January 17, 2018

#Cardinals notes — Yadi Molina, Hall of Famer?

Yadier Molina
Long time St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has said that when his current contract expires after three more years, he retires.

So, even as his name has drawn a bit more Cooperstown speculation from top-tier baseball writers, I'll add my thoughts to that.

First, WAR. It's not a perfect stat, and for catchers, especially, leaves out some things like pitch framing skills.

Nonetheless, right now, that number, which is at 35.4 WAR, doesn't look great.

Let's add 6.6 more to round out his career to 42 WAR.

And, only three catchers with lower numbers than that are in Cooperstown. One is Roy Campanella, career shortened by a tragic car wreck at the tail end, and shortened at the front end by not being pure white. The others are undeserving Veterans Committee adds Rick Ferrell and Ray Schalk, and deadballer Roger Bresnahan, who had a decent career when playing full time, but with the exception of one season, stopped doing that after he turned 30. Next lowest are Ernie Lombardi at 45.9 and Buck Ewing at 47.7. Lombardi is a beneficiary of the ultra-live 1930s plus, like Farrell, a thinning of talent during World War II that let him play well into his 30s. Ewing is buried another full decade back in the dead ball era than Bresnahan and, in addition, played half his games at other positions.

So, right there, doesn't look good. To frame the other way? Ted Simmons, at 50.1, has the lowest WAR of any catcher who's stimulated serious discussion about Cooperstown and not already in. (Thurman Munson, at 45.9 and career ended early by fatal plane crash, should get more discussion, in my opinion. In fact, I can't believe he's not already there.)

So, barring a late resurgence, going by WAR, it's going to be tough for Yadi.

There's the total intangibles, like pitch framing, though. And other tangibles, like still being the top active catcher in caught stealing percentage, despite his reputation reducing the number of challenges. Also, he's second career-wise, behind just Pudge Rodriguez, for total zone runs for a catcher, and will come close to his record before retiring.

OTOH, other than his peak of 2012 and 2013, he's not had a single year above 3.5 WAR.

Throwing out the undeservings, and playing Campy and Munson forward, I think we can say, per Ted Simmons, that 50 WAR is the cutoff point for catchers.

And, that means that unless Yadi's boosters can sell a bigger picture, he's not in.

Personally, I'm still not sure. Kind of the Jim Edmonds of catchers, but with even more in the way of intangibles to judge. Personally, I'd say he falls right around 50-50.

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