After 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.