JSF Stats Insider: Molina Ran Harder in 2011

02
Mar
2012

On Thursday, Yadier Molina signed a 5-year, $75 million contract extension that will keep him in a Cardinal uniform through at least 2017, and in all likelihood for the rest of his career.

But you already knew that, you avid blog reader you. What you may not know is exactly how Molina became the second highest paid catcher in the game.

For that, we turn to nerds. The worst kind of nerds in fact: sports nerds.

Enter the ESPN Stats & Info blog, which touts itself as giving you , the consumer, the same information that the ESPN Stats and Information Group provides to its production teams around the company.

No longer must you wait for your favorite announcer to spout off irrelevant, indecipherable statistics in a feeble attempt to fight dead air and boredom during yet another lull in the action brought on by player injury, instant replay, or timeout.  Now you can get them right from your computer, tablet, or mobile texting device whenever you want, just the way the good Lord intended.

To the layperson, Molina earned his huge payday by vastly improving his offensive output from 2010 to 2011 while remaining the best defensive catcher in the game. Molina hit .305 in 2011 – 43 points higher than the previous year, while setting career highs in home runs (14) and RBIs (65).

But in comparing Molina’s 2010 and 2011 seasons, the ESPN Stats & Info blog went beyond traditional statistics, using advanced metrics it calls “Next Level.”

More specifically, the following heat map shows that in 2011 Molina improved his batting average on offspeed pitches in the strike zone (on even numbered Thursdays when the Moon is in crescent phase) from .233 to .375 while reducing his miss percentage from 15 to 9.

Wow…that’s…impressive?

Hey, we’ve got a crack research staff here at Joe Sports Fan too. Not to be outdone, they dug deep into the statistical archives and unearthed their own heat maps that also explain Molina’s breakout 2011 season.

You see, the JSF research team keeps a chart on every Cardinal that measures how hard he runs out ground balls (ROGB) throughout the season. It’s part of our own brand of advanced metrics that goes beyond “Next Level” to what we like to call “Ludicrous Level.”

According to the ROGB heat map, In 2011 Molina hustled a full 2.5 steps down the first base line on ground balls, a marked improvement from the 1.5 steps he hustled in 2010.

By contrast, Molina loafed about 6.2 steps on average for every ground ball he hit in 2011, which led the team, but only because Albert Pujols simply didn’t move after 34 percent of his at bats. This might sound bad for Molina, but that number was down significantly from the 8.6 loafs per ground ball he posted in 2010.

In fact, if we combine the average number of steps Molina hustled in 2011 with the average number of steps where he coasted (2.1) we discover that Molina ran nearly halfway to first base on every ground ball he hit in 2011.

Which would explain why he grounded into only two more double plays in 2011 (21) than he did in 2010 (19) despite batting 43 points higher and making contact more often. I don’t have to tell you how important all those extra outs are throughout the course of a 162 game season!

Here’s hoping Molina can continue to increase his ROGB output in the 2012 season and beyond, although after signing for all that money, I kind of doubt it.

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