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.