The San Francisco Giants haven’t had a Gold Glove catcher since Mike Matheny won the award in 2005. Matheny, who is now the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, has seen his catcher, Yadier Molina, win each of the last eight seasons. While Molina is once again a finalist for the award, Buster Posey should be able to break his streak and finally win his first Gold Glove.
This has become just the latest battle between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals, in what has always been a storied rivalry. The teams have faced each other in the post-season several times for National League supremacy and this matchup between two elite catchers is just another chapter.
When comparing the two, it is clear that Posey had the superior season in 2016. While Molina is still great with a pitching staff and still an above average defensive catcher, his numbers show he is not as strong now as he used to be. Posey, on the other hand, has taken control of the position in the National League and has made it clear he is the best defensive catcher in the Senior Circuit.
It’s hard for anyone to think that Molina is no longer the king of the NL behind the plate, but Posey has done just that.
Stolen Base Percentage
Being able to control the running game is a lot more complicated than simply looking at the percentage of runners a catcher throws out. That being said, the numbers are significantly better for Posey, with a 37% success rate to Molina’s 21%. Posey threw out 28 of 75 would be base stealers in 2016 while Molina threw out 18 of 85. Posey was 6th best in all of baseball and only Welington Castillo had a better percentage in the National League. Molina, meanwhile was 18th in baseball.
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The Chicago Cubs have three catchers on their World Series roster and one of the key differences between two of them, David Ross and Willson Contreras, besides their age is their “quiet glove” behind the plate. While Ross is a 39 year old who could teach a course on the art of framing pitches for strikes, Contreras would still need to take the introductory course.
When it comes to Posey vs Molina, Buster has become the best in the game at getting the umpire to call strikes on borderline pitches. According to Stat Corner, Posey was the best in the game at pitch framing and Molina was eighth. Without even looking at the numbers, Mark Simon of ESPN weighed in midseason with his thoughts.
When you look at the numbers more closely, you can see that Posey led all of baseball in getting the largest percentage of pitches, caught outside the strike zone, called a strike and finished second to Yasmani Grandal in the smallest percentage of pitches, caught within the strike zone, called a ball. More simply, Posey was given 201 more calls to go his way than pitches he lost to a bad call. By comparison, Molina was only given 70 more calls, good for eighth best in the Major Leagues.
While Defensive Runs Saved isn’t as strong a stat for catchers as with other positions, the ability to field the position is still critical for any catcher. Being able to field bunts, tag runners out at the plate and block baseballs in the dirt are all essential to success behind the dish. Posey led all of baseball in this category too with a 12 in DRS to Molina’s -1. Even though DRS isn’t the best stat for catchers, Posey was still better than Molina in 2016.
Yadier Molina may be as good as we’ve ever seen at calling a game and getting the most out of his entire staff. His eight Gold Gloves were earned for many reasons, but maybe most impressive is the respect he has throughout baseball for managing the game from behind the plate. It is no surprise that Molina helped lead the Cardinals to two World Series titles. Maybe even more impressive is his nine trips to the post-season in 13 years.
As we look at Posey’s career to date, he has established himself as one of the best in the game as well. He has won three championship rings as much for his work with the Giants pitching staff as any other aspect of his game. Being able to make a pitcher feel comfortable with what he wants to throw while also staying true to scouting reports on how best to approach a hitter is paramount to success.
Molina and Posey are two of the best in baseball at getting their pitchers to trust the signs they are putting down. Rarely do we ever see a pitcher on either team shake off signs from these two despite both the Cardinals and Giants having had significant turnover with their pitching staffs over the years.
Ultimately, we are seeing the changing of the guard in the National League. Buster Posey has become the best catcher, dethroning Yadier Molina who has held the crown for more than a decade. The best part is that neither player has any plans of making a position change anytime soon, so this rivalry should continue for a few more seasons.