On Tuesday evening, Major League Baseball announced their rosters for the 2016 All-Star Game. While certain bits of the roster are sure to change due to injury, starters appearing the Sunday prior, etc., the bulk of the players that will be taking the field in San Diego are now known. For fans in a certain Midwestern city, based on a quick Twitter search of his name, there was one absolutely glaring omission to the National League roster: Yadier Molina.
The National League has six catchers who have enough plate appearances to qualify. There are three that will be appearing in San Diego: Buster Posey (getting the start), Wilson Ramos, and Jonathan Lucroy. J.T. Realmuto, Derek Norris, and Molina are the other three. These are how those six stack up from an offensive perspective:
Of the players featured in the above table, Derek Norris (-5.4) and Yadier Molina (-10.4) are the only ones whom FanGraphs pegs with a negative offensive rating. What Norris has working in his favor, leading to that 0.6 lead in WAR over Molina, is that he brings much more pop to the mix (as illustrated by his .191 ISO). That in addition to the fact that he leads this group in pitches per plate appearance, with a 4.05 mark. Molina, by comparison, ranks fifth in that group with 3.63 P/PA, ahead of only Ramos. Norris is also a better baserunner, for whatever that's worth at the catching position.
All-Star Games tend to be predicated around offensive output. It's extremely difficult to make the case for Molina being much of anything resembling an offensive threat, let alone All-Star worthy. He walks at a decent rate and reaches base somewhat effectively, but he brings virtually no power to the table. His wRC+ paints him as a well-below average offensive player. Of course, Molina fans tend to ignore his offense, which was just as bad last year, and point to his value as a defensive player.
Supporters of Yadier Molina will indicate that it isn't what he does with the stick that makes him as great a player as he is. It's what he does behind the plate that allows him to still hold value, perhaps as much as any catcher in the history of the game, depending on who you talk to. From a standard perspective, Molina has been quite good. He and Buster Posey are the only two with perfect fielding percentages among the group (though it's important to note that outside of J.T. Realmuto, the entire group isn't exactly an error-laden one). Let's examine that same pool of players from a defensive perspective, in more of an advanced sense:
|Def||DRS||Framing Runs||SRAA||FRAA (Adj)|
While traditional fielding statistics might favor Molina, advanced figures don't necessarily do him any favors. FanGraphs' Def rating takes the total body into account, and Molina is the lowest among the group. Defensive Runs Saved has become a favorite of those attempting to examine defense with analytics. His apparent total defensive value comes in just on the negative side.
Part of Molina's mystique is his framing abilities, which are not taken into account with Def and DRS. Molina represents a solid framer behind the dish, but he trails Posey by a pretty significant margin. His Swipe Rate Above Average (SRAA), indicating his ability to throw runners out via Baseball Prospectus, comes in at just about average. FanGraphs' metric rSB (Stolen Base Runs Saved), which measures that same aspect, has Molina at -2. That would have him at the lowest among the six. In a simpler sense, his caught stealing percentage comes in at 28.1%. That would also have him at the back of the pack.
The conclusions that we really draw from this is that Buster Posey is easily the best defensive catcher of the bunch, and it probably isn't close. If we're to gain any conclusion of Yadier Molina as a defender from this, it's that he's delightfully average. And at this juncture in his career, that probably sums up the St. Louis Cardinal backstop: average. He hasn't done anything to set himself apart from the other catchers in the National League. He's far behind them offensively and riding about in the middle of the back defensively. Now it stands to question where he fits in terms of his ability to handle a staff, something he's consistently lauded for, but that is not something we're able to quantify at this point. We don't want to ignore that aspect completely, but how big is that gap between Posey and Molina in terms of game calling, really? Is there a gap? We don't really know right now.
As for Yadier Molina: All-Star, the easy conclusion here is that he's not. He's behind almost everybody offensively, to the point where not even his average defense can save him. Even from the perspective of what he does behind the plate, he still can't really hang with the game's elite. He's a solid enough framer, but doesn't appear to be near the elite level that so many of his realm of supporters believe him to be in a variety of other respects. Buster Posey is far and away superior, while both Ramos and Lucroy have the offensive chops to leave him behind as well.
No, Yadier Molina is not an All-Star. And no, Yadier Molina should not be.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.