It often takes little more than a single, signature moment for a player to become immortalized in Yankees lore. Few can spout off the career lines of Bucky Dent or Jim Leyritz, and yet there is nary a fan that will not feel at least a tiny bit of giddiness at the mere mention of their names as a glimmer of recognition dances through their eyes. Fans are essentially programmed to instantly recall those players that spawned the moments that stand out in our minds as definitive of the team’s history. And with one swing of the bat in that rare Yankees season that ends in September, Jose Molina joined the collective memory of a fanbase that has adulation to spare.
In his two and a half season tenure with the Yankees, Jose Molina donned the number 26 – which, rather impressively, is equal to the number of doubles he hit in 472 AB in pinstripes. Over that time, he “batted” .231/.281/.318 (an OPS+ of 56), with five home runs and -0.6 oWAR. However, due to his prowess behind the dish, Molina managed 0.8 bWAR and 0.7 fWAR as a Yankee. In fact, Molina’s greatest claim to fame may well be his role in the groundbreaking analysis of pitch-framing by Mike Fast.
Per Mr. Fast’s study, Molina saved the Yankees 26 runs with his framing skill in 2008 – ten runs more than any other catcher saved, despite playing on a part-time basis. Between 2007 and 2011, the defensive maestro saved 73 runs, or thirty-two more than any catcher not named Russell Martin. However, for comparison’s sake it should be noted that Molina called 23,398 fewer pitches than Martin over that time … and, no, that is not a typo.
And so for his defense that made us crave more than a warm body behind the plate, many of us will remember Jose Molina quite fondly. It was with one swing of the bat on a clear and cool September evening, however, that etched Molina into the consciousness of Yankees fan forever.
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