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. DaveinMD

    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.

    • Burnett and Chamberlain are very similar with their attitudes and behavior… They both shake off the world because they are two very confident guys who call their own games, Molina and Burnett have just had more time together so there is less shaking because they are starting to know each other more, Joba probably would have benefited from being caught by Molina more.

      Girardi got upset with Molina’s mound visits not Chamberlain shaking, Molina had been going to the mound all night 2 and 3 times per at bat some time with all the pitchers. There is nothing wrong with shaking off a catcher people really have to get this “just throw what he puts down” nonsense out of there thinking because that is stupid! The pitcher is pitching and the pitcher gets the loss or the win not the catcher, the catcher just asks what the pitcher wants to throw and nothing more.

      • DaveinMD

        Joba shakes off because he thinks he knows what he’s doing, when he doesn’t yet. He needs to be yelled out or talked to to cut this shit out. That’s why Girardi ran out there last night.

        • Joba shakes off because he knows what pitch he has confidence in at the time… That is not why Girardi went out there he went out there because of the ridiculous amount of mound visits all night to everyone by Molina, even the ump had to tell him to stop going to the mound!

          “Cut this shit out”… WOW… You would rather a pitcher not throw a pitch he has confidence in because a catcher asked for something else? Glad you aren’t the Yankees pitching coach… “Catchers aren’t wrong ever Joba throw what they ask and nothing else”… sounds stupid to me!

          • DaveinMD

            Joba consistently demonstrated that he doesn’t know what he’s doing yet as a pitcher. He’s a head case. What other pitcher has Jeter ever gone to the mound to yell at? I don’t recall one other instance. Another game during the year, Girardi read him the riot act on the mound. He was clearly not listening to instruction.

          • He is a head case I give you that, the fact he protects his arm as much as he does shows he doesn’t have it all together but the reason he shakes off is because he feels more comfortabel with one pitch and then only wants to throw that pitch… I never said it was right but it’s what he likes to do, either way Girardi went out to get Molina to stop going to the mound… He didn’t do it in the 8th.

    • I agree, he does it with everyone, but in the games with Molina, I always thought he did it a lot less. I actually think Jorge, as a catcher, is the way to go with Joba because Joba needs to be kept in check. He doesn’t need a catcher who is willing to submit to his stubborn desires. He needs someone who’s going to challenge him and Jorge is definitely that guy.

      • Yeah I can agree with that but at the same time I don’t think the way Posada does it is the right way, I mean he obviously steps on toes instead of explaining why they should throw a certain pitch.

  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.

    • I wish someone could come up with a stat for that. Like pitches framed or something similar to that idea. It would be pretty cool.

      • To hard to do… and it would basically be a stat showing how many pitches the umps called wrong and baseball will not have that!

        • Haha. Good point. That would be a great stat.

          • Haha maybe they could count the number of shake offs between certain pitchers and catchers to see which catchers and pitchers are the most in-sync with each other and see if it really helps that much.

  3. Riddering

    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. ;)

    • I see what you’re saying, but I never said that Joba and Molina are more successful together, rather that Joba likes pitching to him more (what I said was a bit confusing, though, which I apologize for). I actually think Molina’s style with Joba isn’t the way to go.

      EDIT – Eh, actually, looking at the stats, it does appear as though Molina and Joba have better career numbers (.219/.303/.316), but those might be skewed based on the amount of starts versus relief appearances.

      • Riddering

        I’m curious where you get the idea that Joba likes Molina behind the plate better, mostly because I haven’t seen any subtext or hinting that that was the case.

        With Joba/Molina I was only looking at the regular 2009 season for stats, since I considered it fair in comparing Molina’s performance with A.J. this season as well as this being Joba’s first full season as a starter.

        • The season stats are poor between Molina and Joba, but they are only 6 games worth of data. I based my observation in subjectivity rather than any sort of statistic. When you watch Joba work with Molina, they often work quicker (better working rapport). It’s no secret that Posada and Joba haven’t been on the same page for much of the year, so I guess my claim is based more on what I saw last year than in this year (since Molina and Joba haven’t worked much together this year).

  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.

    • Yeah but if you think about it you don’t think Burnett had some in put on it? I doubt he went to Girardi and asked but only because I think Girardi went to him and asked him who he would rather have and I think he said Molina… No other way it happens IMO, if him and Posada could’ve worked it out they would have.

      • From a Baseball standpoint, maybe. But as an ex-catcher I’m sure Girardi sees a lot of things we don’t and would know what to do without needing to be told. But I’m also sure he’s discussed this with all the parties involved at some point, as you said.

        But Heyman’s inference could be read as a personal rift between these two, like AJ’s knocking Jorge off the record. Every reputable beat reporter I’ve heard has gone out of their way to clarify that is simply not the case. That’s not who AJ is, publicly or privately from everything I’ve read elsewhere.

        Heyman is one of the few guys who write this way, and it’s just rumor mongering, plain and simple.

        • If you are talking about it in those terms I agree…! I don’t and have not believed this was AJ’s fault nor do I believe he is keeping it going. I blame Jorge for not wanting to work on his own flaws when it comes to dealing with pitchers who are a little more willful and want to call their own games.

          At the end of the day I don’t think either play “dislikes” the other one, Burnett from what I see and assume just feels more comfortable and probably less pressured to throw a certain pitch with Molina then Posada and Jorge is a gamer who wants to play every day but he also wants to do things his way because he thinks he knows best. Both want to win they just aren’t as compatible with each other as AJ and Molina.

    • Haha, no worries, Steve. I feel the same way about Jayson Stark.

  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. Tom Gaffney

    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.

    • Posada isn’t a bad game-caller at all, but I would argue that Jose Molina is better. As with any position, there are players who are simply better than others at specific things (reading pitchers, reading flys, taking routes, etc.). For instance, the cutter issue with Andy Pettitte showed that Molina was able to figure out the best way to handle him. Also, that article doesn’t show anything about framing pitches. I think, without stats, it’s pretty clear that Molina is better at framing pitchers than Posada is (that’s not a slight at Jorge, either, it’s just that Molina is that good).

      • Molina is a big level above Jorge at framing pitches for sure but on the same token Jorge is a big level above Russell Martin at framing pitches, that’s just how it goes.

  7. leftylarry

    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.

    • Tom Gaffney

      Feel free to back it up with actual numbers, but the evidence doesn’t seem to bear out your point. Anyone who “knows the game of baseball” knows that personal catchers have existed since the beginning of time. Greg Maddux had personal catchers, Roger Clemens had personal catchers, Randy Johnson had personal catchers, even the idiot announcing the games for Fox was a personal catcher, himself. I just heard an interview with John Flaherty who said Jorge called a fine game and the Burnett thing has nothing to do with his ability as a game caller. I guess he doesn’t know anything about the game of baseball, huh?

      • Yeah but Molina is a better defensive catcher than Posada and really isn’t close, I don’t agree with lefty at all but still no one should be trying to say Jorge is on Molina’s level.

        • I didn’t want to make it seem as though I was bashing Jorge—I just want to be clear. I think Posada is a good game-caller, although I also think he’s had some trouble this season because his staff’s stuff is so good. I’ll have a writeup about that in a few days so stay tuned.

          • I never took it as bashing Posada, are there not varying degrees of good? Or is everyone good or bad?

          • That was more of a general comment. I think people assumed that I thought Posada was a bad game-caller given my “Jose is better than him” statement (I probably could have been clearer). And you’re definitely right, there are varying degrees of good which is what I meant to highlight.

  8. leftylarry

    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.

    • Cervelli is also in his mid 20s and Posada is in his late 30s so yeah I would hope Cervelli is much better otherwise he sucks! No one is saying Posada is a gold glover he just sin;t the worse catcher to ever play the position…. oh and the last person who I care about their opinion is Jose Contreras…!

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