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Jose Molina can’t hit, but he sure can frame pitches

Nov 13, 2012, 10:51 AM EDT

jose molina getty Getty Images

On the surface Jose Molina had a pretty ugly season for Tampa Bay, hitting just .223 with a .640 OPS in 274 plate appearances and throwing out a good but not great 33 percent of stolen base attempts.

However, he also spent 710 innings behind the plate catching what was the best pitching staff in the American League and his pitch-calling skills lived up to the hype after offseason research pegged him as the best receiver in baseball.

Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus broke down the numbers and then took things a step further, finding specific video evidence of Molina coaxing strike calls out of umpires on pitches that were clearly outside the strike zone.

It’s a great blend of stats and observation, so check it out: “The 50-Run Receiver”

  1. paperlions - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    Batter reaction: Clay Davis. :-D

  2. heyzeus143 - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    Sounds like a future pirate

    • proudlycanadian - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      He is a pirate behind the plate.

  3. manute - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    If you’re really interested in pitch-framing, (1) you are a massive baseball nerd and (2) you should definitely check out Mike Fast’s original article on the subject. Lindbergh mentions Fast, but just barely…

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15093

    • js20011041 - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      I thought Mike Fast’s original article was facinating. Pitch framing just isn’t something you pay much attention to, but if just watch a couple of catchers and then watch Molina, you develop an incredible amount of respect for his skill. Most catchers kind of jerk their glove back into the strike zone when they catch the ball, but Molina’s framing is incredibly smooth. You can definitely see why he gets calls that he shouldn’t.

      • indaburg - Nov 13, 2012 at 12:00 PM

        I watch a lot of Rays baseball, and I can’t tell you how many times I muttered while Molina was catching, “That was a strike? Cool.” I’m glad someone quantified that it just wasn’t all in my head. While some fans would rage on sports radio about Molina’s hitting, I greatly appreciate his frame pitching and managing of our young pitching staff. For our budget, he’s a steal.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 13, 2012 at 12:23 PM

        Most catchers kind of jerk their glove back into the strike zone when they catch the ball, but Molina’s framing is incredibly smooth.

        If you watched the Det/NYY series, the above was on prime display in the Pettitte/Fister matchup. Russell Martin is one of the best behind the plate vs the Tiger’s catcher who was awful at receiving. A few of us on this site were discussing whether that was having an affect on the borderline ball/strike calls.

  4. steve7921 - Nov 13, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    Molina might have been good at framing pitches but because he concentrates so much on framing pitches, he is in a poor position at blocking balls in the dirt had wild pitches/passed balls on pitches that he should have caught but because he was trying to frame but the ball simply glanced off his glove.

    Molina is a case of would you rather have a guy who is the best at framing pitches but average at best at the other catching fundamentals vs. a guy who is can block balls in the dirt but isn’t great at framing pitches. A debate that has no right or wrong answer!

  5. cur68 - Nov 13, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    A proud day for my Faux Bro. I do note that cheap “roll” joke on the linked article. Don’t make fun of my faux-family. I, cur “el Gaucho” Molina68, will duel you to the death to defend my family’s honour. You have been warned.

  6. Mark - Nov 13, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    One of the things I’d like to see when it comes to pitch framing is how many strikes/runs they added/saved compared to the average or even replacement level defender. At first glance saving 50 runs sounds pretty impressive. However it sounds a bit unrealistic, and I think part of that is because we don’t know how many additional runs Molina saved compared to the typical catcher.

    For instance, if the typical catcher had saved 40 runs, then Molina saving 50 runs over this period wouldn’t be that significant. Especially given his poor blocking skills. So I would be interested in seeing them further this research to see how many runs Molina has saved during this time compared to the average catcher.

    Cause the article simply adds 50 defensive runs to Molina and says he’d be a 5 WAR guy, which is something you can’t really do.

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