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Molina/Burnett:It Does Matter



By Paul Catalano ~ September 25th, 2009. Filed under: Digest Contributors.

Don’t tell me that A.J. Burnett doesn’t prefer Jose Molina.

And more importantly, don’t tell me it doesn’t matter who catches him.

Some think that a pitcher’s ERA with certain catchers is a overrated stat. Wrong. It isn’t. It matters. Just like any working relationship, it matters how well you work with someone. Kismet matters.

And A.J. Burnett has kismet with Molina.

Going into last night’s game, (before Burnett threw 5.2 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 11) batters were batting .204 off of Burnett when Molina caught him. They are batting .270 off him when Posada caught him. Batters had a .653 OPS off Burnett with Molina catching; .775 with Posada.

The last time Posada caught Burnett, he gave up 6 runs in 5 innings. Since then with Molina catching his last 4 games, Burnett has a 3.52 ERA. And that includes one rough inning where he gave up 6 runs in Seattle. Throw that inning out (I know, you can’t, but for argument’s sake) and Burnett has given up 4 runs in 24.2 innings.

Or to put this in another way, the last 3 times Burnett has pitched to Posada, his ERA is a touch under 9.oo.

Joe Girardi would have you believe that if Molina catches Burnett instead of Posada, it is just “…simply will be a result of the way he’s rotated his catchers.” when Burnett pitches, and that there is nothing to the story that there are working issues between Posada and Burnett. “I think people are trying to make this a bigger story than it needs to be,” Girardi says. Riiiiight. No, Girardi knows that Burnett is happier when Molina is behind the plate and Girardi’s job is to make Burnett happy.

Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues feels that the stats are overblown and that there’s nothing to worry about. Well, as Bill Parcells says, you are what you’re record says you are. And Burnett has been caught by Posada for 16 games, and 9 by Molina. With Posada, Burnett has a 102 sOPS+, with Molina his sOPS+ is 93.

Now why would Girardi, or anyone, argue with those numbers going into the playoffs?

Simply put, the Yankees desperately need A.J. at his best. The Yankees need a reliable two going into the playoffs. And in your heart of hearts, if you were the manager of the Yankees and needed a win against the Angels or Red Sox, who would you put behind the plate to catch Burnett; the guy who caught him to a 9.00 ERA in his last 3 starts, or the guy who caught him to a 3.52 ERA in his last 4?

Heck, even if Burnett just thinks he is better with Molina behind the plate, even if the pitch calls would be exactly the same as Posada would call, why not let him throw to Molina? If he’s more thinks he’s better, and for whatever reason performs better, why not make him comfortable?

Posada can DH if he has to. Burnett is more reliable with Molina behind the plate. The numbers don’t lie.

Check out more of Paul’s work at andaplayertobenamedlater.com

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Paul Catalano is an aspiring sportswriter who’s day job is as Production Manager for Field & Stream, Outdoor Life & Shot Business magazines. He has written often for his own blog at And a Player to be Named Later since 2007. His articles have been picked up by Dugout Central, Foxsports.com, Lindys.com among others. Before that, Paul got married to the lovely Elizabeth Ryan, got his Master’s in Writing from Emerson College, attended his first Yankee game at 9 years old, got his first base hit at 5 years old and was born.

3 Responses to Molina/Burnett:It Does Matter

  1. Viper

    You are extremely misguided.

    Posada caught almost every Burnett start when he was mowing hitters down left and right with a 2.20 ERA over a span of 12 starts earlier in the season.

    Burnett also pitched perhaps his best game of the season against the Red Sox at the Stadium against Beckett with Posada behind the plate (the 14th inning game).

    That was the closest thing to a playoff start Burnett has had all season and he was lights out with Posada behind the dish.

    If Burnett has his mechanics down and gets into a groove, it does not matter who catches him.

    Sure, just let Posada DH in the postseason and sit Matsui, the guy who has had the best season of any DH in the league (.280, 28 HR, 89 RBI) in only 432 ABs.

    That makes all kinds of sense.

  2. Paul Catalano

    Again, you may be 100% right. But the last 3 starts with Posada were so bad, it has become an isue in Burnett’s mind. if Burnett is more comfortable going into the post-season with Moilina—as recent evidence indicateds—why not let him pitch to Molina?

  3. Viper

    Because the Yanks are a better team with Posada in the lineup.

    Burnett figured things out just fine when he was unhittable for two months earlier in the season.

    He’s capable of doing it again because he’s always been very streaky.

    Once he gets into a groove, he tends to ride it for awhile.

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