Prior to David Price’s last start, J.B. Long of MLB Network tweeted the following:
No TB player appreciates the addition of Jose Molina more than David Price — ERA by catcher: Giminez 4.72, Lobaton 4.15, J-Mo 1.88. #Rays
— JB Long (@JB_Long) July 14, 2012
Enough studies have been conducted to debunk the predictive value of catcher’s ERA; however, the battery of Price and Jose Molina is something that has intrigued me since the beginning of Spring Training. Pairing Price, a pitcher with budding tools, with Molina, one of the game’s more renowned veteran backstops, seemed like a marriage that could work well for the Rays.
By the most granular of measures, the ERA, the tandem has produced. There are other factors that should be more telling, though, and I decided to check on them.
First, I checked control rates. With Molina behind the plate, Price has struck out 23.7 percent of batters. With the others (Jose Lobaton, Chris Gimenez, and Stephen Vogt) he has a 24 percent strikeout rate. We’re nearly even here. In terms of walks, the Price-Molina tandem has handed out a free pass 7.5 percent of the time. That number jumps to 10 percent when someone other than Molina is catching.
There is some outside influence here such as the opposing lineup and home plate umpire, but Price appears to throw a few more strike with Molina behind the dish.
As such, I wanted to see how much of an impact Molina’s framing may have on Price. Once more, there are other variables at work, but 38 percent of takes (non-swings by the batter) for the Price/Molina battery have resulted in a called strike. Without Molina, the rate of called strikes drops down to 33 percent.
This season, no pitcher in the major leagues has received more called third-strikes than Price. Of his 51 called punch-outs, 33 have come with Molina catching. In fact, 48 percent of his strikeouts with Molina have come on third-strikes. With the trio of others, the number is 40 percent.
Finally, we have pitch selection.
Pitch selection is heavily influenced by game situation as well as the opposition. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things worth noting. Molina is a fan of the hard stuff. Nearly 80 percent of pitches thrown from Price to Molina are a variation of the fastball (two-seam, four-seam, or cut). This is manifests itself with two strikes. On the verge of a strikeout, Price throws a fastball or a cutter 87 percent of the time with Molina behind the plate. You’ll also note that the pair barely goes to the breaking ball which is interesting considering Molina’s reputation for not being a great blocker.
Despite favorable numbers, I still hesitate to say Price is a better pitcher with Jose Molina behind the plate than he is with any of the Rays’ catchers, but the two certainly have solid numbers together when it comes to the DIPS side of pitching. While there’s no reason to name Molina Price’s personal catcher or anything of the sort, it’s worth keeping tabs on whether Price continues to pitch differently, in process as much as results, with others behind the plate.