Is Yadi Bear really slipping?

BY foxsports • May 8, 2015

So, I missed this the other day: Seems some pointy-headed nerd who used to write for this site found some numbers suggesting Yadier Molina has slipped. A lot. Do Rob Arthur’s numbers even begin to pass the sniff test, though?

As you might imagine, there are some naysayers in St. Louis. Wednesday, Bernie Miklasz talked to the Head Naysayer about Arthur’s work:

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a four-time Gold Glove catcher during his MLB career, wasn't a fan of the piece. 

“I read that. It’s a crying shame," Matheny said before Wednesday night's Cards-Cubs game at Busch Stadium. "I believe in every bit of information we can get, but there are so many components that come into that."

Matheny then explained one of the most important variable: umpires.

"I’ll give you an example," Matheny said. "I remember when I was catching they just started bringing in (a system) where they’re evaluating the umpires, and they started telling me that I was making them bad on their reports because I made the low pitch look so good.

"So then they started to have to counter that and start calling the borderline pitch a ball, even though I made it look like a strike. So at some point … it’s taking technology to the point … we say we don’t want to eliminate the human element?

"How about a guy that’s worked his whole career to try and make a pitch look good and all of a sudden it’s working against him because of technology. I think the same thing can be said with Yadi.

"He’s making pitches look good, maybe making umpires look bad, so then they have to compensate. There’s too much of that element in that whole thing. Too much subjectivity I believe.

Honestly, I can’t figure out Matheny’s point here. Is Matheny really arguing that the umpires are aware that Molina’s been a great pitch-framer, so they’re compensating by giving him many fewer of the borderline calls?

You gotta admit, that’s an original argument!

Which isn’t to says it’s wrong. But Molina’s decline as a pitch-framer – according to the metrics, anyway – obviously began last season. And if umpires were hyper-aware of these numbers and compensating accordingly, wouldn’t we also have seen similar declines from Jonathan Lucroy and Russell Martin, probably the other two catchers best known as great framers?

Again, I’m not saying Matheny’s wrong. And of course there are exactly zero reasons for him to do anything except defend his guy. To the hilt. But if we’re going to bet against the numbers, we do need more than his say-so. What we have is Molina’s pre-2013 history, which is powerful stuff. I’m not ready to say that he’s become a below-average framer; even a poor one, if you believe the numbers.

I sure wouldn’t dismiss the notion out of hand, though. So let’s keep watching. The truth will out. And while the Cardinals will miss Yadier Molina’s superior framing if it’s actually gone, they’re also 13-4 since Adam Wainwright’s last victory. And they’re 21-7 this season with Yadier Molina not hitting, either.


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