The Case FOR the Molina/Ray Trade

By now you've probably heard - The Rangers have traded RP Chris Ray and a PTBNL to the Giants for C Bengie Molina.  On the surface, this looks (to me anyway) like we're trading our suck for their suck, which sucks because we have a non-sucky catcher that doesn't need his playing time split more than it already is.  But let's look at it a little deeper.  Is this a hard case to make?  Sort of.  I'm not trying to say this is the Teixeira trade, but it's not exactly...well, think about that crappy Rangers trade that you always bring up when you're trying to make the case that a certain GM is terrible.  It's not that trade, either.

Let's get this out of the way: You will not find the words grittiness, leadership, or Veteranocity™ in this post.  I tend to value these more than the average LSB-er, but my objective is to use the numbers to tell the story. 

We'll start with comparing Bengie to our own catchers currently on the 25-man.  If you're like me and you looked up all their numbers as soon as you heard, they're probably still fresh on your mind and you'll be able to recognize them when you see them.  Just try to keep an open mind.

Catcher A: .257/.312/.332, wOBA: .284 (not good at all), ISO: .074, BABIP: .269, LD%: 17.3 (sort of unlucky, but not terribly so), K%: 9.4

Catcher B: .237/.315/.378, wOBA: .308, ISO: .141, BABIP: .254, LD%: 18.6 (pretty unlucky), K%: 17.9

Catcher C: .217/.341/.348, wOBA: .316, ISO: .130, BABIP: .277, LD%: 10.2 (pretty lucky), K%: 31.9

Catcher C is wOBA-ing better than the others, but he's been pretty lucky.  You have to like the gap between AVG and OBP, but the BB/K ratio is 0.55.

Catcher B is the most well-rounded in my opinion, and his stats are likely to look a little better as he regresses (progresses?) to the mean.

Catcher A is not looking so hot, but at least he has the low K% working for him.  He also has the highest BB/K of the group at 0.74.  B is at 0.55.

A = Molina. B = Treanor. C = Ramirez.

But wait, you say.  This is supposed to make the case FOR the trade.  Almost everything you're posting says otherwise.  Two things.

First, park adjustment.  The wOBAr's for each player:

Molina: .312

Treanor: .329

Ramirez: .307

Treanor is still the clear leader here.  When you consider that Molina's regression will likely result in an improvement while Max's will be the opposite, the case is made that Molina > Max, at least offensively.  Let's also put to rest the notion that Bengie is a "free swinger."  He's simply not, and he looks even more disciplined when compared to Ramirez.

Second, in order for this trade to be considered worthwhile, Bengie doesn't have to be better than Treanor, he just has to be better than Max, which I believe he is.  Now, if Wash falls in love with him and starts playing him 5 days a week, we have a problem.  We'll discuss this more when we get to Chris Ray.

Defensively, the report is that Molina's skills have declined.  I don't know much about defensive metrics, especially for catcher, but I have faith in the good people at Beyond the Boxscore, and this chart seems to confirm that suspicion.  You will notice his close proximity to Max Ramirez at the bottom of the table.

In summary, I see Molina as another Max Ramirez, just older and with (much) less strikeouts.  If we see a 60/40 or similar split with Treanor taking the majority of the starts, I'm okay with that.

Still not convinced?  Me neither, at least not until we start talking about what we gave up, or more accurately, which player we suckered the Giants into taking.

Chris Ray doesn't just suck.  He sucks golf balls through a garden hose.  In 46 games, Ray has pitched 43.1 innings.  His K/9 and BB/9 are both 4.55, which makes K/BB a simple calculation, so he's got that going for him.  (Really not, though.  Not one of those is a good number.  He's 8th worst among qualified RP's in K/9 and 7th worst in K/BB.)  Because of this, his FIP is a gaudy 5.29 (Bottom 20 among qualified relievers, which includes the likes of Trevor Hoffman and Bob Howry), and his xFIP is even higher at 5.88 (5th worst among qualified relievers).  This might be attributed to his high strand rate (I'm not sure how xFIP is calculated) of 81.4%.  His BABIP is an insane .214, though the LD% of 11.4 actually suggests he's been UNlucky.  His career numbers are .279 and 18.3%, so something's up.  He's added a mildly effective curveball that he throws 8% of the time, so maybe that accounts for some of it.  This may be the only thing keeping him from the distinction of being hands down the worst reliever in the league. 

Let's go back to one of the first things I said about Chris Ray.  He has 46 appearances.  In other words, he's pitched in almost 60% of the Rangers' games.  I don't know how many of these count as high-leverage (maybe somebody can help me with that?), but anecdotally, I'm sure we can all remember at least one time where we have screamed, "Chris Ray?  WHY GOD WHY?!"  What this amounts to is JD taking one of Wash's toys that he shouldn't be playing with away from him.  Is it possible that he gave him another Chinese toy with lead paint all over it?  Possibly.  Washington loves him some gritty veterans.  But since Bengie Molina is just another Max Ramirez, I see this as addition by subtraction.

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