Rays catcher Jose Molina is not paid to hit baseballs. He is probably the only human being alive who is paid primarily to frame baseballs. This is just as well considering he sports a .234/.283/.329 career batting line. This year the fact that his defense is his calling card is extra important, as he's hitting a mind-blowing .186/.242/.196.
No one should be surprised when a 39-year-old catcher fails to be a good hitter at the major league level. However, it is kind of alarming to see any player in the big leagues hit for that line, even if they are a defensive whiz.
A .186 average is far from unprecedented, and the .242 OBP is dreadful, but comprehensible. What really stands out here is the .196 slugging percentage. Jose Molina, even in an admittedly small 215 plate appearances sample, is currently sporting a .010 ISO.
That number jumped out at me and it got me considering how rare it is for someone to hit with such little power. So I looked at the last 50 seasons of position players with at least 200 plate appearances to see the worst power seasons of all time (17,195 total player seasons). The chart below shows the bottom 10 seasons by ISO.
Molina isn't right at the top but he is in the mix. The sortable table below shows how each of these ten players fared in other offensive categories, and the Rays backstop does not compare favorably.
Molina has the lowest wOBA and wRC+ here while walking the second least of anyone in the group. Although given the era in which he's playing it's not surprising that Molina has struck out the most among these ten players, the extent of his lead in strikeouts is pretty significant.
The obvious disclaimer to this is that we are looking at a pretty small sample. Molina's career ISO of .095 is unimpressive, but not a travesty. There's a fairly good chance he adds an extra-base hit or two down the stretch and makes his way off this list.
However, for the time being this is pretty nasty company to be in. The average MLB pitcher sports an ISO of .027, and Molina's mark is just over a third of that. On a basic level that's embarrassing. If Molina were to hit two doubles tomorrow, it would be seen as anomalous but it probably wouldn't make headlines. What many don't realize is that it would increase his season extra-base hit total by 100%.
The Tampa Bay Rays aren't paying a lot of money for the services of Jose Molina, and what they are paying is almost solely a reflection of his defensive value. In fact, at this point the catcher's career, a pretty heavy negative offensive contribution was likely accounted for when the Rays gave Molina a two-year deal prior to this season. Tampa Bay can get value from Molina even if he's a thoroughly sub-par hitter.
If he transforms into a historically bad hitter, though, that's when things could get dicey.
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.
Nick Ashbourne is an Editor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @Nick_Ashbourne.