Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Yadier Molina, Joe Mauer and the Hall of Fame

Yadier Molina last week got a contract extension through 2020 from the St. Louis Cardinals. He turns 35 in July, and he's been worked pretty hard behind the plate, so this doesn't strike me as a particularly wise investment. On the other hand, he has for a dozen years been at the center of a team that has won two World Series, lost two others and been in the postseason nine times. He's a franchise icon. Pay the man.

Yadi's new deal spurred an internet debate over his merits as a Hall of Fame candidate. I'm a "Big Hall" guy, so I haven't any problem with seeing him get a plaque at Cooperstown, but there are other catchers I'd rather see inducted first.

A guy named Scott Lindholm tweeted out the above graphic as evidence that Molina is a bit shy with the bat for the Hall.

(I will note that I don't see Ted Simmons, one of the catchers I'd rather see inducted than Molina, on this graph. I assume he would be in the upper left quadrant, with the likes of Joe Torre, Mike Piazza and Jorge Posada -- good hitting catchers who weren't all that good at catching.) (Late addendum: Simba is apparently obscured in the pile with Posada and Victor Martinez.)

Molina is down in the lower right -- excellent receivers whose hitting was below average. The further to the right, the better the defense; the further up, the better the hitting.

I'm not competent to defend the Baseball Reference fielding runs metric, but I will say that these graph points make intuitive sense, by and large.

You'll notice that that Hall of Fame catchers, with the exception of Mike Piazza, are all in the upper right quadrant -- good hitters, good defense. The only eligible guys in that quadrant who aren't in are all in the corner next to the intersection of average: Bill Freehan, Thuman Munson, Sherm Lollar.

And notice that X up there between Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench. That X signifies an active player, and it's Joe Mauer.

Mauer, in my view, did the heavy lifting for the Hall in his 20s. His 30s have been a letdown, and, of course, he will never catch again. And he's not likely to compile the big bulk numbers the voters seem to demand of hitters. A lot of people believe Mauer will fall short of the Hall, and they might be right.

But the generation of voters who would be likely to turn thumbs down on Mauer for lacking the home runs and RBIs of the HOF catchers represented in this graphic is dwindling. The percentage of the electorate that embrace B-R's metrics is only going to rise.

No comments:

Post a Comment