Kevin Wheeler and I talked for a bit about Yadier Molina tonight on the postgame show, and about the continued discussion surrounding his chances to win both the National League Batting Title and the National League MVP. Kevin mentioned that while some people think it’s a distinct advantage to be fast in terms of winning the batting title, it also probably helps to hit the ball hard.
It’s pretty impossible to measure how “hard” someone hits the ball, but that got me thinking about the kind of swings Yadi takes, and how we can measure and compare those to other players. So let’s take a quick look at what some of the numbers say. We all know about Yadi’s batting average this year, but can we dig any deeper?
I am by no means a sabermetric guru, but I think it’s silly to ignore so many numbers that can tell us so much. Let’s have a little fun, shall we?
First, let’s start with hitting the ball hard, or the perception of hitting the ball hard. Is it just a perception? It would make sense that guys that make better contact (or theoretically hit the ball hard) and hit more balls that are apt to find holes will have a better chance of those batted balls resulting in hits, right? Makes sense to me.
Well, the numbers tell us that perception might not be too far off. Per Fangraphs (all of the following data per Fangraphs,) Yadi is fourth in baseball in BABIP (how many of a batters balls hit into play that go for hits) at .388. The guys sandwiched around him? Jhonny Peralta, Joe Mauer, Mike Napoli, Chris Davis, Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman and Miguel Cabrera. All power guys (with Peralta and Mauer as somewhat outliers) who have a reputation for hitting the ball hard and having great SLG and OPS.
Yadi also ranks 16th in MLB in line drive percentage at 26.3%. So we can say he hits the ball hard, right?
How about his quality of swings? Yadi is aggressive at the plate, often seeing less than 10 pitches per game. But that doesn’t mean he is reckless. His overall swing rate is 52.5%, but he swings at 74.3% of pitches in the strike zone, 14th in baseball.
His contact rate is 87.2%, 26th in baseball.
This doesn’t even take into account what Yadi does positionally and the value accrued at catcher for the Cardinals compared to other positional players. More on that another night. But as you can guess, it’s very, very high.
So there are a few numbers. Wanted to look them up and get them down on paper while it was on my mind. Whether you subscribe to sabermetrics or you prefer to use your eye, I think we can all agree that Yadier Molina has been pretty damn impressive offensively this year.
Chris Hrabe hosts “The Sports Hub” weeknights on KMOX.