News broke last week that Yadier Molina had another thumb surgery after the previous surgery “didn’t take” (whatever that means); he’ll miss most of spring training due to it.
My concern over the last 2 years was the heavy work load that Molina employed for the early part of his career; I believed his knees would go, but the thumb problems popped up. They were more freak injuries, but they are something that could be an issue in the future.
While thumb issues are critical while playing defense, it will also make it very difficult for him to hold the bat, which has been in decline for the last couple of years anyways.
Over the last 3 seasons, Molina slashed .291/.334/.407; when you look at it year by year, each has decreased:
His counting stats were a little more erratic, since he missed more games in 2014 than 2015. The two that did continually decline were his runs and homers. Runs went from 68 to 40 to 34; homers dropped from 12 to 7 to 4.
So, what can we expect for 2016? Using my projection system, I’m giving a guess.
My system incorporates the players previous 3 years along with their 10 closest comps per age (courtesy of Baseball Reference); so I took Molina’s 10 closest comps at age 32 (Molina’s 2015 season), then used their numbers from the season when they were 33. This shows how his comps have aged and could be relative to Molina’s upcoming season.
Molina’s comps for age 32, in order, were Tim McCarver, A.J. Pierzynski, Thurman Munson, Frankie Hayes, Terry Kennedy, Tony Pena, Benito Santiago, Russell Martin, Ramon Hernandez, and Jack Clements. 3 players weren’t used in the projection; Munson and Hayes didn’t play at age 33 and Martin will be 33 this upcoming season.
Here are the numbers for Molina:
Here are some notes from the comps:
- Of the 7 players, only Pierzynski (128), Kennedy (125), and Pena (143) played over 100 games; Clements was at 99. Of the 3 with over 100 games, Pierzynski and Pena had over 500 plate appearances.
- None of the players hit for double digit homers; the highest total was 8 by Pena.
- Only Santiago hit over .300 (.310), but that was in 29 at bats; next highest was McCarver at .288 in 80 plate appearances. These two were also the only ones to slug at or over .400.
- Pena is the best case scenario; Santiago would probably be the worst due to only appearing in 15 games.
Molina’s bat is reverting back to his early career form, which is to be expected out of a player known for his defense on the down side of his career. These numbers are still respectable though. As long as he’s still good at calling games, controlling the running game, and framing pitches, he’ll still be a positive contributor to the team.
How Reliable are my Estimates?
My system is pretty basic, but how are the results. Here is what I projected Molina to do in 2015, how he actually did, and the percentage I was off by:
It wasn’t the greatest projection job; my system pegged last games, but a better offensive output than we got. Part of this was Molina’s peak 2012 and 2013 seasons being the 3 year average; those seasons saw him average a slash line of .317/.366/.489 with 17 homers. With 2012 out of the mix for this year, that power number drops, along with the .501 slugging.
The best predictions were stolen bases (which is a low number and easier to project) and batting average. The worst was homers, where I more than doubled what he did.
I’ve had better projections in the past (Matt Holliday‘s 2014 almost mirrored my projection), but I’m always trying to find ways to make my system a little more accurate.
Eugene is also a writer and podcaster for Nyrdcast, where he talks pop culture; you can also find him on Twitter or email him here.