On Sunday afternoon Yadier Molina threw out yet another baserunner. It was the 361st caught stealing of his catching career. It was just the 893rd steal attempt against him. Historical data is hard to compile because for a lot of great players it just is not all there. For instance, according to Baseball Reference the leader in caught stealing percentage is Roy Campanella, with 57.4% caught stealing. When we look at his B-Ref page, though, we see that for most of the seasons from 1937 to 1947 there are little to no data from his time in the Negro Leagues. What we do know is that after he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948 in the ten seasons that followed he allowed just 198 stolen bases and threw out 252. And that is his 57.4% caught stealing rate.
It is not a perfect comparison by any means and in fact, I do not intend to really compare the two catchers at all. They played in two completely different eras, for starters. I just want to figure out how many batters Yadier Molina would have to throw out to reach number one in caught stealing percentage. Currently he sits at 209 on the all time list from B-Ref at 40.43%. This list contains catchers with a minimum of 200 stolen base attempts against them. Among modern qualified catchers from the Fangraphs career leaderboard, Molina is fourth behind Ivan Rodriguez (45.68%), Thurman Munson (44.48%), and Jim Sundberg (41.16%).
Here is my back of the napkin calculation:
I started off with the assumption Yadier Molina would have to not allow any stolen bases to catch Ivan Rodriguez, so with that I kept his current stolen base amount the same. Yadi allows around 30 stolen bases a season on average so we could do some estimates with that, but I wanted to figure out the best case scenario just to see if that would even possible (spoiler: it is unlikely).
So if Yadi does not allow any more stolen bases and throws out 87 more would-be base-stealers, he could reach the 448 career caught-stealing he would need to have thrown out would-be base-thieves at the same rate as Ivan Rodriquez. At his current pace of roughly 20 caught stealing per season it would take him approximately 4.35 seasons to reach that number. Yadi, currently at 38 years and 11 months old, would be 43. The timeline would be tight and considering baserunners barely attempt to run on Yadi in the first place, I think it is pretty unlikely he would catch Rodriguez for the modern title.
So with that we know there is no way he would catch Roy Campanella, but for fun let’s see how far away he is. Instead of 45.68% we do the same math using 57.4%, Campanella’s career caught stealing percentage. To reach that he would have to throw out 717 would-be base stealers, 356 more than he has thrown out as of now. At 20 caught stealing per season that would take him 17.8 seasons to complete.
So Yadi likely won’t be the all-time leader in caught stealing percentage no matter how you break it down, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact he is among the elite in the metric. The fact that he is so effective behind the plate might actually mean there is some adverse selection happening, as only the best base-stealers even attempt to take a base against him in the first place. Regardless of whether he is the statistical best or not, I think most people can admit his ability to throw out baserunners is a rare talent and pretty darn fun to watch.