The cost of Cruz vs. Molina for Cardinals pitching

Yadier Molina has a thumb problem of unknown severity as I write this (it's at least unknown to me). How big of a deal is this for the Cardinals pitching staff? Joe Schwarz wrote a post about Yadi's ability to steal strikes, of which I was fairly skeptical. I have since been edumacating myself a bit on how Baseball Prospectus calculates framing runs. Basically, they ignore pitches that have a 0% chance of being called a strike. They then use probability to see how many pitches should be called a strike (a pitch can be worth a fractional strike), and then compare to results. They also use a method to determine a kind of pitcher respect, so they tease out if the pitcher is likely to get the call without that catcher framing it.

OK, so how good is Yadi? I took a look at all the catcher data Baseball Prospectus had for this year. I then did a couple of transforms of my own. The reason for this is Yadi has the most framing chances of any catcher in baseball, having ~50 more than second place, ~650 more than third place, and ~3600 more than 30th place. By my estimation, there are about 63 framing chances/game.


Season Chances




MLB rank

Yasmani Grandal






Tyler Flowers






Yadier Molina






Tony Cruz






Ed Easley






Carlos Ruiz






Carson Blair






I've shown the top 2 catchers in MLB by my made up stat strikes/game+ (lets call it SG+, which like wRC+ sets league average to 100), the 3 Cardinals catchers, the worst everyday catcher, and the worst catcher.

Can we take a moment to marvel at how good Grandal is at framing? Over 1 and a half strikes per game he gets for his staff, over a strike more than Molina gets, and over 7 times a league average catcher. And a wRC+ of 121. Good trade, San Diego.

What we see is that Yadi is an OK MLB pitch framer at this point. He ranks 28th of the 106 players that have caught this season. If we remove everyone with fewer than 1230 framing chances (about 20 full games), he is 24th of 66, and his SG+ is a relatively unchanged 168. The gap between Yadi and the top 10 framers is almost as large as the gap between Yadi and Cruz. Tony Cruz is a below average pitch framer. While he is ranked 59th of the 106 catchers this year, removing players without very much time behind the dish sees his ranking drop to 42nd of 66.

The cost of having to go with Cruz than Molina is about 2 strikes over 4 games. That's about a quarter of a run every 4 games. If Easley is a league average framer, he'll get one more strike than Cruz in 4 games. Would Cruz provide 0.14 more runs with his bat? I doubt it. Let's just hope Yadi is OK, so we don't have to find out.