Birds of a Feather


Ivan Rodriguez made his MLB debut at the age of 19 in 1991. His OPS was .630 and OPS+ was 75. In 1994, Pudge had his first year above a 100 OPS+, breaking out with a 118 OPS+. After a slight dip the next year, he’d maintain that stature as an above average bat (and for the duration of his peak significantly so) for the next 11 years, his swan song coming in his first year in Detroit, 2004, to the tune of a spectacular 138 OPS+.

There are some curious things here. In 2000, Pudge had a 156 OPS+ and yet doesn’t have an MVP-# in his catalog, despite winning the MVP award in 1999 with a 125 OPS+. (/switches to fangraphs mode) What happened in 1999, Ivan? Your defense cratered according to fangraphs. It never quite recovered either. In 2003, Ivan Rodriguez moved from his home at Texas to the in-between hop in Florida before settling in Detroit and his retirement as a National.

I’d like to define Ivan Rodriguez’s peak as 1995-2004 (went with ‘96 initially, but a clean 10 years is too much to pass up). Over that period, he accrued 50.2 fwar/50.7 bwar. Furthermore, from 1996 through 1999, Rodriguez punched 5.6, 6.2, 6.4, 6.8 fwar and 6.1, 6.5, 5.4, 6.4 bwar.

This is where we begin.

In 2004, Yadier Molina slugged a 78 OPS+ over 151 plate appearances as an aged 21 year old. It was his highest performance until after he fatefully drove the Cardinals into the World Series on the back of a regular season .216 average, .595 OPS, 53 OPS+ and -0.3 fwar and Tony LaRussa saying something along the lines of Yadier being the starting catcher even if he hits .000.

This is where we begin.

I’m not sure we data-driven freakanoids will ever truly know Ivan Rodriguez’s peak. Because I see it and know it because of jagged edges. Jagged edges and because Tony LaRussa didn’t seem to mince words. Yadier’s hitting peak was 2011-2013. You can extend it to 2016 if you like. 124, 137, 129, 102, 80, 111 by bref and 126, 138, 133, 102, 81, 114 by fangraphs. Pudge was really fucking good. Holy shit, Pudge was really fucking good.

Let’s switch to the guts. Yadier Molina’s defensive peak according to fangraphs straddles 2008-2013. The data dump is as follows: 38.9, 37.3, 48.3, 31.3, 35.4, 38.4; totalling 229.6. Bwar pushes that peak back further by dWAR all the way to the beginning to be honest but that’s not really why I brought it up.

From the data that I can see, I’d define Ivan Rodriquez’s defensive peak as 1996-1999, totaling 32.7, 28.7, 26.6 and 28.2 for a total of 116.2. The per year average being 29.05 and 38.267 for Ivan and Yadier respectively.

Let’s go wins. Fangraphs is pushing me to a ‘96-’04 data set again for Pudge, so I’m going to roll with it. [5.6, 6.2, 6.4, 6.8, 4.7, 5.0, 3.3, 4.5, 4.7] Total: 47.2 fwar with a per year of five point two something. Bwar: [6.1, 6.5, 6.4, 6.4, 4.8, 5.0, 3.1, 4.5, 4.5] Total: 47.3.

Bwar eviscerates Molina in a way exploded testicles can only dream. By fangraphs, Molina’s peak seems to be 2008-2013. You can probably extend it out to 2016 if we’re doing the Rodriguez Detroit treatment. I’ll bold the tack on years. [4.5, 5.1, 5.0, 5.9, 7.7, 7.8, 3.4, 2.4, 3.5]; 45.3 for a per year of five point zero nine or so.

Considering these two players is incredibly interesting. How good was Ivan Rodriguez defensively? What happened in 1999-2000? Is Yadier Molina’s endurance due to a change of the winds or is the evolution of defensive metrics for catchers because of Yadier Molina.

I remember when Pujols was leaving for the coast and there was some discussion of Yadier as some sort of Pujols figure and I just kind of ignored the thought, likely due to some anachronistic perception. I think it will be some time before we data-noids really understand the proper weight of things, but my current perception is that perhaps Pudge was Yadier before Yadi, but trended with the times. You see the same thing in the middle for Yadi, becoming this hitter that noone saw coming. They’re inverses of sorts and I’m very interested to see how history evaluates such an intriguing position. Defense is hard to quantify, but you could make quite a significant argument that perhaps there’s no more significant a black hole of value in all of sports as a baseball catcher’s defense.

38.9, 37.3, 48.3, 31.3, 35.4, 38.4.

2008-2013. Very Interesting.