sutter lived in the dirt with his split-fingered fastball, which he was using when he was with the Cubs in 1976 and after. He in fact learned it in 1974 in the minors. Other players of his era definitely used it as well. Plus, the good old fashioned curveball in the dirt was a staple for pitchers back then to get strikeouts. Bert Blyleven, Steve Trout, Steve Carlton…all had devastating curveballs that were in the dirt.

    • yahmule - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      Bench probably was more influential in his catching style than anybody who came before him. Hiding the bare hand behind his knee spared him the broken fingers associated with the position and was quickly adopted by his peers. No longer would shaking hands with an old catcher be like reaching into a bag of peanuts. I would say that Jim Sundberg might have enjoyed a longer period of sustained excellence as a defensive catcher.

      • chuckleberry1974 - Sep 14, 2012 at 5:56 PM

        Bill Dickey did it, and then when he was coaching with the Yankees, he taught Yogi Berra to do it. The hiding of the hand was well before Johnny Bench. Nothing against Bench, obviously.

    • scatterbrian - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM

      Best defensive catcher in the era of animated gifs? Sure, I’ll give you that.

  13. maynardstool - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    And he’s quickly becoming a really good hitter. He’s been one of the better guys in the clutch as well. (No matter what that little stat dweeb Matthew thinks)

    • Jeremy Fox - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      Let me fix that for you: (No matter what massive piles of data say)

      “Hitting” is a repeatable skill. “Consistently hitting better in ‘the clutch’ than I do at other times” is not.

    • schlom - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:26 PM

      Yes, all awesome clutch hitters bunt a runner over to third with no one out. That’s selfless baseball!

  14. pinkymartens - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    Lol aints97….you need a history lesson. For one,look at Ivan Rodriguez defensive stats for his career. Not only did he have a cannon arm but he called a great game and won 13 gold gloves. He also turned into an offensive machine. Give Molina a few more years before even attempting a statement like that. It’s like calling the Saints a dynasty after one Bowl.

  15. pinkymartens - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Yep. Bench was a stud.

  16. pinkymartens - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    Bench,Carter,Campanella… name a few.Bench and Pudge are my two favorites.

    • cur68 - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM

      Carter, baby. Carter.

  17. illadelphiasphinest - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    Wanna see somthing sick .gif Erik Kratz throwing out Jordan Schafer(hes fast) from his knees last night. Now that is sick!!

  18. moogro - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    The quick release is awesome. Instead of directing the throw with the fingers and throwing through the ball, he saves time and maintains power by letting it roll off the fingers and accounting for the left to right curve. School in session.

  19. rs2driver - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    Nice…not thrilling, but nice. Nice =J. Bench,I. Rodriguez,J.Sundberg,Benito Santiago smoking dudes like this from his knees! and Rick Dempsey’s snap thows nailing guys at THIRD base

    • chuckleberry1974 - Sep 14, 2012 at 5:58 PM

      Tony Peña could throw from any position as well.

  20. Nick C - Sep 14, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    So I’ve seen alot of names thrown around in here for catchers who may/may not be better than Molina. I decided to look at something to illustrate how much he affects the game. As a Cardinals fan I have seen the vast majority of Molina’s games for his career and one thing sticks out…very few basestealers even attempt to steal against him. This lack of attempts says more to me than CS% because it shows just how intimidated baserunners are. So after some digging around on BBREF I came up with a formula to determine how the rate of attempts against a catcher. The formula is SB+CS/SBO. SBO is the number of times a runner was on 1st or 2nd with the next base unoccupied. Here are the rates that I came up with for selected catchers:

    Johnny Bench: 4.8%
    Benito Santiago: 6.1%
    Pudge Rodriguez: 4.3% (4.5% up to age 30)
    Brian McCann: 6.5%
    Carlos Ruiz: 6.1%
    Russell Martin: 6.2%
    Joe Mauer: 4.5%
    Matt Wieters: 5.2%
    Buster Posey: 7.7%!

    Yadier Molina: 3.5% (the fear!)

    • roadwearyaaron - Sep 14, 2012 at 7:10 PM

      Interesting numbers for current and recent players, but the different eras make it a slightly unfair comparison between Molina and Bench. League-wide stolen base attempts were higher during many of Bench’s seasons when compared to current numbers. Take these percentages with respect to league average and it might be a slightly more fair comparison.

      But that would take more work than I’m willing to do on a Friday evening. Interesting post, nonetheless.

      • Nick C - Sep 14, 2012 at 10:25 PM

        I dont disagree. This was a crude attempt at comparison but I do believe it has some value. I mostly picked catchers who are Molina’s contemporaries for just this reason. But I thought I’d throw Bench in there because he’s widely considered the best ever.

    • opshuns - Sep 14, 2012 at 7:23 PM

      No offense, but any catcher with the Giants is in trouble. Cain is the ONLY one with a quick enough delivery to have a chance at base stealers.

  21. chuckleberry1974 - Sep 14, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    There’s really not much rhyme or reason to it other than the early 80’s Cubs being my favorite collection of players ever, but I always loved Jody Davis at catcher. I mean, when Harry Caray sings a song about you to the tune of Davy Crockett and substitutes your name, that’s a pretty special guy. That 84 team also had the Daily Double of Bob Dernier and Ryne Sandberg at the top of the order.

  22. chuckleberry1974 - Sep 14, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    And while I’m thinking about, the Molina throw was no doubt a great throw. We have seen Matt Weiters make throws like that the last 2 years. I know they’re different players, but Matt Weiters is a great.

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