Understanding Jose over Jorge

From Jon Heyman (SI):

A.J. Burnett threw another nice game with favored catcher Jose Molina behind the plate, allowing three hits and two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. So look for Molina to remain his personal catcher thoughout the postseason. Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Burnett have suggested it was Girardi’s call to employ Molina. But of course it comes with Burnett’s unspoken (at least publicly unspoken) approval.

A couple of the Yankees’ more finicky star pitchers have had issues with Posada before, most notably Randy Johnson, who was eventually caught every game by backup John Flaherty. Others see the benefits of Molina but understand that the team is better off with Posada in the lineup. According to people in the Yankees’ clubhouse, the two biggest reasons Molina may be favored by pitchers are 1) game calling (and more specifically, the speed of his game calling), and 2) framing pitches.

Word is that Molina is much quicker than Posada at calling for pitches when there’s a baserunner at second base, enabling the pitcher to stay in rhythm, and also much more likely to accept a pitcher’s wishes. Posada is seen as slightly stubborn about his opinion of what pitch should be called. Molina is also viewed as one of the best in the league framing pitches, and thus stealing strikes. One pitcher said Molina may steal up to three or four strikes an inning when he’s at his best.

Heyman isn’t necessarily providing us with any new information here, as it’s common knowledge that Molina is a better game-caller than Posada and that he can frame pitches as if they were photographs. However, I did not know that Molina was more likely to accept a pitcher’s wishes, which explains why he’s able to an induce such a rhythmic tempo when he’s behind the plate. I’ve always thought that he took the lead and made good calls, making it easier for the pitcher to simply trust him and throw whatever it was that he asked for. That doesn’t appear to be the case, however, according to Heyman.

This, then, explains why A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain seem to have such a good rapport with Molina. It’s a lot easier for a stubborn power pitcher to work with a fairly submissive catcher who accepts the pitcher’s pitch selection over his own, as this allows one to steer clear of a potentially harmful egotistical struggle. This intimate relationship between a pitcher and his catcher is a tremendously complex issue. There are a lot of psychological nuances involved, it seems. Too bad there isn’t any real statistic that I know of which probes the matter further (maybe the complexity prevents that, though).

34 thoughts on “Understanding Jose over Jorge

  1. Using Burnett to discuss this is one thing, but using Joba is another. He shakes off everyone. Girardi go so annoyed with it, that he came out to the mound to tell Joba to knock it off. We’ve seen it all year.

  2. Molina is one of the best at framing pitches… If you want to re affirm that to yourselves go watch the Dodgers play and watch how bad Russell Martin is framing! He is god awful, he is so bad that he actually costs his pitches strikes on the breaking ball because he catches it at the lowest point of the break and uses his wrists to bring the ball back up.

    I have also noticed Posada keeps his head down for a while before giving his signs to the pitcher, even when Joba is on a role and ready for the sign it’s almost like Posada wants to slow the game down to his level of play and refuses to look at the pitcher until the batter is completely set up.

  3. While I’m not a big fan of Molina catching A.J. this postseason, I do understand how it came to be that the Yanks’ backup is starting the games.

    However, I think lumping Joba alongside A.J. is incorrect. The sample size for Joba/Molina is even smaller than that of A.J./Molina (six games Joba started with Molina behind the plate) and all the stats for opposing hitters actually go up as compared to the #s when Joba was paired with Posada or Cervelli. I don’t know if you were basing that comment on remembering a quickly paced successful game between the two but the numbers really don’t support that idea.

    And while A.J. should be calling his own game, I don’t think Joba should be allowed the same benefit of the doubt. A.J.’s got years of experience and he knows his stuff. Joba just finished his first year as an SP and has a lot left to learn.

    Heh, I guess I’m really splitting hairs for a throwaway comment but Molina’s performance behind the plate has been almost deified since Catchergate 2009 began. I tend to jump all over it when there’s little evidence to back it up. ;)

  4. “But of course it comes with Burnett’s unspoken (at least publicly unspoken) approval.”

    Its lines like that from Heyman that drive me nuts . The clear implication is that he has some super secret off the record info that he can’t go with, but he wants to get out there. If you’re at all familiar with his work, very few of these inferences bear out over the course of time. I’ve come to the conclusion that he phrases things this way to make it look like he knows more than he actually does, like he’s a real insider. He’s such a fucking hack.

    Sorry for the rant, it’s a good write up Chris and I agreed with most of your analysis. That’s just one of my pet peeves with this guy.

  5. Actually most all of the big time pitchers called their own games. Whitey, Sever, Carlton, Gibson etc., there are a lot of the best pitchers calling their own games. Some of them had their own catchers because they were almost always on the same page. Nothing new with that, just common sense. Anything that can be done to make the pitcher feel better about his game, the better results one gets.
    In Jobas’ case, I would let him make his way; what I mean by that is, let him call his own game in spring training, then when he asks for help one can lower the boom. Show him he has a lot more to learn then he may think…then again, he may show that he knows what he is doing (although, I doubt it).

  6. There’s no evidence that Molina calls a better game or frames pitches better than Jorge (see Moshe’s article, here: http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/?p=3621). It’s purely a matter of pacing preference and personality with AJ. The points made re: the pacing and stubbornness are valid, but let’s not overgeneralize and impugn Jorge’s game calling and framing ability which is perfectly fine.

  7. IT isn’t even close.Anybody who thinks Jorge is in molina’s class as a catcher doesn’t know the game of baseball.Jorge actually flinches and often blinks as he catches the ball and is not good at framing.Additionally after all these seasons he still doesn’t know how to fool a batter.Sure he works well with MAriano, who wouldn’t and doesn’t but even last night he came in and got Aceves in trouble with his pitch calling and even MCCarver a big Jorge fan called him for it.
    I will always have a fond feeling for Jorge but after an agent told me years ago that many pitchers don’t like to throw to him and players and even Umps know he’s a subpar defensive catcher, I started watching closely and sadly it’s totally true.
    It wasn’t Jorge that made Andy Pettitte (his boy) start pitching inside and revive his career.Jorge was happy to work low and outside like he does with everybody.
    In the past 5-6 years I think I’ve seen Jorge go up the ladder to a batter and get a a strike out, maybe 5 times a season.
    I know he started as an infielder, maybe that’s part of it, I don’t know but if i were Burnett, i’d want to pitch to Molina and lose the offense also.
    Before Jorge and to an extent Torre, it was no big deal for a pitcher ot succeed in NY, now only certain pitchers have the “Mentality” to pitch and succeed here.”
    No coincidence, believe me.

  8. Ask Randy Johnson and a host of other pitchers, including El Duque and Contreras and they’ll tell you Jorge is a mediocre catcher they didn’t particularly like throwing to.In his entire career has there EVER been a bang bang play at the plate? not many if any!!!!!!
    He won’t block the plate, never has and he won’t.He’s below average at blocking balls in the dirt and very good on pop ups behind the plate but there aren’t any in the new Stadium.
    Cervelli blows him away defensively too.