Here at Viva El Birdos we discuss Yadier Molina quite a bit. This should not come as a surprise — a Cardinals blog often writing about the longest tenured player and heart and soul of the team. Even without that, though, the truth is Yadier Molina is fascinating. Earlier this year I used graphs to demonstrate just how rare it was to see Molina play a position other than catcher. A few months after that Molina threw a out a would-be base-stealer with the second-fastest pop-time of his career, prompting a post about some of his best caught steals.
I did not start posting Molina appreciation posts overnight, though. I learned form the King of Cardinals Puff Pieces (Has this meme been overused yet? You know what, don’t tell me if it is, I don’t wanna know, I love it too much.), former VEB site manager Craig Edwards. In a recent article he wrote for Fangraphs Craig demonstrated just how good Molina is at throwing out baserunners. The results were, as Molina often is, fascinating. So fascinating, that I had to unpack them further. What is the Molina Effect? To find out I — with help from Craig — looked at data year-by-year.
In 2004, before Molina took over the catcher’s job full time, the Cardinals had 53 bases stolen against them to 29 runners caught stealing, leading to a solid 35.4% caught-stealing rate. Recall the catcher at this time was Mike Matheny, who himself was no slouch behind the plate. Since Molina took over at catcher in 2005, this is what the caught stealing rates have looked like each year:
And the raw stolen base numbers:
The Cardinals versus the Cardinals-less average comparison was so drastic, I threw in a team the Cardinals play a lot — the Cubs — for further comparisons.
These graph are still not the complete picture, though. For that I have one more to show you and it is probably my favorite of the three. Here is a graph of stolen base attempts each year since 2005:
Even after considering the decreasing popularity of base stealing, Yadier Molina has stood in a class of his own. It has been really fun to watch.
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