MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red SoxAfter last night’s game, Matt Moore was asked about the importance of having Jose Lobaton behind the plate. Moore may not have intended to be critical of Jose Molina, but it is hard not to see it that way…

“I love when Lobaton catches. He can come out there and tell me something to get me giggling or he can come out there and get after me a little bit. It’s big for me to have him back there. He sacrifices his body every night for me…He’s back there working, protecting the umpire and getting me stuff. It’s big for me having him back there.”

Moore is basically saying that he is not afraid to throw pitches low in the strikezone with Lobaton behind the plate. He even specifically mentioned that he can be more aggressive with his curveball.

Of course, by pointing out that Lobaton “sacrifices his body” Moore is implying that Molina does not. And yes, the biggest criticism of Molina has always been that he is terrible at blocking pitches, which could hurt a pitcher’s confidence low in the strikezone.

That doesn’t mean Molina doesn’t have value. But Moore is saying, that for him at least, the ability to block pitches is more important than Molina’s ability to frame pitches and the numbers support that notion.

With Lobaton behind the plate, Moore has a 2.45 ERA in 92.0 innings and opposing hitters are batting .189 with a .581 OPS. With Molina behind the plate, Moore’s ERA is a whopping 5.45 and opposing batters are hitting .265 with a .776 OPS.

But isn’t framing pitches all game more important than one or two pitches in the dirt? If you go back and read the quote, Moore makes a subtle but interesting point.

“He’s back there working, protecting the umpire and getting me stuff.”

Moore thinks he is getting more pitches called strikes because Lobaton is blocking pitches in the dirt (unless you think “stuff” means water, seeds, rosin, ice cream). In other words, an umpire may have a more pitcher-friendly strikezone if he is not constantly being hit by pitches.

This is not an unreasonable statement, but it is interesting because framing pitches is Molina’s specialty and nobody gets more borderline pitches called strikes than Molina. So maybe this is Moore’s way of saying that Lobaton also gets borderline calls, but in a different way, thus neutralizing the one thing Molina brings to the plate.

Many pitchers have their own “personal catcher.” But there are risks, beyond just alienating a teammate with statements like the one above. If Lobaton is ever injured and Moore is forced to use Molina behind the plate, there would be some real concerns that Moore may not have the confidence to pitch well.

Both catchers have talents. But until we can merge their best parts into one catcher named JoJo Molibaton, Moore may need to find a way to find confidence in Molina.

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12 Comments

  1. Beth says:

    Moore has made clear from the start that he likes throwing to Lobaton. On the other hand, there are pitchers who Maddon pairs with Molina, so perhaps they have their preferences.

    Moore was asked to comment said why he likes throwing to Lobaton. By your interpretation, any praise he had for Lobaton would be a criticism of Molina.

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  2. Lane Meyer says:

    What it means is that Moore is still an immature pitcher and does not realize all the ways Molina helps him. The good news is that Lobaton is learning a lot from Molina and is fast becoming a younger, more mobile version of Molina. Hopefully he is doing the same amount of work studing hitter tendencies that Molina does.

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  3. Ken says:

    I like Lobo more than I like Molina as our catcher. With that said, Molina appears to do a much better job of throwing out runners than Lobo. I don't know if the pitchers throwing to Molina do a much better job of holding runners on or getting the ball to home plate faster, BUT Lobo still has a much LONGER delivery trying to throw out a base stealer than Molina. May I suggest that Lobo always catch Matt and David who both being left handed should be able to slow the running game down so that Lobo would have a better chance of throwing out would be base stealers. I know Molina has been catching David most of the time, and that Cobb likes Lobo catching him, but the Rays have to do something to slow down the running game. Boston and Baltimore seem to feast on Lobo.

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  4. Gus says:

    Lobaton's stolen base percentage is last in the league, and like a running back who fumbles, teams are definitely targeting him, as lately teams have gone crazy running on the Lobaton and the Rays. But his defensive ERA is identical to Molina, so I don't think it is hurting him so badly that Molina's atrocious bat and base running should be in the line up more than Lobaton. Plus, Lobaton is getting better at the plate, and presumably should be able to improve at throwing runners out; the rest of his defense is pretty solid.

    More to the point, where is Giminez in all this?

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    • Beth says:

      On which of these skills do you think Gimenez is an improvement on either Molina or Lobaton?

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    • Lane Meyer says:

      Why would he presumably be able to improve at throwing runners out? Either he can throw or he can't. By this level I wouldn't ever expect a marked improvement in his stats. We need to stop looking at either of these catchers as a long term starter and realize that we need an everyday catcher and then perhaps Lobaton would fit the bill as a capable backup with some holes in his game.

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      • Gus says:

        I agree with you a better catcher is the goal; of the choices Maddon has before him, I'd note that Molina's mobility is so poor, that his framing and decent (not great) throwing is offset by his inability to block pitches. He makes every hard thrower look like a knuckleball pitcher out there.

        Lobaton may never improve as a thrower, but my point is that he at least isn't another pitcher in the batting order, and has shown enough improvement at the plate that perhaps he may improve the one weakness in his defensive game -- throwing. If he just got to league average on sb%, you'd have a switch hitting catcher with some pop who the pitchers like to throw to. That is all you need.

        Giminez is to me, a far superior option to Molina at this point in their respective careers. His 2012 September was the best month from a Rays catcher the Rays in 5 years. At the very least, Giminez on the roster will allow them to pinch run for Molina when he does make it to first, no matter the inning.

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  5. Dave L says:

    I think every praise of one guy is not a slam on the other. Unless you have a Wieters or the guy in SF most teams have 2 backup catchers.

    So do we.

    That being said, Lobaton is a young emotional guy who is improving and you see everyone on the team trying to boost his confidence all the time.

    Molina is 38 had a long career which is in its twilight. He seems to have zero ego at this point and his confidence is in no need of a boost and could take a square knee to his confidence groin and it wouldnt faze him at all.

    Moore is bucking up the young guy and like you say his skill set matches Moore while Molinas framing matches the guys who depend less on balls in the dirt being blocked and more on crisp control and fastball placement.

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  6. Beezy says:

    Actually that should be a compliment for Molina, being he is his understudy...

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    • Dave L says:

      Nice point Beezy.

      Molina is a kind of player/coach on the Rays---- seriously. I am sure Lobaton and Giminez respect him immensely.

      I hope he becomes a full time coach in the Rays org soon. I think he 'knows catching' and the finer arts of the craft possibly better than any other active player and most coaches. Can he execute them all at 38 while sporting all that excess humanity on his frame? No.... obviously.

      For all his jighly visible warts, Molina is consistantly the most undervalued Ray the past couple of years. Along with Senor.Toe Stub.

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  7. Andy Cordero says:

    Many good points here, but bottom line for me is team's W/L record when the 2 guys catch. No matter how their stats are viewed, this should be the telltale sign of who is best for the team. As of their win on 9/4, the Rays were 38-36 when Molina started & 39-25 when Loboton started. That's 51% vs 61% boys & girls! To me that says Lobo should get the vast majority of these last 24 games!!!

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