Fun with Small Sample Sizes: Catchers’ ERA


Last night, while Twittering about the game, Ross from New Stadium Insider posed the following question:

Can someone get the following stat for me: Yankee pitcher’s ERA with Posada behind the plate (and # of innings) vs. when Molina catches?

Always up for a run through Baseball Reference, I obliged. The findings were not pretty. Counting last night’s game, Jorge Posada has caught 105 innings, and Yankee pitchers have a 7.97 ERA in those innings.

There is one caveat though. Posada has caught all six of Chien-Ming Wang‘s innings. Since Wang has been epically bad, it’s not fair to Jorge to saddle him with those runs. So Jorge has caught 99 non-Wang innings and has seen his pitchers surrendered 70 runs. That’s an ERA of 6.36.

On the other side of the ball is Jose Molina. The Yanks’ defensive specialist has caught 58.1 innings this year, and pitchers are throwing to the tune of a 3.09 ERA. That’s a rather stark difference.

Now, these numbers suffer from an obvious sample size problem. Jorge’s 100 innings are far to small a sample to judge his catching, and Jose’s numbers in fewer innings are equally as suspect.

Right now, though, with the Yanks’ pitchers going as they’ve been going, it’s hard not to notice the difference. Pitching to Jorge Posada, the Yanks’ staff has been absolutely horrible; pitching to Jose Molina, the Yanks have among the best ERA in baseball.

What this means right now for the Yankees is nothing. The Yanks need Jorge’s bat in the line up, but they also need him to draw some semblance of success out of his pitchers. For now, is too early to draw any conclusions, but this is certainly a trend worth watching.

Categories : Analysis


  1. Joe R says:

    Was it Jorge’s first game with Burnett in Boston? A coincidence that he crushes Boston in his career and then gets bombed his first start with Jorge/against Boston w/Yankees?

  2. giselle says:

    i want molina to catch hughes on tuesday, just in case.

  3. Chris says:

    I wonder if Jorge’s late start catching because of the surgery has caused him to be slow to learn the new pitchers. CC and Burnett are obviously new to Jorge, but I don’t know if Jorge has ever caught Joba as a starter. In contrast, he’s caught 3 of Andy’s first 4 starts and all of them were pretty good.

    • andrew says:

      I think the difference may be that more teams are running on Jorge. There have been 19 steal attempts against Posada this year, 12 have been successful. In half as many innings, teams have only attempted to steal 5 bases off Molina, 3 of whom were successful. There CS% may be comparable, but the pure number of steals has probably cost the yankees a few more runs when Posada has been catching.

        • andrew says:

          Wow, good find. Well, I certainly can’t argue with that, but I will say this…

          The best way to stop the opposing team from scoring is to avoid putting runners on base in the first place

          So yea, good pitching is more important than a good arm, but at this point in the season, when the pitchers have not shown the ability to keep the runners off the base paths (yet), i think arm strength may be a major contributing factor to the disparity in catcher ERA’s (thus far). Assuming the pitchers begin to step up and do their jobs, then I agree that having Posada behind the plate as compared to Molina will have a negligible difference.

  4. Accent Shallow says:

    I’d be extremely surprised to learn anything valuable from catcher’s ERA.

    Still, something to think about.

  5. jsbrendog says:

    if we had an actual cf, a healthy arod and a bum kneed matsui we could have molina do a majority of catching and have jorge dh.

    youd have

    jeter ss
    damon lf
    arod 3b
    tex 1b
    jorge dh
    swisher rf
    cano 2b
    insert real cf here cf
    jo-mo c

    and with only one “automatic out” that owuld make it more than wort it with his plus defense.

    • jsbrendog says:

      only problem with this what if is if i had a snout and a tail id be a pig. so thats where the what if gets me. oh well.

    • Hmmm… so, what you’re saying is, if we trade some non-prospects for the valuable, proven, quality big league bat of Mike Cameron, we can run the following lineup out there and only have one real hole in the lineup (a hole that is mitigated by his superior defense and ability to shut down a running game?)

      1-SS Jeter (R)
      2-LF Damon (L)
      3-1B Tex (S)
      4-3B ARod (R)
      5-DH Posada (S)
      6-RF Swisher (S)
      7-2B Cano (L)
      8-C Molina (R)
      9-CF Cameron (R)

      UTI Pena (R)
      UTI Berroa (R)
      4th OF Melky or Gardner (S/L)
      Pinch Hitter Matsui (L)

      Sounds like a plan to me…

      • Expired Milk says:

        I agree. I thought we could get by with Gardner/Melky as the starting CF, but I cannot watch the black hole that is the Yankees 7-9 anymore. Cameron gives the Yankees a above average bat at the bottom with quality defense.


        • Chris says:

          I can’t stand Melky’s team leading 1.045 OPS either.

          Seriously, if you’re jumping to conclusions after 18 games, at least make sure the information from those games back you up.

          • andrew says:

            Agreed. Gardner has been part of that black hole, and as much as we love to hate Melky around here, he hasn’t been part of the problem thus far. He might be at some point, but 18 games in, he’s been a relatively bright spot.

            • I’m not going to shit on Melky, because he’s done nothing wrong and everything right thus far this season. But, I’m also not going to pass on the idea of acquiring Mike Cameron based on Melky’s great OPS in 37 measly plate appearances.

              Just like I can’t get too low about the pitching staff underperforming because I know they’re likely to improve to their mean, I can’t get too high on Melky because he’s bound to regress to his mean.

          • Expired Milk says:

            Because what exactly gives you the impression that he will sustain that over a long period?

      • Steve in MN says:

        $13 million pinch hitter?

      • Tom Zig says:

        This is one of those smart ideas that goes against sentimentality.

        However, how would we be able to convince Jorge that this was for the betterment of the team?

        • jsbrendog says:

          give him hios next check with the signature of the person who signed it highlighted and bolded and underlined…maybe then he’ll get the point

      • id sign up for that in a heartbeat

      • Tom Zig says:

        That’s only 3.5 white guys in our starting line up though.

        Boston has us really beat in that category.

    • anonymous says:

      Molina cant catch every day. Remember last year when he broke down?

      Im sorry I dont buy into the ‘I worked out extra this offseason’

      Molina cant handle it. His defense suffers when he gets overworked.

      • andrew says:

        This lineup doesn’t require Molina to catch 6 days a week and have Posada DH every game. Molina could catch 4 games a week, Posada could get 2, and that would allow us to get Matsui at bats as well.

        • Exactly. Instead of splitting the DH and C positions like we are now, with:

          C: Posada 80% Molina 20%
          DH: Matsui 80% Posada 20%

          we could switch to something like

          C: Molina 70% Posada 30%
          DH: Posada 70% Matsui 30%

          So all you’re really doing is limiting Posada’s time behing the plate and playing Molina more at the expense of Matsui. Which sounds like a massive bat downgrade (and it is) but it’s mitigated by the double bonus of making a huge positive swing on the defensive side and by limiting the injury exposure of both Posada and Matsui.

          • Drew says:

            Matsui is finally getting his Godzilla on, why do you want to take him out of the lineup!?

            • Well, this is just a theory in the abstract. I was at the draft all weekend and hence, didn’t see Hideki or the Yanks vs. Boston.

              I do think Hideki will play well and continue to get his Godzilla on. I think, though, that limiting his exposure is a good thing, because he just breaks down a lot. But yeah, Posada should probably get more than 30% of the DH bats. Let’s change those percentages.

              Say we have 730 plate appearances each for the C and DH spots (about 4.5 PA’s a game * 162 games = 729). The Catcher spot is all that matters, since anybody can play DH. What about:

              C: 430 plate appearances for Molina (about 95 games behind the plate), 300 plate appearances for Posada (about 66 games behind the plate)
              DH: that leaves 96 games for Posada at DH (162-66) but since he won’t play every day, let’s round down to about 88 (8 days off for the year). That leaves 74 DH games for Hideki, which is 333 plate appearances.

              Molina: 95 games C, roughly 430 plate appearances
              Hideki: 74 games at DH, roughly 333 plate appearances
              Posada: 66 games at C and 88 games at DH (154 total), roughly 685-695 plate appearances total

              Is that a bad scenario, would you say?

              • Drew says:

                That’s not a bad scenario.
                Robbie (alternate Rob and Swish as you like)
                That would be great, however, under our current roster, I think we need to flipflop those 95 games for Molina to Posada. Hence, the bottom would be Jorge, Matsui then Melk/Brett.

      • Molina pulled his hamstring sliding into the plate. That could be related to overuse, or it could be totally unrelated to anything and just a happenstance.

        In any event, it’s the only time I can remember him being on the DL. If you’ve got other examples of him wearing down from overuse, let’s hear them.

  6. Jamal G. says:

    You know, I’ve never much liked this stat. For one, I put more stake into FIP and tRA, but putting any kind of runs allowed statistic on a catcher just leaves a bit too much undefined. Also, pitches who suck are going to get bad results more often than not, and pitchers who are awesome are going to get favorable results more often than not. Jorge Posada is not going to make Zack Greinke into a league-average pitcher, nor is The Heart of the Nation going to do the same for Quad-A pitchers.

    I don’t know, a catcher’s ERA leaves too much undefined to put much stake into it, sample size be damned.

    • jsbrendog says:

      obv youre on drugs because varitek has all the intangibles to make hideki irabu a front line starter again

      • jsbrendog says:

        sorry, check that, a front line starter for the first time ever in the US (and again if we are discussing japan)

  7. Ross says:

    When I “tweet” (UGH I DESPISE THAT WORD) people listen!?!

    Solid work as always, Ben.

  8. Farva says:

    This one’s a stretch. You do forget Posada was a starting catcher for SOME VERY GOOD TEAMS.

    So far – Wang – a disaster
    CC – slow starter
    Burnett – one bad start
    Pettitte – rock solid
    Joba – inconsistent

    Can’t pin ALL THAT ON POSADA

    • andrew says:

      Well, while we can’t pin it ALL on Posada, when Jorge was a starting catcher for some very good teams, he also had an arm (not a great arm, but definitely not a post-op arm) and i think that may be one of the contributing factors.

      • Ed says:

        Posada had his first shoulder surgery back in 2001. It’s been a long time since he’s had a fully healthy, non-operated on shoulder.

  9. Someone on WFAN brought up a point that it seems that the other teams know what pitch is coming the 2nd and 3rd time through the order.

    anyone agree with that?

  10. Bo says:

    Another useless stat.

  11. VJ says:

    Last year Mussina had his best year as a Yankee and he gave most of the credit to Molina.

  12. Bob Stone says:

    I am very long standing Posada fan but I commented on Saturday that I didn’t care for the way Posada was calling games and was skewered by other commenters.

  13. JobaWockeeZ says:

    And Burnett’s first bad outing was the first time Posada caught him. Especially in that grand slam inning with all those cuveballs being pitched.

  14. Ivan says:

    Well those stats don’t really hold much water especially since their small sample sizes.

    Sure Molina might be a better defender and probably better at calling pitches but overall it’s really not a bad deal. At the end of the day it’s pitchers exucuting pitches and right now overall the yankee pitchers especiallt out of the bullpen have not done that period.

    By the way, luv watching Melancon last night.

    Also, im comming off the computer DL very soon lol.

  15. Spaceman.Spiff says:

    Okay, here’s the plan. Hire the best plastic surgeon team money can buy and extensive cosmetic surgery Molina to look exactly like Posada. Tell the world that Jose Molina was kidnapped by pirates and cash in on pirate insurance. Then you dress both catchers in the number 20 and have them play their strong side of the game. When suspicions arise, deny, deny, deny.

    • Spaceman.Spiff says:

      Or, custom-make a catcher’s mask for Jorge. Trick it out with advanced communications devices concealed very discreetly so that no one notices. Stick Molina in the locker room with a headset and a TV. Also give him a laptop with advanced scouting and statistical tendencies loaded for each opponent. Have Molina call the game from the locker room like a defensive coordinator. When a Yankee leaves and goes to the Red Sox and exposes our practices, win 162 regular season games by 12 runs per game. However, don’t get surprised by the underdog and lose at the end and actually complete the perfect season. Easy.

    • I heard that torpedo hit the hull, and you were never here, Spiff…

  16. Yanks Fan says:

    I can’t imagine Molina’s pitch calling is that superior to Posada’s. Don’t these catchers sit in the same meetings and go over the same scouting reports?

  17. Posada’s never been known as a great game caller, but there is no arguing with his bat.

    I suspect when A-Rod and possibly Nady return that we will see Molina catching a lot more, since the Yankees will be able to afford to carry his bat.

  18. Drew says:

    Did Jorge groove that fast ball to Varitek on the Grandslam? Did Jorge hang that fastball that Albie threw that was belt high to Lowell? Jorge is our catcher and bottom line, if the pitcher makes the pitch, the results should be good. When Molina catches, everyone complains that he never gets a hit, now people are saying he is a better option than Jorge. I don’t get it, if Jorge doesn’t catch these guys now, how will he ever get a comfort level with them? Also, he’s caught 3 of Andy’s games, all of which were “called” well.

  19. A.D. says:

    Whats Posada’s career catchers ERA?

  20. Kevin G. says:

    Somebody said on here that they want to find away to fuse Posada and Molina to make a catcher with a bat and a glove.

  21. Joey H says:

    Bottom line, Posada calls a terrible game. I’ve been saying this for a while now. Just look how many curve balls he put down for AJ on Saturday.

    • Drew says:

      Okay so what’s your solution?

      • Joey H says:

        Just because there is a problem doesn’t mean there is an immediate solution.

        • Drew says:

          I agree, I mean he’s our catcher, do we really want Molina at the bottom of our lineup? He not only is a black hole, the rare amount of times he gets on, he clogs up the bases for the top of our lineup. I just feel like saying he calls a terrible game is somewhat arbitrary. Until we get our next catcher, be it Montero in 4 years or Mauer in two years, we have to go with what we’ve got.

          • Until we get our next catcher…we have to go with what we’ve got.

            And, playing Molina more at C, Hideki less at DH, and moving Posada’s bat from primary C to primary DH would be “going with what we’ve got, wouldn’t it?

            If the defensive upgrade of Molina over Posada at catcher is equal to the offensive downgrade of Matsui to Molina, then isn’t playing Molina more and Matsui less (and thus, playing Posada less at C and more at DH) a good solution?

            Because it’s quite possible that the defensive upgrade is big. As big as the downgrade. If, offense + defense it’s a wash, it’s worth it for the health benefits alone, I’d say.

            • Drew says:

              Well in staying with what we’ve got, I think Matsui has the potential to hit .300 and drive in runs. I don’t think it’s reasonable for him to be on the bench for 80 games just to be a pinch hitter. We all love what Molina can do, he does call a great game and his defense is invaluable.
              I mean, Matsui has looked good since his knee was drained, if he can return to what he’s been while healthy, I don’t see why he’d be on the bench. After all, Jorge isn’t a horrible catcher when the pitcher puts the ball where he’s supposed to.

          • Tom Zig says:

            that’s why you bat Molina 8th. It’s like batting the pitcher 8th in the NL.

    • The only problem with that argument, Joey, is that it holds no water. Burnett threw 33 percent curve balls on Saturday and — get this — 31.5 percent curve balls in his last start. That’s a statistically insignificant difference.

      • Drew says:

        Plus, I believe the GS was a 92 mph heater.

      • Joey H says:

        I think that it was more or less where he was throwing it. He was throwing it a little too early in the count. I get if you want to throw a first pitch get me over curve ball but he was throwing it pitch after pitch after pitch. So statistics aside, it was where he was throwing it compared to how many times.

    • B.George says:

      I think Posada calls for curveballs in terrible situations……prime example is Opening day when he had Sabathia throw 6 curves ina row….idc how bad his fastball is you never ever ever abandon your fastball as a starting pitcher

      • Drew says:

        Opening day he couldn’t throw the fastball over the plate and there was no giddy up on it. Obviously 6 in a row was kind of crazy but there was a method to his madness.

  22. guy says:

    well… a more interesting way to analyze the data (rather than a bulk comparison across all pitchers), would be to compare innings caught with the same pitcher. posada vs molina over innings within pitchers. this would shrink the sample size further; but, probably better comparison.

    not sure where to get the data… but, i’d be willing to do the stats…

  23. Matt ACTY says:

    Don’t the managers call most of the pitches anyway? I thought that was standard practice nowadays.

  24. B.George says:

    I love Jose Molina catching….the guy is the best defensive catcher in the game and handles the staff well…I commented on Saturday that he is terrible at calling games and calls too many breaking balls….for the love of god hopefully Molina catches Phranchise on Tuesday!

  25. B.George says:

    To add I think that the game calling is only part of the issue…..Posada is absolutley horrible and blocking pitches and blocking the plate….the guy always stands two feet out in fron of the plate when there is a play at home….too add Molina is so much better at framing pithes then Posada its not even funny….lets see how CC fares today with Molina catching him for the first time this season.

    • Chris says:

      I know I’m in the (very small) minority, but I think blocking the plate is the dumbest thing a catcher can do. Not only are you putting yourself at a much greater risk of injury, but you’re only gaining a marginal advantage in terms of getting outs. You’re only getting the runner out if the throw beats him, and even if it does beat him, he has the chance to knock the ball out of your glove.

  26. David says:

    I was under the impression that most studies that had been done on the subject of pitch calling showed that really no catcher has a discernible impact on the game through his calling of the game. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t buy it. I also don’t buy that the difference in defensive ability (blocking pitches and throwing out runners) is so great that it would explain that ERA difference. I think its a product of the sample size, and I don’t think that Molina’s defense will ever make up for his black hole lineup spot.

  27. [...] and is if Girardi were tempting us, Jose Molina starts behind the dish tonight. Will that be what brings CC [...]

  28. Yo Estoy Es... says:

    Solution…… If and when matsui is ready to play outfield sit damon play matsui in left put posada at DH and let molina catch his defense and the way he works with the pitchers makes up for the easy out in the batting line-up though he does have a grand slam today oh Nick Swish with a homer!

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