Very little surprises me when it comes to Yadier Molina anymore, especially on defense. However, in last night's marathon of a game, Molina found yet another way to surprise me by throwing out Miguel Montero, who was already just over half-way to second base, from his crouch. Just because, let's take a look at it again:
Three things (four if you count that it had to be overturned by replay) had to happen for this to result in a caught stealing, but at the same time, not a single one of them should detract from Molina's borderline jaw-dropping accomplishment. The most important point to be made is that Montero is not fast. In fact, he has just two stolen bases over a nine-year MLB career. Adding to the fact that he is not very fast, he apparently also has trouble sliding into the second base bag efficiently. By leaving his left foot up in the air as he reached second, Kolten Wong was able to apply a nifty shoulder tag for the out.
MLB average: 25%. RT @vivaelbirdos Molina has thrown out 60% of base stealers (12/20) in 2014, first in MLB. Second is 47%, third is 38%.
— Drew Silva (@drewsilv) May 22, 2014
Being 13% better than second place and 22% better than third place is very impressive, but the fact that Molina has been 35% better than the league average is mind-boggling to me. As a fan of the Cardinals, I know just how good Molina is at his job. This is obviously no secret in St. Louis. However, I did not know just how not-so-good the rest of the league's catchers apparently are at throwing out base stealers.
This made me wonder: where does Molina rank all-time in terms of caught stealing percentage? He has to be pretty high up on the list, right? Not really. Currently, he is 96th all-time at 45.09%. However, given the fact that I barely knew the majority of the names on the list, I think the disparity is largely due to different eras of the game (today: faster runners, pitchers slower to the plate, etc.). I am not that big of a history guy, so if I am completely off base here, please kindly let me know in the comments. Though his place on the all-time list is somewhat underwhelming, he still is the active leader by 4.38% over Ryan Hanigan.
As was shown earlier, Yadi's CS% is considerably higher than the league average in 2014, but how did his CS% compare to the league average from 2008 through 2013?
Excluding 2011 as an apparent outlier, Molina has been nearly 16% better than the league average (43.04% vs. 27.08%) over a five-year span. If the last two seasons combined with the start of this season are any indication, the gap between Yadi and the field is only widening. One last thing must be mentioned: from 2008 through 2013, Molina faced the fewest stolen base attempts in each season but one (2012, where he faced the second fewest). The value this provides to pitchers, especially young ones, is beyond measure.
Yadier Benjamin Molina, everybody.