Jose Molina's Deception: Not Just Pitch Framing

Keep your eye on him, David. - Tom Szczerbowski

This was written as a fanpost three days ago, but I just read it today. Nice work, kyle.hopkins5851 - Ian

The catcher’s job is pretty simple: catch the pitches that the pitcher throws to you. Sure, there are a bunch of ways to measure a catcher’s performance on defense: the ERA of the pitchers while he is catching, number of passed balls, base stealers caught and whether he can catch a knuckleball pitcher. One attribute of a quality catcher is deception. Jose Molina takes significant criticism for his lack of contribution at the plate and on the bases but the reason Joe Maddon sends Molina out to catch is his ability to deceive umpires. Usually, Molina makes pitches well outside the strike zone appear like strikes by framing them. His ability has been dissected over the past several years. You can find GIFs of Molina getting balls called as strikes all over the Internet.





There is another way that Molina deceives umpires; he uses his body and knowledge to prevent umpires from making the right call at home plate. His ability was on display against the Red Sox Monday night during the Rays' 2-1 win. Joel Peralta was attempting to work out of a jam when it appeared the Red Sox had hit the game tying sacrifice fly. Miraculously, Sam Fuld, who had just come on as a defensive substitute for Matt Joyce, threw out Daniel Nava at the plate. Red Sox fans believed Nava was safe, and they were correct. It would have been an easy call for Jerry Meals if not for Fuld's incredible throw and Molina's exceptional deceptive skills.


At this moment, Molina has Fuld's rocket of a throw and is about to move to attempt a tag on Nava coming down from 3rd. Notice that Jerry Meals has a clear view of the corner of home plate.


This image is advanced only several frames from the previous shot but here we can see that Molina is going to drop his left knee to block the corner of home from the sliding Nava.


Now things are starting get interesting; Meals hasn't really moved to try to improve his line of sight. From this angle, we can't see if Nava has touched home yet but it appears that he is still just off the plate.


At this point, Molina has dropped his left leg down on the plate and moved his glove to make the tag. Molina has also shifted his body during the process of the tag to block Meals' line of sight. Meals does not appear to looking at the corner of the plate where Nava is sliding, perhaps because it certainly appears that Jose has blocked it.


The tag has been made at this point. Meals appears to be looking at whether Molina has lost the ball or not and/or if Nava is touching the back of home plate. Honestly, I don't know what he is looking at in this frame.


This is the most important image: the previous five basically told us (and umpire Jerry Meals) nothing about whether Daniel Nava was safe or not. What this image tells us is that when Meals looked at the aftermath of the play, he saw Jose Molina's knee completely obscuring the front corner of the plate, Nava falling over Molina's leg and Molina holding the ball. His call could not have been based on the play; only what he saw after the play.

To get an idea how well Molina sold this tag and how out of position Meals was, take a look at these two images:



No line of sight to make the call for an umpire who has been known to make questionable calls at the plate in the past. Excellent throw from Fuld to give Molina the chance to pull one over on Jerry Meals.

As a final thought, John Farrell clearly came out to argue the call (also to prevent any of his players from being tossed for arguing) but Boston media speculated that he didn't question the call directly, but Meals's ability to see it correctly.

This post was written by a member of the DRaysBay community and does not necessarily express the views or opinions of DRaysBay staff.