Updated: May 17, 2020
In baseball news yesterday, Yadier Molina thinks he is "one of the best catchers to have ever played. "
I'm here to correct that poor judgement. He's not one of the best ever. He's not even close to being a Hall of Famer.
Yadier Molina will never go to Cooperstown. Ever. Yadier Molina is not a Hall of Fame worthy catcher. Best Fans In Baseball like to tout him as one of the best, but the numbers do not lie. Today I will be examining the piles of evidence that declare that Yadier Molina is a good catcher, but falls way short of HOF glory.
I will admit right off the bat, I hate the baseball player Yadier Molina. I hate his stupid rash like neck tattoos. I hate his whiny nature. I hate how he tries to start conflict where there is none, to fire up his team. I hate how he exemplifies how frustratingly unaware silly Cardinal fans are of their own silliness. And I hate how whenever the Cardinals beat the Cubs, he is at the center of it. That said, I'm going to remain as impartial as I can.
When writing this article, I will be basing my arguments off how HOF voters actually vote. You might be a big Hall type of person or a small one. It doesn't matter really. I'm basing all of this off historical precedence. The Hall has always been a bit exclusive, for example, with players like Lee Smith. The all time leader in saves when he retired, and a pretty no doubter Hall of Famer, he somehow took over 15 years via the Veteran's Committee to get in. Fred McGriff had 493 home runs, and failed to get in. Ron Santo had 5 Gold Gloves, 5 top 10 MVP finishes, an OPS+ of 125, and 70 WAR, and barely got in. Larry Walker's .313 average and 383 HRs squeaked in. Scott Rolen has a ton of Gold Gloves and a 122 RC+, and got just 35% of voters last year. It's hard to make the Hall of Fame.
As Yadier Molina is going into his age 37 season, I'd anticipate that his career totals are close to complete. Catchers historically have a short shelf life, and contributions are typically limited after age 33. I bring this up to say, Yadier Molina won't have a couple more big years to help pad his numbers.
There are 3 main arguments to Yadier Molina's candidacy as a Hall of Fame player:
His defense (exemplified by 9 Gold Gloves)
He's the best catcher of his generation (sorry Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, among others)
His longevity (the highlight of which is 9 All Star appearances)
Let us jump into those arguments.
Yadier's defense is good. Really good. He's heralded as a solid pitch framer and has a ton of Gold Gloves to boot. Why might he make it into the hall? Yadier is ranked 3rd among catchers all time with 9 Gold Gloves. That list:
That's a a pretty HOF worthy list to be 3rd on, right? Let's see who's next.
Bob Boone: 7
Jim Sundberg: 6
Suddenly a pile of Gold Gloves for a catcher is a bit less impressive. If he was smack dab in the middle of a list of Hall of Fame players, then he'd have more of an argument. But Boone and Sundberg aren't particularly memorable players. I had to look up both, to be honest. Boone was a solid defensive catcher in the 70s and 80s. Career OPS .662 OPS+ 82. Good with the glove, bad with the bat. Sundberg had similar numbers: .674 career OPS and 90 OPS+. Good defensive players, but clearly not Hall of Famers. The sheer number of Gold Gloves for a catcher just became a bit less prestigious.
Here is another list of baseball players with a similar number of Gold Gloves, but from different positions:
Keith Hernandez 11
Don Mattingly 9
George Scott 8
Frank White 8
Scott Rolen 8
Ozzie Smith 13
Mark Belanger 8
Andruw Jones 10
Torii Hunter 9
Paul Blair 8
How many off this list are in the HOF? Just Ozzie. Rightfully so, as he accumulated 76 WAR (bbref). Keith Hernandez and Scott Rolen were offensive forces, and are are significantly outside the Hall. Scott, White, Belanger, and Blair were defensive specialists, and all are basically forgotten. Andruw Jones and Torii Hunter are more recent, but neither one of them will make it. Unless Yadier has a couple more Gold Gloves in him to overtake Bench, I'd say that puts to rest his chances.
We can debate all day long about pitch framing, but its effectiveness is still hotly contested and it is difficult to measure. HOF voters like their blatant statistics, not advanced metrics. Maybe someday the committee gets him in for historical contribution, but that's just not something you can predict nor anticipate.
Here are 7 catchers with as of 2020 career stats that represent this generation's catchers. Some are further along in their careers than others, but I felt their stats were relevant should they maintain the course for their career.
Take a moment to read that chart and see if any of those players are true all of Famers. Go ahead and pick a player or two that you think has the best chance. Just for comparative's sake: Johnny Bench had 75.2 WAR, Ivan Rodriguez had 68.7 WAR, and Bartolo Colon Has 45.8.
Right off the bat to me, none of these players really pop off the list as HOFers. Player B has an advantage with 55 WAR and a 124 OPS+ for a longer career. Player G has significant more home runs and the most RBI, but WAR isn't special. Player A could make it, with maybe a few more good years to pad some of those stats? C and F are similar but nothing special. D and E have some good stats, if they can keep it up and double or triple their playing time to get to similar ABs to players B and C.
Let's look at the same list, but with player names revealed now.
Giving credit to Yadier's defense, his offense is clearly subpar to everyone else on the list. I don't need to beat a dead horse, but the 98 OPS+ is clearly an outlier. His stats also pale in comparison to Posey and Mauer (both of whom aren't exactly great picks for the HOF) Yadier Molina has a career OPS+ of 98. He is literally a below average hitter. Not many of those in Cooperstown. The last one I remember being elected was Bill Mazeroski in 2001, who had 10 All Star appearances, 8 Gold Gloves, and a career OPS+ of 84. So technically, a candidate like Molina have made it in before. Not often though. Upon scanning the year by year HOF vote list, I could not find a below average hitter going back to the 1950s.
Yadier Molina is not in top 100 active players for OPS. You can claim defense all you want but there are few very average bats in the Hall of Fame. He is hardly a generational talent with the lack of hitting. It's an uphill climb for sure. Yadier Molina's chances almost completely rely on the Veteran's Committee. Baseball reference has a handy HOF predictor tool called JAWS (Jaffe WAR score system). It takes player WAR and measures out HOF worthiness by measuring career WAR as well as peak. Here is that list for catchers. Molina ranks 26th on this list, well outside 18 (the number of total HOF catchers). 8 out of the top 9 on that list are in the hall of fame. Then there are 5 HOFers ranking in the 10-25 slots. Players from this generation include Mauer (8th), Posey (14th), Jorge Posada (19th), and Jason Kendall (22nd). Essentially, based off WAR alone, Yadier is 5th in line at the moment. It's also worth nothing that the top 10 in that list WAR is 75-55, well above Molina's 40. Put simply, the best argument I can come up for Molina is that there are still 5 catchers who have a better chances of HOF induction than him.
Baseball Reference also lists 10 similar players to Yadier's career arc. 1 was HOF (Ernie Lombardi). The rest included such non HOF names like: A.J. Pierzynski, Benito Santiago, Bob Boone, Terry Steinbach and Jason Kendall. Just not great company for a supposed generational talent.
Yadier Molina has 9 All Star appearances. That's impressive. That's literally his biggest claim to fame outside of the Gold gloves. Here's a list of most all star appearances. Ignoring blacklisted players or non-currently eligibles, there are a few players with more AS appearances than Molina outside off the hall:
Bill Freehan: 11
Steve Garvey: 10
Elson Howard: 9
Dave Concepcion: 9
Fred Lynn: 9
Frank McCormick: 9
Molina is in decent company, but it's not like the All Star appearances will propel him into the Hall alone. Combined with his Gold Gloves, and there's a certain argument to be made, but neither one of those popularity contests goes very far in Hall of Fame voting.
More concerning for Molina is that there is a total lack of milestone stats. Hall of Fame voters love milestones: 3000 hits, 500 home runs, among many others. Yadier Molina's best career milestone stat is 1963 career hits. The bar is lowered for catchers, but A.J. Pierzynski has 2043. Catchers are a rarity in the Hall of Fame. There are 18 all time, out of 323 current HOF members. 5% total. That's a bit of a strike against Molina. 12 have been elected in the last 50 years or so.
There's a couple of deep cuts, but most of those players are pretty recognizable as legends. There is roughly one catcher elected every 5 years, both through standard voting and Veterans Committee. Again, if there's a list of 5-10 worthy catchers ahead of Molina, then based off this average, he could be looking at 20+ years before the Committee gives him a fair shot.
Here is a hand picked sampling of stats. Yadier Molina among all time catchers:
Games played: 16th
For WAR, Molina is 12th all time (bbref). That might seem like a solid plus for him, but then ranked higher is Russell Martin and Brian McCann. Molina's WAR argument is almost entirely dismantled because of this.
Molina has no milestone counting stats in the top 18 for catchers. The only things he ranks highly on are Gold Gloves and All Star appearances. Popularity counts towards the Hall, but not quite enough to overcome other hurdles. It's plain to see that none of his stats are on par with other Hall of Famers.
By now if you are a BFIB, I'm sure your diaper is filling, if you made it this far. There are a couple easy rebuttals to the arguments I made above. Here are a couple other things people make when taking up Yadier's HOF eligibility: He's a playoff legend!
Yadier Molina has a playoff stat line of .273, .326, .349, .675. He has just 3 home runs 33 RBI in the playoffs. 96 games 372 PAs overall. .675 OPS in the playoffs, which is no small sample compared to other October legends. Mr. October he is not.
But Ozzie Smith made it!
Ozzie Smith had 70 Career WAR. Molina is at 40. Ozzie Smith had 13 Gold Gloves to Molina's 9, 15 All Star appearances to Molina's 9, and 6 top 25 MVP finishes to Molina's 5. It's not a great argument, because Ozzie had significantly more longevity than Molina.
He has a ton of awards!
Yeah, he has the 9 Gold Gloves and 9 All Star appearances we talked about. That is literally it.
Let's look at other awards rankings: MVP 3rd finish in 2013. MVP 4th finish in 2012. He also got a couple MVP votes in 2009, 2011, and 2016. Molina has 1 Silver Slugger. There are many other players with more major awards than Molina who aren't in.
He's a WAR machine!
Not really. His 40.2 WAR (BBref) is 27th among active players. Brett Gardner has more WAR than him (41.6).
Russell Martin is 33rd on that list with 38. Jason Heyward is tied at 39th with 36.9. He's a middle of the road player in terms of WAR.
He has intangibles!
Show me one other player who's made it into the Hall of Fame based off intangibles.
Any way you spin in, Yadier Molina looks less and less like a Hall of Famer the more you look at it. So let us be done with this silly argument. Unless Hall of Fame voting patterns drastically change in the next decade, Molina will top out at 40% of the vote at absolute best. I think he hangs onto the ballot for a few years, but is gone by year 6.
Really, his only chance is the Veterans Committee. Maybe they will look at him, and decide that his pitch framing is so head and shoulders above the others. But even that process doesn't really help Molina, as they evaluate players from "Today's Game" every other year, and players on that list have to be retired for 15 years.
Yadier Molina is not a baseball Hall of Famer. He's not even a top 20 catcher of all time. He's barely a top 5 catcher in today's game. Stop putting Yadier Molina up on a pedestal that belongs to superior players.