Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 3, 2006
BASEBALL: Piazza and Molina

David Pinto is skeptical that Piazza will turn out to be productive for the Padres, given that his main skill is power and PETCO is the toughest park in baseball for a power hitter. David has a point, although the Padres still play half their games on the road, including a bunch of division games in Pac Bell (a good power park if not a good hitters' park generally) and Coors. I'd suggest the Pads give Piazza more rest at home, but his new backup Doug Mirabelli is also pretty dependent on power; in 610 at bats the past four years with the Red Sox, he's batted .249 but with 28 homers and 39 doubles.

Anyway, Piazza may be slipping, but as David notes, he's a bargain at $2 million a year, and frankly a much better deal than the Mets are getting with Paul LoDuca. The guy whose shoes I would not want to be in is Bengie Molina's agent. Molina was reportedly looking for something like $6 million a year, if I recall correctly, but given that Piazza outhit Molina this season while Molina was having a career year, and that Piazza could probably beat Molina in a footrace and Molina's equal in all aspects of defense other than throwing, it's going to be awful hard to convince anyone to pay Molina two or three times Piazza's salary.

(I had more on Piazza, Molina and other catchers on the market here).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:21 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)

I don't think of Piazza as a "warning track power" kind of guy - when he hits one, it's going to go out of any park. The negative of having him as your catcher in that kind of park, though, is that the other team has more incentive to run than they would in a hitter's park.

Posted by: Jerry at February 3, 2006 10:06 AM


Well-stated regarding Piazza, LoDuca & the Mets.


Posted by: Mike at February 3, 2006 10:27 AM

Thanks for the link!

Posted by: David Pinto at February 3, 2006 10:43 AM

Perception is as true in sports as it is in anything else. Piazza slipped a lot, so of course, everyone says he is through. I always thought Mike was the second coming of Josh Gibson, maybe not as good defensively, but Josh, sadly, did not last long, due to the brain tumor; however, like Mike, his ability as a hitter was overwhelming.

So Piazza is still among, I thought, the best hitting catcher in baseball, but good now for maye 110 games, so his replacement has to be better than before. Piazza is still a force, just not the Cooperstown lock that people will look back and realize was historical --he did it in Dodger Stadium and Shea.

I agree Crank, Molina really blew it, didn't he?

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at February 3, 2006 10:57 AM

I love it when agents decide to play salary-chicken with what they believe is a premier player, but everyone else knows that said player is just mediocre. How's that pride taste Bengie?

Posted by: Nate at February 3, 2006 11:03 AM

Unless Molina has turned down lower (but still inflated) offers in favor of holding out for $6 mil, you can't blame him or his agent. He'll get what the market will pay, and he took a shot for more, based on the not unreasonable chance that some team may ridiculously overpay for him.

If he's turned down an offer for $3.5 mil or $4 mil on the other hand, he'd do well to find another agent.

Posted by: seamus at February 3, 2006 11:25 AM

Omar upset the apple cart in the catchers market. When the Mets dropped out buyers took control. I can't fault the agent for not seeing the LoDuca move. Nobody did; and it still makes little sense to me given their options. BUt I do fault the agent for pricing the talent out of the market. They did. Omar made Molina an offer that will not be matched.

Posted by: abe shorey at February 3, 2006 12:32 PM

Since Piazza has hit for tremendous average in the past, one wonders if there's a .310 season with 10-12 homers in San Diego, which would be some rather boffo numbers if you think about it?

Also, the difference between Monlina's throwing arm and Piazza's is akin to saying that there's a difference between Nolan Ryan's fastball and Charlie Liebrandt's. It's a category, but the gap is huge - we've all known that a walk or a single against the Mets over the years has been a good bet to become a double after Piazza failed to throw out the runner.

Posted by: RW at February 3, 2006 12:34 PM

Crank, I know you're biased because yer a Mets fan, but do you believe Piazza is the greatest catcher of all time? Not just the greatest hitting catcher but the greatest catcher? In other words, on your all time all star team, who is your catcher. I am tempted to pick Piazza.

Posted by: steve at February 3, 2006 3:24 PM

'I am tempted to pick Piazza.'

OK - I'll take Johnny Bench.

Posted by: ICallMasICM at February 3, 2006 4:06 PM

I pick Johnny Bench. Certainly a much better fielder, and arguably equivalent as a slugger, given the difference in the eras.

For just a rough idea, if you look at the top 100 best slugging percentages all time, only 2 are in Bench's prime decade of the 1970s (Hank Aaron's .669 in 1971, Willie Stargell's .646 in 1973). Meanwhile, 27 are in Piazza's prime decade of 1993-2002.

Posted by: Henry Woodbury at February 3, 2006 4:13 PM

I think Piazza was, even adjusting for era, a significantly better hitter than Bench. But I would still take Bench, and probably Berra as well, as the better overall player.

Posted by: Jerry at February 3, 2006 5:00 PM

Another one for Bench. And, for fun, I'll suggest Josh Gibson.

Posted by: seamus at February 3, 2006 6:10 PM

Johnny Bench is the greatest catcher I've ever seen; that is an overall package. However, as I said, Josh Gibson is probably the greatest hitting catcher ever; however, if you take him out of the equation, then Piazza is the greatest hitter who ever played catcher. There is a lot more than that to the position of course.

My father in law told me he put Cochrane up there as well; I never saw him of course. If I had to pick, I would go with Gibson, then Bench, then Berra. I go with Gibson because I refuse to leave him out just because our country was stupid enough to embrace Jim Crow then.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at February 3, 2006 6:25 PM

I think that question is unfair to Piazza, the greatest pure hitting catcher of all time (the numbers don't lie). I mean, let's be honest....quick, name a worse defensive catcher (total package), during any time period.

Posted by: RW at February 3, 2006 7:18 PM

How can anyone claim that Molina's defense is even roughly equivalent to Piazza's. Molina's D has slipped, from, his previous gold-glove caliber, but he remains a good defensive catcher. Piazza is not only the worst defensive catcher in the league, bar none, he is probably the worst defensive player in the league since this decade began.

For the love of god don't give me the "but he blocks the plate well and he is good at handling pitchers" jibberish. Not only is the former point demonstrably false, (see World Series and watch Mike run from a big, bad Yankee) the latter point is almost laughable. Piazza has been hated by pitchers who throw good breaking pitches because Piazza refuses to call for them late in the count. (For a good example think back to the homerun Jordan hit for Atlanta to dump the Mets in 01- changeup away because a pitch in the dirt would have found the back stop.)

Posted by: Jon Black at February 3, 2006 7:25 PM

Piazza isn't good at ANY part of catching. Throws poorly, has awkward footwork, pitchers have never liked working with him (not that I think "working with pitchers" means much of anything"-pitchers, not catchers determine their own fates.) Gotta charge an error there on the Crank.

But there was some talk of him coming to the Phillies, which I was excited about. He has enough power left that any team should want him, if you can use him judiciously behind the dish.

Posted by: John Salmon at February 4, 2006 1:12 PM

I always thought a strange defensive problem he had was an inability to cleanly field throws from the outfield if they bounced even once.

Any Met fan who thinks about it will tell you they've seen him flub balls at the plate innumerable times.

But until the last year or two, I think he was perhaps slightly above-average at blocking balls in the dirt, preventing PBs and WPs.

His throwing goes without saying, however.

Posted by: Mike at February 4, 2006 4:11 PM

Another thing about Piazza is that he's a poor receiver. Watch how many balls he boxes around or catches awkwardly. When you're a pitcher it affects your concentration and when you've got guys on base you always have to be concerned about him catching the ball. To me that's the worst thing about him. I used to hate throwing to guys who couldn't catch.

Posted by: ICallMasICM at February 6, 2006 8:55 AM
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