Chess Match: Turning Molina loose

The situation: Top of the fifth, Cardinals trail, 3-0. Brendan Ryan at the plate, one out, Yadier Molina on first base.

The decision: With a green light, Molina takes off for second. 
The outcome: Molina is thrown out fairly easily, likely costing the Cardinals a run or more. Ryan walks, Chris Carpenter singles and Felipe Lopez walks before Colby Rasmus grounds out, meaning the Cardinals got four baserunners but no runs.
The analysis: TLR has faith in Molina’s judgment, and points to Molina’s steals over the past two years. But while someone like Albert Pujols, with passable speed, can get some steals, it seems like a bad long-term bet to keep sending Molina. It’s probably instructive not to look at Molina’s line over the past two years (15-for-21, including today) but instead his line for his career (19-for-34).
While Molina’s reads may be somewhat better than they were, it seems unlikely that they’re THAT much improved that the 15-for-21 is indicative of any improvement in skill. More likely it’s statistical noise.
One point in favor of putting a play on: with the Nos. 8-9 hitters coming up and one out already, you’re certainly not assuming that the lineup is going to get back around to the top. And you’re also figuring that any hit from Ryan or Carpenter will be a single.
But a counter-counter-point: Even if you get Molina to second base, it’s far from a given that he scores on a single. The benefit of getting Molina from first to second is quite a bit less than the benefit of getting, say, Ryan from first to second, since Ryan scores from second frequently on a single.
The comment: “What’s his rate? He’s had great instincts about it.” — TLR
My verdict: I just don’t like giving Molina the green light there, even with the bottom of the order coming up. I believe that the 59-percent success rate is much closer to the truth, and you can’t afford to take that risk. The Cardinals were getting baserunners against Jackson. It’s not like he was totally shutting them down so you needed to squeeze out a run.
-M.

4 Comments

You are probably right in this case. But I get such a kick out of the fact that Yadi has 6 stolen bases despite all the ridicule he gets about his running. Ricky Horton said it best tonight when he said Yadi steals bases with his brain, not with his speed. He instinctively knows the best moment to grab his big lead and then fly. The guy is simply brilliant. No, it didn’t work this time, but I still love it when he does it.

Yadi benefits quite a bit from the element of surprise. With his speed (or lack thereof, as it were), pitchers and catchers don’t expect him to attempt a steal. However, once he starts pulling some off, then they start watching him and the element of surprise is gone. I think that’s what the career statistics are showing us, i.e., that Yadi has success to a point because of the element of surprise, but once teams get wise to him, then he’s thrown out a lot more. He has to have a perfect storm of circumstances to be successful when they’re looking at him to steal–e.g., a pitcher who is slow to the plate, a very good jump, and a catcher who doesn’t throw well. So, I agree. When you have a baserunner in these days when the Cards’ offense is so bad, Yadi can only be allowed to steal when that perfect storm of circumstances exists.

Why is it that the cardinals always sign our old washed up players I mean Supp isnt that bad, but I think we could of signed a better pitcher. I am just sick of the Cards signing these guys who have been on our team already, I think the Cardnials like being more comfortable rather taking a chance on someone we have not had before I find this CRAZY!

I think it is OK for Molina to have the green light once in a while, but down 3 runs in the middle innings isn’t one of those times.

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