Yadier Molina Knows Squat [highlights]

An overview of ESPN the Magazine's feature on Yadier Molina. See also: video highlights!

I'm skipping the human interest stuff, like plaudits from Jorge Posada, Brian McCann, Victor Martinez, Lance Berkman, Royals 1B coach Rusty Kuntz, Albert, A.D.A.M., Jo-El, TLR, Dave Duncan, and Bengie. (Though the one from Bengie is great.)  Or Yadi texting during the All Star Game, getting an autographed ball from Albert, or why the Molina hometown is also called el Pueblo de los Nangotaos.

But first... how the catchers used to be really, really gritty:

[Early catchers] went behind the plate without any equipment, not even a glove, shielded from bats and balls only by their own bravado. [...] They were judged by the number of games they could survive without sustaining a season-ending injury--a broken hand or jaw, a concussing blow to the head. Those who couldn't hack it gave up after a few innings; the best played a hundred games.

Yadi the punk rock catcher is built of the same stuff.

The Family Business

[Joel Piñeiro] calls the stocky Molina the most athletic catcher in the game. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Yadi was a skinny infielder until he was 16, when he started developing the trademark family physique. Both he and Bengie [...] are 5'11" and 230 pounds; Yankees backup Jose, who's 34, is three inches taller and five pounds heavier. "We have strong bones," Yadier says. "We are all big."

The game has never seen anything like the Molina brothers, and now Yadi seems poised to out-Molina everyone.

Managing the Pitcher's Game

And if a pitcher isn't hitting his spots, Molina will shift his body, not just his glove, so that the ball thumps neatly into the webbing, as near to the strike zone as possible, on every pitch. On a good day, he says, he can steal 10 or 12 strikes for his pitcher.

Molina has even been known to pitch [sic] to a hitter's strengths early in the game so, in an important late-game at-bat, he can expose his weaknesses. "Last year, I shook Yadi off only four times," says [...] Kyle Lohse. "And I gave up three hits."

Yadi to Second

A throw to second base in the MLB: less than 2 seconds
most catchers: 1.9's
some of the best: high 1.8's

Yadier is routinely clocked in the 1.7's by [Duncan], and occasionally in the 1.6's.

TLR requires his starters to have a delivery of 1.4 s or less.

42.1% runners caught stealing, 2nd to Ivan Rodiriguez
26 runners: attempted to steal this season
(71 runners: successful against Jason Varitek)

Yadi to First

Since 2004, he has caught 31 runners off first base, nearly twice as many as any other catcher during that time.

Most catchers will throw only when they have a clear line to first base, but Molina likes to tuck in behind a lefty and use him as a screen. "I'm sneaky," he says.

Most of them never see it coming. If Pujols is holding the runner, he'll flash a sign to throw, but if he's positioned behind the bag, it's up to Molina. "I have to be aware that he's going to throw every time, even though he could go the whole game without throwing," Pujols says.

Runners steal attempts for catchers with minimum 500 games, since 2005; leaders and last:

Name Games SB Attempts % Caught
Yadier Molina 550 126 216 41.7%
Joe Mauer 520 166 248 33.1%
Ivan Rodriguez 558 181 279 35.1%
Jason Kendall 652 378 479 21.1%
A.J. Pierzynski 598 387 457 15.3%
Victor Martinez 500 327 413 20.8%


Last but not least, the article says right out that Albert is Yadier's "de facto hitting coach." Ridiculous.

So this stuff is pretty awesomely ridiculous and anecdotal, but it backs up what the stats have trouble describing: how much Yadi controls the game. By his own admission, Duncan says he's mentally calling a more traditional game while Yadi constantly innovates. He and his brothers continue to network over their game. The pitchers pitch in their comfort zone because he anticipates the pitcher's strengths, and he can cover for some of their weaknesses. He's manipulating the hitters; he's manipulating the umpires.

And he's pretty much killing the running game.

I'm shocked the article doesn't mention his base stealing, though. Blazing speed!

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