Currently, Yadier Molina is in position to start in the 2016 All Star Game. With Buster Posey trailing closely behind with 1,130,084 votes, it begs an intriguing question: Does Yadi deserve the starting spot?
Every year, the All-Star game is full of drama, as fans and players combine to assemble the best the game has to offer. Inevitably, each year, players sneak onto the squad based on name alone, rather than individual performance from the season at hand.
Take Jason Heyward for example, who currently sits in 4th place amongst an incredibly strong group of National League outfielders. Hitting a mediocre .237 with four home runs, it is hard to argue that Heyward has performed well enough to take the field with players such as Daniel Murphy, Ryan Braun, and Carlos Gonzalez.
In 2016, one of the most intriguing voting races is between the Cardinals legend Yadier Molina and Buster Posey. As it stood yesterday, Molina held a slim lead over Posey in voting, leading by a minuscule 5,130 votes. Such a slim margin leads to the obvious debate: who truly deserves the start?
— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) June 28, 2016
Such an argument is tricky, as it depends on what a given fan or player values as they decide what truly deserves being recognized with the prestige of an All-Star starting spot. As such, I will split this argument into two parts, one based upon statistics, and one based talent & value at the catcher position.
Starting statistically, it becomes virtually impossible to argue that Yadier Molina should start over Buster Posey in this years Mid-Summer Classic. Posey has been on an offensive surge as of late, heightening his average all the way to .285, significantly better than Molina’s average, which currently sits at .261. Furthermore, Posey holds the edge in both home runs and RBIs, leading Molina by 7 and 11, respectively. Defensively, based on raw statistics, Posey triumphs yet again, boasting a 59% caught-stealing percentage, compared to Molina’s 30%. To top it all off, the Giants are arguably the hottest team in baseball, thanks in part to the recent surge of Posey’s offensive performance.
As the raw statistics clearly suggest, Posey has out-performed Yadi thus far in 2016. Despite the statistical evidence, however, an entirely different argument could lead to Molina starting in San Diego. As demonstrated earlier, the All-Star game is not solely based on statistical performance. Especially as a catcher, one could argue in favor of Molina that goes far beyond the box score.
Yadier Molina is perhaps the greatest and most talented catcher of all-time. While he has improved as a hitter throughout his tenure for the Cardinals, no fan will argue his worth using his offense. In 2016, as with the entirety of Molina’s career, one should focus on his defensive effort.
Compared with Posey, Molina has had a much more challenging defensive responsibility thus far in 2016. Specifically, Posey is working with perhaps the best and most polished staff in the big leagues. Comparatively, Molina is commanding an incredibly young and inconsistent staff, grinding daily to call smart games and handle smoothy to maximize the potential of his unproven teammates. In doing so, Molina has maintained his unparalleled defensive performance, boasting a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000.
Furthermore, it can be argued that caught stealing percentage is an incredibly loaded stat, based upon many factors completely out of a catcher’s control. In a modern era where sabermetrics have devalued the stolen base, defending opposing runners has become more about a pitcher’s ability to vary looks to the bag and deliver rapidly to home-plate.
With a veteran, polished staff like the Giants, pitchers are able to focus both on runners and hitters more effectively than young, inexperienced pitchers. As such, I argue that Buster Posey has an easier job as a defender, therefore devaluing his statistical advantage in caught stealing percentage. Put simply, in today’s game, defending runners is about much more than a catcher’s talent.
While Posey obviously holds the offensive advantage, Molina, an 8-time Gold Glove award winner, still holds more value as a defensive anchor. As a true catcher, one with consistent influence and unparalleled defensive pedigree Molina deserves to start in San Diego.
Despite an in depth comparison of two hall-of-fame catchers, the conclusion still remains unclear. Based on the raw purpose and value of a catcher (offense excluded), I believe Molina could make yet another start in an All Star game, making a legendary career even more impressive.
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