>Mo’lina, Mo’ Problems: Part 2

>You can read Part 1 here, where the “Bengie Molina will help the pitching staff” myth was debunked and the Bengie Molina “will keep hitting home runs” myth was partially busted. Here is the continuing exploration of the awfulness that is Bengie Molina.

Hit Tracker provides some interesting nuggets about Bengie Molina’s 2009 home runs.

The S.F. baseball Giant’s stadium, Molina’s 2009 home, is generally homer-unfriendly, but a majority of the damage is done by a deep center and giant brick wall in right-center – it’s not a particularly difficult park to homer in to either left or left-center, where Molina lofted most of his. Molina hit 12 home runs in AT&T Park in 2009 – but 6 of those gained between 12 and 42 feet from the wind, for an average of 26 feet. Molina got plenty of help from Aeolus in 2009 – and he’s not going to see that help at Citi Field. Only one Citi Field home run gained more than 25 feet because of the wind. Molina had three like that on his own.

Taking a look at the Hit Tracker’s data for both parks in 2009, AT&T park had almost every single one of its balls blown out by the wind to some degree – a Miguel Montero home run gained 76 feet from the wind, and only three home runs were negatively influenced by the gusting winds. Citi Field has some balls aided by the wind, but an almost equal number were blown back towards the playing field. All of Molina’s AT&T park homers were helped by the wind, some much more than others. Based on the one year of data, Citi Field probably breaks even with the wind over the course of a full season. Molina’s plan of lofting fly ball after fly ball and hoping that the wind floats some out is not going to cut it in Flushing. A lot of those balls are going to drop into gloves due to no wind and further distances. Bengie Molina will not hit 20 home runs for the 2010 Mets. If Molina isn’t hitting home runs, that combined with the .285 OBP makes his bat worthless, even at an already weak-hitting position like catcher.

Just to beat this to death, other reasons why Bengie Molina shouldn’t get anything more than 1 year, $3.5 million from anyone:

1. Molina’s entire batting approach is awful. Molina’s power surge as he gets older is an illusion. There are really only two ways a player develops power as he gets older: the good way and the Bengie Molina way. That’s not completely true, but it’s probably more true than it is false. Option #1, the good one, is looking for better pitches to drive. Old hitters often become smarter, more patient hitters with age, waiting for their pitch and laying off the garbage. If they see a good pitch, they take a rip at it. If they never see it they take the walk. OBP goes up, power goes up – new toy Jason Bay does this.

Bengie Molina’s created his power the second way. He’s obviously not doing it by waiting for his pitch – he drew 13 whole walks in 2009, and 3 were intentional. His 3.22 pitchers per plate appearance was dead last in the NL. Molina’s creating his power by hacking and lofting the ball. Over. And over. And over.

Bengie hit his 20 home runs in 2009 with just an 8.8% home run to fly ball ratio. Molina’s career HR/FB ratio is also 8.8% – usually an increase home runs goes along with an increase in HR/FB ratio, but not in this case. Molina was able to hit 20 home runs, besides the wind stuff, by hitting simply hitting more fly balls – uppercutting, in other words – and not by making good contact and driving the ball out of the park. Since the 2006 season, Molina has slowly been hitting more fly balls, while his line drive and ground ball rates have plummeted. He was third in the majors in fly ball percentage in 2009.

 In addition, the decreasing line drive rate on it’s own is concerning. The best way to get a base hit is by hitting a line drive. I’m not going to worry about the ground balls because Molina is ridiculously slow – he’s not going to beat out anything that doesn’t find a hole anyway, and even some balls that do. But a drop in line drives lead to a drop in BABIP, which leads to a drop in batting average, which leads to a drop in on-base percentage, which leads to less runs for the team, which leads to more losses. And then you miss the playoffs again and small children cry. Small cute children. See what you’ve done now?

If Molina keeps swinging away wildly and trying to loft the ball in Citi Field, he may very well end up as the worst everyday offensive player in the 2010 National League.

2.) .285 OBP. Second lowest in the majors.

3.) He’s a 35-year-old catcher. You know what happens to old, everyday catchers? They break down. Because they’re old. And they’ve played a lot of games. And they’re catchers.

4.) Molina’s 80 RBI last season? He was hitting cleanup, so he had more RBI chances than an average hitter. 30 of those RBI’s came on his home runs, and I just talked about that. 11 more came in on sacrifice flies because he hits so many fly balls. If you’re a believer in clutch hitters and you think that’s why Bengie drove in so many runs, Molina hit .189/.231/.297 with two outs and RISP and grounded into nine of his fourteen double plays in high leverage situations.

That’s misleading though. His WPA (Win Probability Added) for 2009 puts his batting ability in “clutch” situations as the same as his batting ability the rest of the time. Clutch, unclutch, luck, sorcery – whatever – he got all those RBI because he was hitting cleanup and he had three guys getting on base in front of him, not because he was a great hitter or clutch hitter. 

5.) Bengie Molina is also the among the worst base runners in the major leagues – Baseball Prospectus has him at -4.5 runs on the bases.

We can create a 2009 wins above replacement (WAR) value for Molina based on the combination of his offense, base running, and defense. He’s -9.1 runs offensively, -4.5 on the bases, -3.4 runs defensively (by Driveline Mechanics), but gets +10 runs for being a catcher and +17.3 runs for shuffling himself out there for 132 games. Plus, I’m going to give him back another +2.5 runs under the assumption that all catchers are slow, below average base runners. Assuming 10 runs equals a win, that comes out to a 1.3 WAR, 35-year-old catcher looking for a three year deal – and remember most of that WAR came from the home runs he won’t be hitting for the Mets. Omir Santos was worth .8 (adjusted the same way) WAR in 2009.

Giving a two-year deal to a 35-year-old player with production similar to Omir Santos makes no sense. It makes less sense when you already have Omir Santos. And somehow even less sense with the adequate Henry Blanco in the fold. And Chris Coste. And Josh Thole. And millions of other nameless, faceless backup catchers ready to step in and provide similar production for much less cost.

So all that about Molina hitting home runs and helping the pitching staff? It’s not going to happen – the Mets are going to pay him too much for a couple of slight of hand tricks. Bengie Molina is 35 years old, a below-average hitter with a terrible approach, a below-average defensive catcher, and among the worst base runners in the majors. He a pumpkin looking for someone to pay him like a carriage – and the Mets already have enough pumpkins.

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