Monday, November 28, 2011
The Rays sign Jose Molina
The Rays finished a deal that had been in the works for over a week, by signing Jose Molina to a 2 year 1.5 million dollar deal. Molina had a .342 OBP, 103 OPS +, and 1.783 O4S in 2011. This was done in a relatively small sample (55 games), and with a BABIP of .363. That is so distorting that it makes most of his 2011 offensive statistics absolutely useless (his career BABIP is .293). His career high .9 O-WAR should probably be dismissed (not in the sense that he didn't actually earn it, but in the sense that you cannot rely on this in the future). His walk rate was even distorted, as he walked 7.9% of the time, versus his normal 5% (both are below league average by the way). He homered around average at 1.6% of the time (versus his 1.5% norm), below league average (which is like 2.7%). As he has never seen 300 Plate Appearances in a season (he has played in 12 seasons), looking at individual seasons aren't real helpful. Russell Carleton has argued and shown that OBP and SLG usually stabilizes around 500 PA, so anything smaller than that is, well, small. So it really only makes sense to look at his career statistics. He has just a 3.4 WAR in his 12 years, worth all of 850,000 a year. He actually has a -.3 O-WAR (obviously meaning he has a 3.7 D-WAR). However, there was a recent interesting study that suggests he may be worth more defensively than WAR lists. This Mike Fast Baseball Prospectus piece showed that a catcher's ability to frame strikes vastly changes from catcher to catcher. According to his study, Molina was the most valuable and actually saved 35 runs every 120 games. If this is true, then that is worth 3.5 wins according to WAR formula, but not necessarily worth 3.5 WAR. WAR implies a .320 winning percentage, not 0 wins, so how could we convert that into WAR? Out of the catchers (basically all the catchers that have had major playing time in the past few years) that Fast surveyed, they had a total of 5 runs saved over 120 games. So it does seem fair to just ignore the .320 winning percentage and say that a replacement catcher would not be negative (as many starting catchers are) but neither positive. However, we can't just tack on 3.5 WAR on Molina, because it is for 120 games, which Molina most certainly won't play. Let's assume he plays half of that (60 games), which would put it at 1.75 WAR. This alone would be worth way more than the contract. He is about replacement level on offense, but is a good defender and if Fast is right, an amazing catcher. It appears overall that this is a good deal, and they have went all in with this by the recent John Jaso trade (which I recently graded).