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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Sean is all over the Jose Molina Is Not The Big Mango's Personal Catcher Story. Let's say that, despite Scioscia's polite protestations, Jose really is Colon's man-about-backstop. Does this make any sense?

Whether or not a catcher really affects a pitcher's performance is a matter of debate, and the argument seems to currently rest on the side of "not so much." And one glance at the Angel defensive stats reveals that Jose's pitchers have allowed a 4.20 ERA to Bengie's 4.31 -- a very negligible difference, conclusive of nothing. So, if even in general catchers do have varying abilities to affect pitchers, that does not appear to be the case here.

There is another issue, however, revealed by the defensive stats. Jose has thrown out a superb 54.8% of aspiring base thieves, while Gold Glove Arm Bengie has thrown out a mere 20%. Now, I know Bengie started off the year hurt and everything ... but the last time I wrote on this subject was May 12 -- and Bengie was tossing out 22.2% at that time. So he's actually getting worse!

Bengie has long maintained that Jose was a better defender than him, and this year seems to be bearing that out. Jose also has less passed balls per nine innings (.047) than Bengie (.091), and a higher fielding percentage (.997-.993).

The rub lies in the bats, of course. Jose is hitting a pathetic 242/261/353 against Bengie's 289/308/443. Is this enough to make Bengie the beter player this season? The difference between them on basestealing is somewhere around 11 runs, and the three extra passed balls probably don't amount to more than 1.

Looking at hitting, BPro puts Bengie at 10-16 runs better than Jose by Equivalent Runs, depending on how you look at it, and VORP has it at about 12 runs.

For whatever it's worth, in total contribution Win Shares pegs Bengie for 6 and Jose at 3, which is a win, or about ten runs. Though Jose outdefends Bengie 2.8-2.6 (and remember that's in less playing time), Bengie outhits Jose 3.7-0.1.

I'm bound to think that Bengie's hitting is enough to make him better than Jose -- but that Jose's defense is enough to mean that he is a capable backup to Bengie, which of course means Bengie can get more days off, stay healthy, and be a better hitter. And these are all good things.

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