September 7, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Molina (28) hits a single in the tenth inning against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

How Jose Molina Compares on Offense to Other Catchers

Much has been made of Jose Molina‘s offense, or lack thereof. Despite a batting line of .223/.286/.355 with 8 home runs and 32 RBIs last season, Molina managed to retain his position as the starting catcher on the Rays heading into the 2013 season. In large part, his value is perceived to be on the defensive side, where he has become noted for this ability to handle a pitching staff, hold down the running game and frame pitches.

When one looks at Molina’s batting statistics, he produced an OPS+ of 80, or 20% below league average. Yet, this is compared to all major league hitters, regardless of position. As catcher is a position that traditionally has weaker offensive production than other positions, it would be best to see how Molina stacks up against other catchers.

Last season, ten players who primarily played as catchers received enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Those catchers were Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, A.J. Pierzynski, Ryan Doumit, A.J. Ellis, Jesus Montero, Carlos Santana and Matt Wieters. Their combined OPS+ averages out to 124.4, which when compared to Jose Molina’s OPS+ of 80, shows that Molina produced at a rate that was roughly 65% of the league average catcher in 2012.

However, Santana, Posey and Mauer also received a good amount of time at first base. Also, Jose Molina only received 274 plate appearances last year. If the threshold is set to the 274 plate appearance mark, then there were 31 players that appeared at catcher that qualify, including Jose. Those 31 catchers combined to produce an average OPS+ of approximately 104.5, which gives Molina an OPS+ relative to his position of 76.5.

Even though the catcher position has historically not been considered a position that provides much offense, that was not the case last year. Catchers produced at a rate just above league average, which showed much little production the Rays truly received from Molina. However, if the rest of the Rays offense improves in 2013, and Jose Molina can continue to be the defensive asset he has been, then the offensive side of his game may not matter, as long as he produces the occasional home run.

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  • Justin Jay

    You can say what you want and try to reason it in whatever way, but Molina is NOT on any kind of average offensively at the catching position. That position is much deeper this year than it has been in years. This year, you’re going to see guys like Wilin Rosario, Devin Mesoraco, Travis D’Arnaud, JP Arencibia, Salvador Perez, Jonathon Lucroy all come into their own. They’re going to make Molina’s offensive woes look even worse. Defensively, Molina’s value is very high like you said, which is why he has the starting job. But the middle infield and catching are the biggest holes offensively that the Rays need to fill. They may be able to do that if Niemann or Carmona-Hernandez shine.

    • Dave Hill

      That ended up being the point. When I initially began working on the concept for this post, i expected that Molina would end up closer to the average catcher on offense, thus making his production a bit more palatable. However, I discovered the exact opposite – catchers actually hit better than league average. I was absolutely amazed by that.

  • Baltar

    I am very surprised that catchers are doing so well offensively. I wonder if that is a randome term of chance or the beginning of a trend. Prepare for the Era of the Catcher?

    • Baltar

      “random turn”

      • Dave Hill

        There are a few really good offensive catchers, which may skew the scale. For the most part, catchers were between 90 and 115 in the OPS+ category. Honestly, I was really surprised by that as well.

    • Justin Jay

      It’s going to be a trend. There is a wave of good catchers either coming up or coming into their own.

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