Dec
18

The difference between Posada and Molina’s game calling

By

One of the most notable and certainly most annoying storylines from last season was Jorge Posada‘s apparent inability to do anything right behind the plate. He’s slow, can’t frame pitches, can’t block a ball in the dirt, he goes out to the mound too many times, can’t do anything right, especially call a game. Just look at the stats:

Yankee pitchers with Posada catching: .264-.347-.426 against, 18.4 K%
Yankee pitchers with anyone else catching:
.234-.298-.385 against, 22.5 K%

See? That right there tells you everything you need to know about Posada’s game calling ability. [/sarcasm]

Actually, yeah there’s definitely a difference between how certain catchers call games, but you can’t tell that based on just simple observation, or Joe Girardi‘s idiotic decision to let Jose Molina catch certain pitchers (he sure helped A.J. Burnett in Game 5 of both the ALCS and World Series, right?). We now have the tools to dig deeper into this phenomenon, and Max Marchi at THT did just that.

Using PitchFX, Marchi broke down the how Posada and Molina called games for CC Sabathia last season, noting that the biggest difference is that Posada tended to rely on the big guy’s four-seam fastball while Molina favored the sinking two-seam variety. Here’s the breakdown so you can see for yourself:

CC's pitch selection by catcher, 2009

That’s the percentage of total pitches, so Posada called for 49% fastballs, 33% sliders, and 18% sinkers against lefty batters. Of course, there are many more factors in play here than just what the catcher calls for. Sabathia could shake them off, and certainly players evolve during the course of the season and may change up their patterns. Posada also caught CC’s first four outings, which were part of his customary slow start, and that probably skewed the results.

In general, a catcher’s ability to work with pitchers is over-stated. Saying a guy handles pitchers well is usually something reserved for catchers who can’t do anything else even decently, like Molina. What makes Posada so great is his bat at the most premium of positions, and moving him to designated hitter to let someone like Molina catch full time makes the team worse. A league average DH with Posada catching is greater than Posada at DH and a defensive specialist like Molina catching. It takes an awful lot of defense to make up for the complete lack of offense.

At 38-years-old, Posada’s not getting any better defensively, and chances are his offense will take a hit next season. However, the best team the Yankees can field features him starting behind the dish, even if it means sacrificing an extra 90 OPS points to the opposition. The difference in offense – 325 OPS pt advantage over Molina, for example – makes up for it.

Categories : Analysis
  • Bronx Ralphie

    Can anybody say Joe Mauer?

  • Bo

    Mauer is going to make himself some serious money if Minnesota lets him hit the market. With the NYY, NYM and Bos all needing catchers next yr.

    • Steve H

      I’m sure the Mets will fail and sign Molina to 3 years. Even though he deserves…..0 years.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        I’m eagerly anticipating their forthcoming 5 year deal with Jason Bay turning out like gangbusters, just like their deal with Bobby Bonilla from way back when…

        • pat

          FUN FACT: The New York Mets will pay Roberto Martin Antonio “Bobby” Bonilla $1,193,248.20 every July 1 from 2011 until 2035.

          • A.D.

            Yikes.

          • Evil Empire

            Seriously? Holy fuck.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            For perspective: David Wright will be 53 when that last payment is made.

          • Mattingly’s Love Child

            That is just insane.

            Worst. Idea. Ever.

          • vin

            From Bobby Bo’s wikipedia page:

            “When the New York Mets placed Bonilla on unconditional waivers in 2000, they agreed to pay out the remainder of his contract by deferring the remaining $5.9 million. Instead of paying him upfront for that money they came to an agreement where the Mets would pay him 25 equal payments of $1,193,248.20 every July 1 from 2011 until 2035. He spent the 2000 season playing for the Atlanta Braves. Although that seems like a large amount of money, the present value of those payments at an interest rate of 8% is $5.9 million.”

            Not sure what that last sentence is trying to say.

            But yeah, what an awful idea by an awful franchise.

            • A.D.

              Its explaining how Bobby Bo turned 5.9 mil into over 25 Mil in 25 payments.

              • A.D.

                An heh, 8% interest rate, great deal for Bonilla, no way he gets that return now

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                Its explaining how Bobby Bo turned 5.9 mil into over 25 Mil in 25 payments.

                No, it’s explaining that the whole thing is pretty moot, because whether Bobby took the 5.9M up front and just put it in a normal bank savings account, compounding interest, or whether the Mets did the same thing (which is what they’re basically doing by deferring the payment), the future value of the 5.9M from 2000 money is 25M spread out over 25 years.

                Bobby’s not really making any profit off this arrangement, nor are the Mets really saving any money off the arrangement.

                • deadrody

                  Yeah, but Bonilla is certainly taking care of himself that way. Who couldn’t use a solid $1.2M every year ?

                • A.D.

                  I’m aware, the reason they likely put in the paragraph is so that someone that has no clue doesn’t go NO WAY THAT DOESN’T ADD UP!!!!

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

                Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you’re missing the point. I think that last sentence is saying that, assuming an 8% interest rate on the money, Bobby Bo would have the same amount of money in 25 years if he was given the $5.9M when it was owed or if he receives the 25 equal payments of $1,193,248.20. So, it’s really not such a big win for Bobby Bo. Looked at that way, it’s more of a win for the Mets, since they didn’t have to take the hit of making the $5.9M payment and each one of those subsequent $1,193,248.20 is worth less as the years go by (i.e. $1 is worth less today than it was in 2000).

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

                  I was writing my comment when TSJC posted his, above. My bad.

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

                  “… Bobby Bo would have the same amount of money in 25 after the 35 years…”

                  (fixed, I think)

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  You’ll rue the day you crossed me, Mondesi.

                • Mattingly’s Love Child

                  I get what you’re both saying. But it still is bad to be paying out over a million every year for someone who doesn’t play for you anymore. That is dead money.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  FWIW, every single economist worth their salt agrees:

                  If you hit the lottery, take the lump sum payment up front and not the annuity spread out over time.

                  Taking the money now and investing it yourself is pretty much always a better return than letting someone else sit on your money, earning interest in their own various financial instruments, and subsequently paying you little by little.

                • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

                  If the Mets were smart, they took that original $5.9M and stuck it somewhere to accrue the interest before the payments had to be made to Bonilla, perhaps even making a little money on it for themselves.

                • Comrade Al

                  They did – they invested it with Bernie Madoff.

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

                  Hopefully they didn’t put that money where the rest of the Wilpons’ money was.

                  TSJC said it best… If anything, this payment scheme is a positive for the Mets and a negative for Bobby Bo.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  I get what you’re both saying. But it still is bad to be paying out over a million every year for someone who doesn’t play for you anymore. That is dead money.

                  Bonilla wasn’t going to be playing for them after 2000 anyway.

                  It’s dead money regardless.

                  25M in dead money in little 1/25th size installment payments from 2011-2035 >>>>>>>> 5.9M in dead money in one lump sum in 2000.

                  The extra total 19.1M in salary they have to pay Bonilla by deferring payment for 10-35 years is offset by the extra 20M+ in interest they’re making on the money being in their bank account from 2000 onward.

                  Think of it this way: If they took the 5.9M they were supposed to pay Bonilla in 2000, put it in a savings account, earning interest, and didn’t touch it, by the time 2011 rolled around, it would be worth a lot more. Then, in 2011 when they started paying him his owed $1,193,248.20, it would go down a little but still also increase with interest. By the time the 25th payment is made, it would be down well below the 5.9M, but there’d still be some money left over in there (exactly how much, you’d need to ask an accountant, that’s not my thing).

                  But the Mets probably make out as slight winners in this deal.

                • Davor

                  Lottery usually gives you either lump sum or 2xlump sum over 20 years, which is around 3.5% interest rate. You should be able to get better return, that is barely over inflation rate. Now, if they were offering 4xlump sum over 20 years (7.1%), how sure are you that you can get constant return larger than 7% over 20 years? Basically risk-free?

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  Well, no, but that’s why the lottery never offers you an annuity that big.

                  Perhaps Bobby was betting on a low inflation/interest rate and the Mets were betting on a high one. Given the market collapse, maybe Bobby was right ater all.

                  Bobby Bonilla: an economic genius?

                • Davor

                  I know, I was just responding to the blank statement that taking lump sum is always better. Although, as this calculation shows, at 4xlump sum you should start thinking what is better (over 20 years). It really has to be big difference in total money.

                • MoJO

                  Just so you know, a $5.9mln present value spread out over 25 years for $1,193,248.20/year works out to an interest rate of 20.013%. Either someone has the facts wrong or Bobby B made Warren B look like an armature investor. And over 35 years it’s interest rate of 20.1921%.

                • toad

                  You are ignoring the 10 year delay in payments. Earning 8% over ten years more than doubles the original amount. So it would have gone to $12.74 million before being turned into a 25 yr. annuity.

                  Eight percent is a lot more than the Mets would have gotten in a savings account, but was probably not too high. In 2000, 30-yr Treasuries were yielding generally between 5.5 and 6%, so there was a 2% premium for the fact that the Mets are not the US government.

                  The prime rate at the time was running 8.5% to 9.5%, so I’m guessing they just took that as the rate to apply.

                  It turned out well for Bonilla, of course, but was hardly a dumb thing for the Mets to do.

      • AJ Burnett’s Chin Music ensemble

        you know the Mets are going after BENGIE Molina and not JOSE Molina right…I mean Jose is worthless but Bengie can be a Met…ha ha A MET…Maybe Jose can back him up? Mets suck.

  • Mike HC

    NIce analysis. Unfortunately, I don’t know how it has gotten this far, where an in depth analysis has to be done to prove Jorge is a better catcher than Jose Molina. I mean, shouldn’t that be obvious to the most novice of baseball fans. Jorge is not the best defensive catcher, but the guy can simply mash. I think people have taken him for granted.

    • Frank

      Agree. Jorge is a beast offensively. Even his game calling isn’t as bad as some portray it to be. But defensively, he is simply not very good, especially when it comes to blocking the plate with a runner coming,and worse yet, blocking low pitches in the dirt, either directly in front of him or to his side.

      • Mike HC

        yea. He is a passed ball machine.

        • JGS

          Posada–8 passed balls in 100 games
          Molina–3 passed balls in 49 games

          it’s not that much worse

          • Mike HC

            also preventing wild pitches, which don’t count as passed balls.

  • pat

    To be completely honest I hope the dude stays in Minny. At least one of the 7 or 8 top flight C prospects we have should be good enough that we won’t have to pay 28 million dollars a year for a very large catcher who already has back problems.

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

      Co-sign.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Thirded.

        Plus, it’s better for baseball. Minnesota needs Joe Mauer, Joe Mauer needs Minnesota, and MLB needs Minnesota and Joe Mauer to remain together.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Joe Mauer doesn’t need Minnesota.

          • vin

            Agreed. He’s done his job for that team. Right now, he’s probably among the top 10 greatest Twins of all-time (maybe higher).

            IMO, the best thing for baseball would be for the Twins to give him a long-term contract for fair market value (ie a Tex contract at minimum).

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

            Shhhhhh… you’re spoiling my narrative.

        • A.D.

          I don’t see how Joe Mauer needs Minny?

        • http://dinosaursneverexisted.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/melky.jpg Drew

          “Plus, it’s better for baseball. Minnesota needs Joe Mauer, Joe Mauer needs Minnesota money, and MLB needs Minnesota and Joe Mauer to remain together.”

    • JSquared

      Agreed. I think Austin Romine is more of a trade piece, i think Gary Sanchez or J.R. Murphy will be our Franchise Catcher in three to four years. I don’t see how Minnesota doesn’t offer Joe Mauer what he wants.

      • JobaWockeeZ

        Jesus if a LF’er or DH? I’d would love if Jesus can split catching duties with another cacther like Romine so he doesn’t have to catch every game.

        • JSquared

          I would guess DH and some catching, but you’d have to think he could become a solid first-baseman while learning from Mark Teixeira, so… DH until Teixeira’s contract is up?

  • A.D.

    Maybe I’m missing something but isn’t that the avg batter has 90 pts of OPS higher with Posada vs all others, thus sacrificing 810 pts of OPS over an entire lineup vs the ~325 in the Yankees lineup?

    If we look at this vs the AL avg we see:

    Posada: 773 OPS
    AL AVG: 764 OPS
    Rest of Yanks: 683 OPS

    So basically Posada has Yankees pitchers give up an offensive line just above league avg, while the rest of the catchers have significantly less, which for 9 batters is an 810 OPS points swing, albeit only 81 pts from league avg.

  • TopChuckie

    There are so many variables you could never really gauge two catchers ability to call a game based on stats. In any random 6 pitch at bat two catchers could call the same pitch types, but the sequence and location of those pitches can make a world of difference. Also, simply comparing the pitcher’s success with each catcher has to take into consideration the lineups they were facing. There’s simply no way to quantify it. HOWEVER, if the pitcher THINKS he pitches better to a certain catcher and is more comfortable with the way that catcher calls a game and sets up the batters, that can make a huge difference. Confidence and comfort play a huge role in a pitcher’s success.

    Not to re-hash the argument from the playoffs, but I don’t think Girardi was that “stupid” to use Molina with Burnett for the 1-3 games of a playoff run where the pitcher’s comfort may outweigh the offensive production of the catcher. Sure over the course of a 162 game season, or even 32 starts of a particular starter, the offensive contribution will overcome any “comfort” benefit, but when the number one priority is trying to get the most out of your starter THAT particular start, I don’t have a problem with making the move to make him as comfortable and confident as possible, whether the actual outcome appears to support the decision or not. Also, with Girardi having been a catcher, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt he knows a thing or two about pitcher/catcher relations, though of course it could lead to a bias and over emphasis.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Except AJ never said he was more comfortable with Molina. In fact, he said it didn’t matter to him. Girardi justified it by saying he liked their rhythm.

      • TopChuckie

        What would you say? “I don’t have the talent to be successful on my own, I need just the right catcher to succeed.”?

        Don’t believe everything you read, or every quote out of a guy’s mouth.

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          By that logic, then it doesn’t matter what anybody says. We can make up our own reasons for everything.

          AJ didn’t have to address it at all. He could have said no comment, he could have said, I let Girardi make the lineups. He went out of his way to say that it didn’t matter to him one way or the other. Why would he do that if it did really matter to him?

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

            By that logic, then it doesn’t matter what anybody says. We can make up our own reasons for everything.

            FACT: Peyton Manning is a great quarterback because he hates gays. His raging homophobia is what gives him the laser-like focus to prepare for anything and crush the will of his opponent. FACT.

            • jim p

              Yeah, but that only works because of the FACT that the other teams are all gay.

  • Karl

    I’m not sure what the pitch fx data realy shows. Even if all three catchers called the exact same number of each pitch, the importance is still in when in the count and to whoem each pitch is called and the location the catcher is asking for the pitch.

  • Karl

    Agreed Chuckie

  • Ed

    However, the best team the Yankees can field features him starting behind the dish, even if it means sacrificing an extra 90 OPS points to the opposition. The difference in offense – 325 OPS pt advantage over Molina, for example – makes up for it.

    Not sure I agree with that. The 325 OPS gain is for one spot in the lineup while the 90 point gain is averaged over all nine. Posada’s effect on the team average would be about 1/9th of that, so the team average should go up 36 points with him in the lineup over Molina.

    With Posada the team OPS goes up 36 points, but the OPS against goes up 90 points.

  • vin

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

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

    compared to CC and AJ:
    CC – 15/35 games – 42.8%
    AJ – 16/33 games – 48.5%

    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.

    • vin

      In fairness, I should include Pettitte. In my haste, I left him out:

      Andy – 22/33 games – 66.7%

      I think my point still stands, regardless.

  • Evil Empire

    This is a pretty big year for Montero, isn’t it? If he can make it as a catcher and continue doing what he does best with the bat, he’ll basically have punched his ticket for a 2011 spot in the Big Show as the next Yankee everyday catcher, right?

    • vin

      I don’t think he’ll be the everyday catcher in 2011. Jorge still has 2 years left on his deal (2011 is his last year). I think at best, Montero and Jorge would split catching duties that year.

      They would both probably be somewhat similar defensively, so then it becomes a question as to who is the better hitter (and if Posada can stay healthy catching 80 games). It might be unrealistic to think a 21 year old Montero can hit ML pitching better than a 40 year old Posada.

      • Mattingly’s Love Child

        Are you questioning the Jesus? I wouldn’t do that if I were you!

        • vin

          He’s ALMOST above questioning. He needs to do some water into wine stuff first. He’ll get there, though.

          • Mattingly’s Love Child

            With a year in Scranton, there aint much to do there, so I’d assume he’ll have water into wine figured out sometime in June…

  • bottom line

    Nice effort here. But this seems to be yet another example of how statistics can be used/misued to reach erroneous conclusions. Sounds convincing to say that the 90 OPS points lost by habving Posada behind the plate are more than made up by the boost of 300 or more OPS points by Posada vs. Molina on offense.

    But as best I can tell, there seems to be a fallacy here. Your’re comparing the offensive ouptut gain of one player to the average gain of entire line-up. I would imagine that 90 OPS really represents the averages for an entire line-up when Posada or Molina catches. As such, each of 9 players is actually showing an average improved OPS of 90 points. This contrasts with the improvement of just one player when Posada catches. Hence, it would appear the very opposite conclusion should be drawn: A catcher who lowers the oppositions average OPS by by 90 poinys would actually be worth far more than an offensiive catcher who individually adds 325 OPS points. The team average gain from his presence in the line up would just be 325 divided by 9– or around 36 points of improved OPS. A catcher who reduces the opposing batting order by a whopping average 90 OPS would be wotrth almost threetimes as much– at least theoretically.

  • mike

    anyone watching the game realizes Posada is a poor defensive catcher, and his surprising return of arm strength was really his saving grace for this past season.

    He frames pitches very poorly, and never sets up his glove until the pitcher is in motion, and very often doesn’t set up batters for their next at-bats.

    There is a reason why cereberal pitchers have had issues with him over time…..

    My theory is he is no better, than Pudge or other poor-reputation catchers, but his glaring weaknesses have been hidden by the strike-throwing staff the Yanks have had ( Clemens, Wells, Rivera, Mussina etc)since he became the primary catcher.

    I have always been a little disappointed in my own expectations for him, but while he certainly is a plus to the team, i think ( as we all stated at the time) his bat is not sufficient for DH, and his presence behind the plate will begin to cost the Yanks more and more as the contract progresses.

  • larryf

    Does anyone know if Molina made it to first yet? He grounded one to short his last at bat….

    Is he coming back? Please know. It is time for cervelli to catch those games and a few more…

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      I’m assuming “know” was supposed to be “no”.

      Correct?

  • larryf

    oops! Please no…

  • RobC

    Did Cervelli call his own pitches or did Joe call them?

  • Pete C.

    Why no love for Jose? The guy’s a career back-up, that’s all he was ever considered, so under those circumstances he’s performed admirably. Yeah he sucks at the plate, I don’t believe in personal catchers for prima-donna starters either,that’s something Girrardi has to attone for, just like Torre when he let Mussina and Johnson change the Battery.
    But I’ve seen Jorge catch and the guy won’t block a ball in the dirt, let alone the plate when somebodies on 3rd.
    I think it was best put by a friend of mine about six months ago, “the starters all hate Possada until he hits a three run homer for them”, he has a point.
    The problem that’s most glaring is Possada’s age, anybody that thinks this guy can catch over 100 games a season for the next 2 years of his contract and still be this productive is probably a little too optomistic.

  • deadrody

    I don’t think you can’t make a blanket rejection of the opposing hitting line. The K rate alone is 22% higher with Molina. I’m not saying its a definite indictment of Posada, but I think there is some analysis that could be done.

  • Jim

    It’s odd that Burnett hasn’t figured out that Jorge’s bat is worth more in the lineup than Molina’s defense/ability to call a game. Maybe someone here should explain it to him. It would certainly be in his best interest to figure that out.

    Posada is a well above average as a hitter, and not exactly great defensively (we all watched the WS, right?). I don’t know where he ranks in calling a game, but I’m going to believe that Girardi and Burnett know more about that than anyone writing on this site. Well, except for all of you out there with years of experience pitching, catching or managing in the big leagues.

    Burnett’s statement that it didn’t matter who caught for him was meaningless. It was one of those statements like “I support the troops.” What else can he say? “No comment” is not an option. “Would you rather have Molina or Posada catch you?” “No comment.” “Hmmm… I wonder what he means by that?”

    It is disappointing to see the sarcastic parenthetical statement in the main article, “he sure helped A.J. Burnett in Game 5 of both the ALCS and World Series, right?” What’s that all about? I thought this site was one that eschewed small sample sizes. To cherry-pick two games to support an argument is ridiculous. One game of the WS doesn’t prove anything, any more than Game 2 proves Molina is a genius. Either don’t use small sample sizes, or stop complaining when others do.

    It will be interesting to see who catches AJ next year. If it ends up being Cervelli (or whoever), then it will start to look suspiciously like “anybody but Posada.” Or, it might all go away as we start the countdown to Jorge doing more and more DH-ing.

  • Rich

    Very illogical post. Trying to discredit statistics that apply to the entire staff by looking at a stat related to one pitcher? Crazy. Plus, I wouldn’t expect any difference between Molina and Posada to be demonstated based on analysis of the best pitcher on the staff. The value of a catcher’s game calling would be best shown by looking at pitchers without dominating stuff, where deception is more important.

    This post looks like you shopped statistics in order to find one you liked and proved your point of view. Very deceitful

  • sabes

    “even if it means sacrificing an extra 90 OPS points to the opposition. The difference in offense – 325 OPS pt advantage over Molina, for example – makes up for it.”

    Yeah, but the .325 difference is for one player. The .090 difference is for the entire team.

  • Hobbes

    Mike, you are usually the best of the bunch here at RAB, but your desire to quickly brush off the results of this extremely well put together analysis is surprising. the conclusions are dramatic, and I thought that a stat obsessed website like RAB would treat this kind of analysis with the weight it deserves. The article says, conclusively, that Molina calls a better game, and gets significantly better results. Not because of he has physical talents that posada doesn’t, but because of intelligently calling the pitches in a more successful sequence. Posada should be able to learn that, no?

    For a site which so readily obsesses over a 2% difference in OPS, I am surprised you would flippantly toss this analysis out, it is right up your alley.

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