A (somewhat) informed look at Posada vs. Molina

Fan Confidence Poll: December 21st, 2009
Non-Breaking News: Yanks looking to add a starter

"For the love of Mo, please let this debate end."Last week I linked to a THT article looking at the difference in pitch selection between Jorge Posada and Jose Molina whenever CC Sabathia was on the mound last year, but I wanted to see if I could dig a little deeper into this debate. I don’t claim to be any sort of statistics whiz, but I definitely know my way around a slide rule. Frankly, I’m sort of embarrassed to be posting this because I’m not 100% confident in it’s accuracy, but whatever.

Over the last three years, opponents have hit .268-.343-.420 off Yankee pitchers when Posada was behind the plate (9,345 plate appearances), compared to .248-.309-.381 when Molina caught (5,285 plate appearances). There’s no denying that’s a pretty drastic difference, and I went back far enough – Molina’s entire time in pinstripes, actually – to ensure that sample size wasn’t an issue.

Using Dave Pinto’s Lineup Analysis Tool, we know that a lineup of nine hitters with a .343 OBP and a .420 SLG would score 4.896 runs per game, while a lineup of nine .309 OBP and .381 SLG batters would score 3.915 runs per game. We’re going to normalize everything over 120 games in this post, because that’s how about how many games you’d expect your number one catcher to play in a given season. So, over 120 games, opponents would have scored 587.52 runs when Posada was catching, and 469.80 runs when Molina was behind the plate. Big difference.

American League pitchers have allowed 2,310 runs per 486 games over the last three seasons, or 570.37 over 120 games. That means Posada’s “game calling” was worth 17.15 runs below average during that time, while Molina’s was worth 100.57 runs above average. I put game calling in quotes because it’s a vague term and there are a million variables involved. In the end, it’s up to the pitcher to execute, but for our purposes we’ll hoist all of the blame/praise onto the catcher.

Okay, so right now we’re saying that Posada’s game calling is worth -17.15 runs above average while Molina’s is worth +100.57. Let’s come up with a fancy acronym for this … how about GCRAA, or Game Calling Runs Above Average? Works for me.

At Beyond The Box Score today, Dan Turkenkopf posted last year’s catcher blocking percentages, which tells you how many runs a catcher saved or cost his team with his ability to hande balls in the dirt. You can click on the link for a more detailed explanation, but Posada’s and Molina’s blocking ability was worth 4.66 and 4.30 runs below average, respectively. Those totals are already normalized to 120 games, so that’s nice and easy.

I don’t think anyone would have argued that Molina’s defense and ability to handle pitchers was better than Posada’s, however that’s just part of the equation. During the last three seasons, FanGraphs says that Posada’s offense has been worth 62.5 runs above average in 1,222 plate apperances while Molina’s has been worth a whopping 26.2 runs below average in 523 plate appearances. Normalizing both to 500 plate appearances (approximately 120 games worth), Posada’s offense is worth 25.57 runs above average, Molina’s 25.05 runs below average.

The last piece of our catching debate pie is baserunning. Since FanGraphs considers stolen bases and caught stealings in their wOBA calculation, which is in turn used to determine wRAA, we don’t need to worry about them. Instead, we can use the same EqBRR-EqSBR calculation I presented here and here to determine how each player’s non-stolen base baserunning effected the team. Over that same three year time period, Posada’s baserunning cost the team a staggering 16.81 runs while Molina’s cost them just 0.13. Such are the benefits of hitting at the bottom of the lineup I suppose, no one behind you is ripping extra base hits requiring more than station to station baseball. Normalizing both to 500 plate appearances, we get 6.88 runs below average for Posada and 0.12 runs below average for Molina.

Catcher defense is practically impossible to quantify, so I’m not even going to bother trying to figure it out. Let’s just assume it’s included in our GCRAA and Turkenkopf’s block pecentage stats, which give Molina a humongous advantage anyway. Alright, let’s sum it all up:

Posada Molina
GCRAA -17.15 +100.57
Block Percentage
-4.66 -4.30
wRAA +25.57 -25.05
EqBRR – EqSBR -6.88 -0.12
Total -3.12 +71.10

So based on everything we did above, Jorge Posada playing full time is essentially a league average player because his inability to handle pitchers and awful baserunning negates his offense. Molina, meanwhile, would have resulted in an extra 71 runs assuming equal playing time, or basically seven wins. It’s a big difference, basically the difference between Derek Jeter and Ramiro Pena last season.

Obviously, you shouldn’t consider this to be any sort of definitive proof that Molina’s ability to work with pitchers is so superior to Posada’s that it would have been worth playing him every day despite the difference in their bats. Remember, I didn’t adjust the GCRAA for league are anything like that, I just hammered out an old school back of the envelope calculation, if you know what I mean. There is certainly evidence that pitchers get better results with Molina behind the dish, I never denied that, but I’m still not convinced it’s enough to make up for the difference in offense despite everything above. I just can’t see Molina being a friggin’ seven win player because of his game calling; there has to be a way to improve GCRAA.

Maybe one of these days someone a whole lot smarter than me will take a stab at this. Mo knows we’ll deal with it again next year with Frankie Cervelli.

Photo Credit: Elise Amendola, AP

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Fan Confidence Poll: December 21st, 2009
Non-Breaking News: Yanks looking to add a starter
  • Joebrah

    Good article, Mike.

    I think it boils down to the difference in fan involvement. It’s easier to point at Molina for being an out-machine in the line-up than it is for Posada to be a bad pitch-caller (with much more involved in that statement, obviously).

    • RobS44

      based on catcher’s ERA, (and the analysis in this article) Posada’s catching costs the Yankees, on average, about a run per game. Looking at runs produced (RBIs plus runs scored minus HRs) Posada will create about 75-80 runs more over the course of 162 games than will Molina.

      Bottom line, the loss in runs scored is more than made up for by teh runs saved. Slugging your way into the playoffs is the recipe for an early exit. Better pitching and defense (with adequate offense) wins WS.

  • ledavidisrael

    This is interesting.
    Once more data about game calling and catcher defense is available it will be interesting to evaluate a catchers importants to run prevention.

    IF game calling does matter. Is catcher the most important position on the diamond..

    It might just be..

  • keith

    Jose Molina: Albert Pujols

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I just can’t see Molina being a friggin’ seven win player because of his game calling; there has to be a way to improve GCRAA.

    Are you trying to tell me the WAR is a little too defensive heavy?

    • the artist formerly known as (sic)

      +1

      (which in WAR/$ is valued at approximately 14M on the open market)

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        If pitching were equal, which team would you prefer? An above average defensive team that were below average offensively or an above average offensive team that was below average defensively?

        • the artist formerly known as (sic)

          Depends on how above and below average each was, no?

          Assuming youre saying they’re identically above and below average, though, then I would prefer one that is above average offensively and below average defensively. Offense is worth more than defense.

          • Andy in Sunny Daytona

            I agree.

          • vin

            IMO, defense had been so underappreciated for so long, that now its on the verge of becoming overvalued. Kind of reminds me of Mike Cameron. Once people realized just how much they were undervaluing him, they did a complete 180 and started making him out to be just as productive as Matt Holliday.

        • toad

          Above average offense. Defense is only part of run prevention, while offense is all of run production. So being 10% below average on defense costs fewer runs tan being 10% below average on offense.

          But this doesn’t apply to the Posada/Molina debate, because the argument is about whether pitching is in fact equal regardless of which one is catching.

    • JGS

      Zobrist > Pujols?

      yea, I would say so

      • Bo

        That proves WAR needs to be modified. It is not reliable.

  • CB

    Baseball has reams and reams of data – but none of it is experimental in nature.

    Obersvational data are very prone to bias and drawing valid conclusions from them can be very difficult.

    Just as an example – that hardball times article that has been linked to all over the blogosphere – they don’t control for offensive production of the opposition.

  • pc

    strength up the middle is more important then offense, how much is to be argued, one thing i know for sure is that posada is a liability in regards to defense and handling the pitching staff, finding an adequate replacement is key to the yankees continuing their seat at the top of the al east and returning to the ws again, loyalty must be put aside here as it was with matsui and damon previously, posada deserves respect but he owes the team the same in turn.

  • vin

    I’ll re-post what I wrote last Friday about this issue:

    One thing to note is that (percentage-wise) Posada caught more games thrown by the Yankees worst starters, than Molina or Cervelli.

    Games caught by Posada:

    Joba – 20/32 games – 62.5%
    Gaudin – 7/12 games – 58.3%
    Mitre – 7/12 games – 58.3%
    Wang – 9/13 games – 69%
    Average – 43/69 games – 62.3%

    CC – 15/35 games – 42.8%
    AJ – 16/33 games – 48.5%
    Andy – 22/33 games – 66.7%
    Average – 53/101 – 52.4%

    That’s going to skew the #’s. It wasn’t a necessarily bad strategy by Girardi either… better off giving Gaudin and Mitre all the offensive help they can get.

    • Yankee1010

      +1

    • A.D.

      Yup, to really get at this we need to normalize against what the pitchers triple slash against is & the avg triple slash of the lineup.

      That said if Posada is a terrible game caller then he could be making these pitchers “worse” because of his game calling.

    • CB

      This is a very good example of the biases that occur with observational data.

      But this is just the start. Off the top of your head one can think of many, many reasons why posada and molina can’t be compared this way because they weren’t randomly assigned to catch certain games.

      It is quite honestly, dissappointing that the hardball times would do such a poor job of trying to control for contextual factors.

      • sabes

        +1

    • Am I the only Kevin?

      Glad you posted this, as I was going to argue the same thing. Most managers, including Torre and Girardi, start their backup catcher with one of their top starters as a “caddy.” This has the effect of both catchers developing a repore with their starters, giving regular rest to the starter, and counter balancing the crappy offense of the backup with the increased runs prevented of your top starters.

      I’ll be the first to throw Posada under the bus for his receiving, but your numbers wholly overstate the difference by failing to account for the fact that Molina caught the better pitchers for a far larger share of his starts while Posada almost always caught the Ponson and Chase Wright type starts.

      • LI Kevin

        No.

    • jj

      I agree with this point, and it is the key factor which is missing, and negates the argument.

    • OldYanksFan

      How about this too help qualify this Catching conundrum.
      Not only is the quality of the pitching a factor…
      but so is the quality of the opposing offense.

      So…. in an attemp to equalize the 2…
      A catcher is at the most disadvantageous with a HIGH ERA pitcher and a HIGH OPS offense.
      A catcher is at the most advantageous with a LOW ERA pitcher and a LOW OPS offense.

      So for each game:
      1) multiple (current team) OPS x (current Pitcher) ERA
      to create a relative POQ (pitcher offense quality) factor
      2) Add up the POQs for a Catcher
      3) Divide total POQ by numbers of games caught
      4) You now have a POQ per game

      Let’s say Po got good offenses (OPS) and crappy pitchers (ERA)
      Po’s average POQ was (0.800 x 5.5) 4.4
      And Molina got poor offenses (OPS) and great pitchers (ERA)
      Molina’s average POQ was (0.700 x 3.5) 2.45

      To equalize:
      Multiple Po’s GCRAA by (2.45 / 4.4)

      Not perfect, but accounts for both Pitcher and Offense quality.

      Do I get this right?

      To equalize CGRAA for Po, multiple his number by (2.52/4.40)

      • OldYanksFan

        Oops…. Ignor least line please

  • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

    I think the problem is linking the slash stats to the catcher’s game calling.

    • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

      That’s the real issue here. There really is no way to distill the catcher’s impact from the equation effectively. A start might be that THT article that has been floating around, so we can see which catchers may have issues with pitch sequencng, but even that needs a lot of refining.

      (PS: Matt, I’ve been trying to reach you, if you could email me through TYU, that would be awesome).

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        Sure thing, Moshe.

    • Steve H

      Exactly. It’s apples and oranges. Doesn’t Posada likely do more of the catching against the top teams in the league as well, so he’s more likely catching when facing better lineups, along with what vin posted above? No catcher makes the pitches, the pitcher can always shake the catcher off, game calling ability is amazingly overrated.

      • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

        Molina generally catches the day game after a night game, where clubs often rest some of their hitters as well. This kind of stuff (quality of opponent) can be determined, however. That’s available data.

    • ColoYank

      Agreed here, Matt. There are way too many variables to directly tie the slash stats with game-calling. There’s no rule that says the pitcher has to throw the pitch the catcher calls (except in relatively rare cases with rookie pitchers).

      FWIW, I’ve never been fond of Posada’s receiving. He has a weak-wristed tendency that costs some strike calls, in my opinion. That sort of thing strongly resists quantification.

      In reponse to an earlier post, I think defense is becoming more appreciated, but again, it strongly resists quantification. It requires a worrisome amount of direct observation, which leads us to too much anecdotal “analysis.”

  • the artist formerly known as (sic)

    I think this piece by Mike shows a few interesting things.

    (1) As far as we’ve come (using the royal we to refer to statheads), there’s still a long way to go towards quantifying and comparing the actual measurable influence a catcher has on a game.

    (2) As we move towards the goal of quantifying a catcher’s influence, we have to be prepared to reexamine our assumptions about who and what is the most valuable. For all we know, this is a new frontier.

  • Rob in CT

    The end result simply does not make sense.

    It’s one thing to acknowledge that Posada is a poor receiver/blocker and a terrible baserunner, and that those things eat into the value he provides with his bat. It’s entirely another thing to actually believe that Jose Molina > Jorge Posada.

    There are just too many variables involved here (with respect to runs allowed with each catcher behind the plate). Which pitchers, which opposing hitters in which ballparks, the weather, all sorts of stuff. It’s got to be nearly impossible to adjust for all of it. For instance, see Vin’s post above.

    Plus, I don’t believe for a second that Molina is that much better at baserunning than Jorge. The difference has to be almost all context-driven (with perhaps a bonus out or two a year due to Jorge’s stupidity).

  • Chris

    If game calling is that important, then just call the game from the bench. It’s not complicated, and it keeps the good hitter in the game.

    • Jeremy

      Yes. Are we even sure that Posada calls 100% of his games?

  • Dan

    I would think there must be some way to take out some pitching factors, though i’m not exactly sure how. Back in my college days i woulda spent hours coming up with some crackpot formula that made things turn out the way i expected them to (of course, i’m always right), but alas i no longer have the time.
    One idea is to try to isolate incidents that are normally problems caused by lack of execution, rather than poor game calling. for example, I think it would be safe to say that MOST (not all) home runs happen on poor execution of pitches, rather than poor pitch calling. so wouldn’t it be more accurate to take HRs out of the stat line when considering how well pitchers do when posada is behind the plate?
    another good indication, i would think, would be P/PA? while often times lack of execution on the pitchers part can cause pitches per plate appearance to rise, one could say that a catcher’s ability to call the game…if tehy are trying to get the pitcher to hit the corners when the pitcher clearly lacks control…would have something to do with how good a game caller they are. but how to quanitify that into a number that represents runs scored/prevented.

  • Hughesus Cristo

    Absurd.

  • Steve H

    How can Molina be a better baserunner than Posada, don’t you have to get on base to be a baserunner?

  • Steve H

    Funny, the one year the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs, Posada was hurt. And I know Rasner/Ponson/Giese were pitching a lot, but shouldn’t Molina’s game calling have allowed them to pitch well enough? Of course not.

    • Ed

      There were what, about a dozen substantial injuries to the team last year? It’s amazing the team finished as well as they did.

      • Steve H

        I know, that team had no business winning 89 games. Maybe it was Molina’s game calling!

  • vin

    This whole discussion reminds me of one of my favorite moments from this past season…

    AJ, looking for his first win in a month and a half, started scuffling in the fifth inning against the Rangers. Kevin Cash goes out to the mound, picks up the rosin bag, drops it, and walks away – without saying a word to his pitcher. Great moment.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/blo.....cashs.html

    • Steve H

      Molina>>>Kevin Cash>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Posada!!

      • vin

        Well Cervelli hit that big HR in Atlanta that really got the team going… so it should be something like:

        Cervelli>>Molina>>>Cash>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Posada.

  • larryf

    Is Molina coming back???

    • vin

      Doesn’t look like it. I believe Cashman has stated that they’re fine going into ST with Cervelli as the backup.

      • larryf

        Good. I like Cervelli’s hustle and defensive skills. If he can hit 250 I’d be happy. I know the majority here don’t think he will…

  • Bo

    After all these useless catching stats would the Yankees have 10 rings with another catcher instead of the 5 Posada has earned????

    Posada just doesnt get the respect he deserves.

    • http://threequarters.cementhorizon.com/archives/kool%20aid%20man.bmp The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      From Mike’s post:

      “Obviously, you shouldn’t consider this to be any sort of definitive proof that Molina’s ability to work with pitchers is so superior to Posada’s that it would have been worth playing him every day despite the difference in their bats. Remember, I didn’t adjust the GCRAA for league are anything like that, I just hammered out an old school back of the envelope calculation, if you know what I mean. There is certainly evidence that pitchers get better results with Molina behind the dish, I never denied that, but I’m still not convinced it’s enough to make up for the difference in offense despite everything above.”

      I think you might have missed that part.

      Also – Nobody even hinted that the Yankees would have been better off with another catcher during Posada’s career.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        …and Posada has 4 rings and 1 token ring. :)

        • http://baseballalamode.blogspot.com Neon Noodle

          And if you want to get technical about it… Girardi played about as much as Posada in the 98 and 99 WS. And since game 2 of this last years was the only one that really mattered, Posada only had an impact in 2000. He’s actually quite useless when it comes to WS.

          /sarcasm.. just in case.

          • Andy in Sunny Daytona

            In 1996, Jorge was a Sept. call-up.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Obviously the rings correlate to his defensive capabilities Bo. The way you can totally say something truly unrelated than what the post is talking about is truly astounding…

      • A.D.

        Vintage Bo.

  • Jobamania

    Great article.

    In other news, i just read up on this tidbit from Ken Rosenthal.

    Since the yankees are repeat offenders of the $170m threshold before luxury tax, the yankees will pay a 40% penalty on every dollar.
    the true cost of paying Damon $13 million would be $18.2 million; the true cost of paying him $10 million would be $14 million.

    Pettitte’s true cost, including the tax penalty, will be $16.45 million. Johnson’s will be $7.7 million.

    • Jobamania

      this might be common knowledge to most people but i had NO IDEA it was a 40% penalty. that is insane

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Let’s just blame it all on ARod.

    • A.D.

      Sox are so close to luxury tax. Damn MLB hating on the rich.

    • toad

      The luxury tax is not assessed on “every dollar,” only dollars in excess of the threshold. While it’s true that signing Johnson added $7.7 million to the payroll, it’s not really accurate to say that his “true cost” is that amount. If the Yankees had resigned Matsui they would have paid some luxury tax also. You could just as well ascribe the extra $2.2 million to CC’s contract, for example.

      • tim randle

        if we can blame anyone, firstly, i wan’t to blame cano. then melky. then posada–but only his defense, so…split that in half for him. if you need any more to blame, blame giambi–i dont know how, just do it.

  • Tank Foster

    You need to convert those run stats you created (from the slash stats) into some sort of index, normalized against the typical offense of the opposing teams in question. Maybe Molina only catches against the crappy hitting teams. And, as others have already pointed out, you have to normalize for the actual pitchers they are catching.

    I have no idea where the final numbers would be, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to find that Molina saves alot of runs over Posada.

    It’s just an observation, but I think Posada is a terrible catcher, both in his defense and his game calling. And for those who want to flame someone for their “observations,” thus far, all we have for data is stuff like this article, which doesn’t exactly paint a good picture for Jorge. So everyone who wants to defend Jorge, please do it with some hard numbers, some data. Not your “own eyes.”

    • larryf

      Posada is a terrible catcher…..Ryan Howard thought so and so did Jimmy Rollins stealing DOWN 7-3 in the late innings. Embarrassing….

    • ColoYank

      I made this observation in a reply above. Georgie’s physical fundamentals are weak, but I do think it absurd to blame him for certain opposing performances, particularly since he didn’t throw the damn pitches.

      However, when he costs his pitcher certain strike calls because of the way he receives the ball, or when there is a pattern of missed borderline calls because his weak and distracting glove hand, then … that might be a different matter.

      Again, how would a person quantify that?

      • Usty

        Agreed 100% here. Certain things about Jorge’s “presentation” to the umpire lose us a good amount of borderline calls. If you look at the history with the Yankees, it tends to be guys who have a lot of movement on their pitches who seem to end up having that backup – personal catcher. Randy Johnson, AJ Burnett. Guys like that need the catcher to hang on to the last second and make minimal movement. When you have Jorge standing up or stabbing at the ball, it costs you strikes.

  • Matt

    If nothing else it’s a great read. Once you start throwing in the notion that pitch selection does not always correlate to actual pitch thrown it gets trickier to quantify. If Pettitte shakes off Jorge’s fastball call and throws a curve that gets hammered, that’s not Jorge’s gamecalling. Either way, good stuff.

  • Guest

    Here’s one other thing I don’t get about this whole situation:

    If we were to consider game calling a skill of high import in baseball, why on earth is it a skill that the back up catcher on a team should be so much better at than the starter? In other words, why can’t the team’s coaches, pitchers, and the catchers themselves work together to ensure that the starting catcher is as good at calling pitches as the back-up (or at least nearly as good)?

    I mean, its not like we’re trying to improve Jorge’s bat-speed or ability to pick up the spin on a breaking ball. Those are things where, at a certain point, you either have it or you don’t. Knowledge and practice just aren’t going to make your bat get through the zone faster if you don’t have the natural reflexes.

    On the other hand, calling a game is primarily a matter of knowing your own pitcher, knowing the situation, and knowing the opposing hitter. To me, this just doesn’t seem like an innate skill. Rather, it appears to me that it is one that could be improved simply through improved preparation and communcication.

    Yes, to a certain point, a catcher with better “feel” or who is just “smarter” might be able to make a better decision right in the moment; but if all of the catchersand pitchers and coaches have created a thorough and detailed game plan before the game and stick to it, I just don’t see how the difference in results over the course of a season could be as large as it was between Jorge and Jose last year.

    • MattG

      You can say the same thing about pitchers, though, and people do. Its the “This guy has great stuff but he nibbles too much” problem, from a different perspective. A catcher can push his pitchers to make too many tough pitches, or he can be too conservative and predictable, figuring that on 2-1 he’d better be sure to throw a strike. Pitchers can go their whole career without ever fixing the problem, so I imagine catchers can, too.

  • MattG

    I just don’t see how you can confidently affix slash stats to the opposing catcher. There are too many variables.

    Game calling is one of those things that will remain subjective for me for the time being. I watch Posada call a lot of pitches. I watched Molina call a lot of pitches. I don’t see a big difference.

    Posada is a pretty conservative game caller. I know there were a couple of pitches during the season that dumbfounded me…one in the playoffs that I really went berzerk about, but I can’t recall the specifics of any. And any catcher isn’t going to be perfect, anyway. I don’t have an issue with Posada’s game calling.

    • Guest

      The pitch to David Ortiz that led to AJ”s “Why? Why? Why?” reaction drove me absolutely crazy. I remember being upset before it was even thrown.

      0-2 count, the guy hadn’t pulled a tough inside fastball in a calender year, and had either took or looked bad on curveballs all day. Moreover, if I had a dime for every time I’ve seen Ortiz serve outside fastballs over/or off the monster (especially when he was behind in the count)…well…I would have a lot of dimes.

      It seemed pretty clear there: breaking ball or fastball in. Judging by his reaction, it seemed like AJ was thinking the same thing, but just decided he’d rather stay in ryhthm than shake-off Posada. He should have shook him off.

      That pitch call was wrong on every level:
      1. Not good in the count.
      2. Not good in the context of the park
      3. Not good in the context of the opposing hitter.
      4. Most importantly, clearly not good in terms of being a pitch the starter was comfortable with.

      I don’t understand how this pitch in this situation could have fit into any gameplan that AJ, Jorge, and the coaches came up with before the game; but it apparently did.

      All this said, this was just one pitch out of tens of thousands; so I’m not going to use it by itself to indict Jorge’s game calling. But as is evident by the length of this comment, it stuck in my craw quite a bit.

      • MattG

        I have always had issue with the Yankees’ game plan for Ortiz, and more recently, Chase Utley. But is that Posada’s fault, or is it a game plan Posada is executing?

        Too many variables. It’s hard to know who to blame.

  • Evil Empire

    I’m just going to say I’m a total idiot when it comes to stuff like this and its all way over my head. Too technical.

    Dudes puts fingers down in a secret code to signal a pitch and other dudes try to throw a ball per the secret code. Sometimes they shake their head because they want another pitch.

    That’s catching.

    That said, pretty fascinating shit. I hope the true value of pitch calling / catching is eventually deduced. This all seems like a step in the right direction.

  • Tank Foster

    What I notice about Posada is that his selections get shaken off alot, and he seems to have alot of those “recycle the signs” events. (I admit some of that is WS and playoffs where they are paranoid about sign stealing with guys on base, but it happens in ordinary situations alot, it seems.)

    I think the net result is that the pitcher doesn’t get in a rhythm, is probably throwing more pitches he doesn’t want to throw, and even on the shake offs, is less confident because of the fact that Jorge suggested a different pitch.

    I also think he’s sort of a d!ck, from what I’ve read, and that probably ticks the pitchers off, too.

    None of this may be as important as his offense (probably isn’t close), but Mike’s numbers are so interesting, I think you have to believe them until someone proves otherwise.

    • http://baseballalamode.blogspot.com Neon Noodle

      I think you have to believe them until someone proves otherwise.

      Not quite the scientific method.

      • Tank Foster

        Huh? That IS, exactly, the scientific method. Well, it isn’t an experiment, but one is left with observational/descriptive statistics with something like baseball, and when you get some stats, the onus is on us to disprove them. The facts are, teams score alot more runs with Jorgie catching than Jose. So until someone disproves it, you presume that it’s something to do with those two guys.

        • whozat

          Nope. A key part of the scientific method is controlling for variables and, as mike admits, he does little to none of that here.

          Who were the opposing hitters in these games? Did Molina often get to catch on days when the opposing team was weaker and a big bat on the other side was sitting, perhaps because it was a day game after a night game? These are HUGELY important variables, and they (admittedly) go completely unexplored in this analysis.

          Your kind of reasoning is the same kind that led people to conclude that rotting meat spawns maggots. Sure, maggots appear on meat that you leave out to rot, but it’s because flies land there and lay eggs. You have to control for the flies in order to discover what’s really going on.

          • Tank Foster

            Sorry, but you are talking specifically about one part of the scientific method: experimentation. Controlling variables as much as possible, except for the variable you wish to study.

            But it is also part of the scientific method to deal with observations. The key to the scientific method is the reliance on data, and proper interpretation of it.

            Axisa’s observations have yielded data which suggest the variable of “who is catching, Molina or Posada” has a big effect on how many runs the other team scores. That is a scientific deduction, guys.

            It may be a flimsy one. But until someone blows it out of the water by a closer examination of those data, or presentation of other data, you have to respect it.

            Sometimes I get the feeling that people embrace stats and sabermetrics in a selective fashion.

  • Chris

    One thing to watch out for in these types of analysis is Simpson’s Paradox. It’s possible that when you look at each pitcher individually they could perform better with Posada catching than with Molina catching, but then when you look at the totals for all pitchers Molina has better overall numbers. Here’s an article about how this can come into play with unemployment numbers:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....71829.html

    When looking at catchers, it’s also probably better to be more specific than simply looking at the individual pitchers. The analysis should compare how a pitcher does with a specific catcher to how they do in appearances with other catchers around the same time (say within that month). For example, lumping CMW was a very different pitcher when you compare his 2007, 2008 and 2009 numbers. He was also very different before and after his DL stint in 2009.

  • Tiki

    I can’t believe that we’re doing this again.
    Is Jorge the best defensive catcher? No.
    The best baserunner? No. Is any of this news? No.
    Was Jorge the best defensive caller or game caller before Cash signed him to his last contract? No. Why do you think they signed him to that contract? He is an adequate catcher with an above average bat. It seems so simple and yet this ripping of Jorge continues.
    Did hearing all of this criticism negatively affect Jorge last season? I certainly believe so. I also believe that there was a direct correlation between Jorge being hurt and the poor outcome of 2008. Mark Feinsand amongst other beat writers had pieces on this.

    I think every Yankee fan can agree that Jorge is a proud guy with a huge heart that gives his all to his team. Did he complain last year when he was benched in the post-season? No, although he let us know he was disappointed he tried to be the good soldier. Jeter found out via the media that Jorge wasn’t the starting catcher during the postseason; what was his response? He was shocked but said if it were a real problem for Jorge that Jorge would have told him because that the way those 2 roll.
    Did AJ pitch better without Jorge? No! Does AJ need a therapist/catcher while he’s pitching? So it seems and that is something Jorge isn’t though I have to admit that he keeps trying to encourage guys even when we’ve all lost patience watching them. I’ll also ask how many times Jorge put down a sign, was shaken off, went with what the pitcher wanted and we watched the ball leave the park? Too many times, and that too was left out of the stats.
    All catchers sit with their pitchers before games and game plan. Sometimes the pitcher doesn’t have their good stuff or a certain pitch and they have to go to plan B. John Flaherty says the reason he has such respect for how Jorge calls a game is because he is such a good hitter and therefore knows what pitch a hitter is anticipating unlike most catchers who just go with the plan even when the pitcher is getting hit hard. It isn’t an orthodox way to call a game but I’d say his success must prove something. Remember, Jorge did catch a perfect game.
    One other benefit that there is no stat here for is the communication between Jeter and Posada without necessitating signs that allows for some of the most heads up plays that Derek gets credit for and that wouldn’t have been possible without Posada. The flip may be the most famous but how about this past postseason in MN when they picked off Punto at 3rd base?
    Molina is not coming back; he breaks down more than Posada, can’t hit, can’t run, and is not nearly as good a catcher as he once was. Am I a Jorge fan? Clearly. Did any of you read where Jorge said he knows he isn’t going to catch as much this year but wants to help the team in any way he can? He also said he hopes to be around to work with Montero because they are the same type of catchers. As great a catcher as Tony Pena was Jorge has missed Gary Tuck a lot. When Girardi sits Jorge it’s Pena that has to tell him and personally I think Girardi did the team a HUGE disservice when they benched Jorge for AJ’s starts. AJ can blowup with any catcher and does. Having said all of this, I’ve recently seen some games from 5-6 years ago and of course there’s a difference in Jorge’s game. Jorge knows this but if you are Yankee fans and want him to succeed because he is going to be the primary catcher you will all stop criticizing him and let him do what Derek did last year – take in the criticism and work on improving. Oh, and by the way does anyone remember the foul tips that Jorge said would take the offseason to heal?

  • searay

    Molina > Posada? Not on this planet. Notice how Posada gets blamed for calling a bad game when a pitcher has a bad game, but when he pitches well, the pitcher gets the credit.

  • espresso

    I think the major flaw in your analysis is that you assume a random distribution of days off/catching days. When do backup catchers catch? Get away games, day games after night games, etc. Those are days when not only are the Yankees subbing for a better offensive player, the opponents are too. In the case of Molina and Posada this year you also have to account for Molina catching most of A.J.’s games. That’s a pretty big interference in the data, he’s the number two pitcher and there is not enough data to only use his numbers. Given that A.J. is more comfortable with Molina, which may not be directly related to catching skills (maybe the just get along better) you would also have wonder if there is some variation in his pitching or if his perception of Posada’s defense causes him to hold back on his big breaking ball.

    Less scientifically, the manager was a pretty good catcher, is a smart guy, and watches every game from one of the best seats in the place and could easily call the games if he wanted to.

  • NYYfan

    Only one stat matters. The Yanks have only missed the playoffs one time since 1994. That’s right, the year Posada was injured. End of discussion. Next topic, let Molina go and have Cervelli backup.

  • Bonos

    Excellent article

    Not for anything earthshaking re Posada. Just that it’s become Holy Writ that catcher offense is more important than defense. In part because it’s hard to stat it. All this – offense is more important than defense is silly. Runs scored for and against are counted in numbers as in 1, 2 etc. It’s not as if offensive runs are worth 1.1 or something. Shake up the pontification and instill some uncertainty on this board – kudos to Mike.

    Baseball is a simple game with subleties. Just as nobody cheers a walk, no one gets excited by defense. Offense sells tickets, Defense wins games. Gack, preaching again.

    One side weighted discussions are boring. Offer a differing points of view and you get shot down by a Fangraph quote, unless it’s Melky.

  • Jean Marie

    this is a stupied debate because you should keep the catcher that can hit and that is posada. molina can’t hit at all even if he became the starting catcher

  • Mo Wang

    Catcher’s ERA is a useless stat. Completely useless. For example,dDo you really want to penalize Posada for wang’s terrible season. Wang had one of the worst seasons in the history of the game for a pitcher. That’s not Posada’s fault. Why would Wang pitch fine to Posada one year, and then pitch like garbage to him a few years later? The difference is the change in the ability of the pitcher, not the catcher. So sorry to say, but this analysis is completely meaningless because it is based on Catcher ERA, which is a horrible stat to draw any conclusions from.

  • tim randle

    i thought the write up and the insight were fantastic, except for one line:

    I just can’t see Molina being a friggin’ seven win player because of his game calling; there has to be a way to improve GCRAA.

    that line reminds me of AGW, and that you want to somehow change your results to fit the predetermined outcome. i’m sure that’s not what you’re saying–i even think i know what it is you mean to say, i just wanted to let you know what it sounded like to me.

  • http://theenlighteneddespot.com NC Saint

    Taking into account the weighted average expected batting stats for the pitchers in question would obviously be a lot of work. And adding in expected batting stats for the lineups faced as well would make this a very heavy-duty project.

    But, to be honest, I don’t really see the point of this if you aren’t doing that. Before reading this I had an ungrounded hunch that Posada didn’t call as good a game as Molina and that that offset his offensive edge to some extent, but probably left him much, much more valuable. After reading this, I have basically the same hunch. Your numbers provide a little prima facie support for the notion that Posada calls a worse game (or is just a much worse defensive catcher), but that’s about it. When there are this many uncontrolled variables, I just don’t see how we’re better off than with a shrug of the shoulders and an educated guess.