The Bengie Molina Paradox - or why the RBI totals don't matter


There was an interesting discussion going on in this thread about the penalty of Bengie's base running, with the caveat offered by the original poster that he's still percieved Bengie as a good player and a good hitter.  Suffice to say, I think this is broadly wrong, for a multitude of reasons, and I thought I'd bring it out here. Basically, much as we like Bengie, he's just not that great. In fact, I venture that Fred Lewis is a significantly more valuable player than Bengie Molina to the 2009 SF Giants, a fact that makes the Damon Bruce crowd go broke.

First, DINGERS.EXE aside, I present to you the basic line, per ESPN:

.256/.264/.436, for an OPS of .700.

Ponder that OBP for a second; Bengie has the 4th lowest OBP in baseball amongst qualifiers; 168th out of 172 hitters. No matter how much you slug, its very very hard to overcome that hurdle, a lesson most people understood 10 years ago. Bengie's Slugging percentage (at .436) is slightly above league average, but on an overall basis, the value doesn't add up. Don't believe me by slash alone? Take the advanced stat of your choice; looking purely at offensive contribution. 


wRC (from Fangraphs) - in simple terms, how many runs have they created this year? In raw totals alone, Bengie Molina has been less impressive than many of our (sometimes deserved whipping boys) such as Lewis and Edgar. 

the second stat (also not position adjusted) is wRAA, how has this person performed as compared to the average hitter in the league; therfore, you can see why Juan Uribe has only contributed about 14 wRC to the giants, he has been a slightly above average hitter when he has played; once again, the only Giants regular who's been significantly worse than Bengie Molina is Manny Burriss.


Player                                                                                                      Position                                               wRC               wRAA

Aaron Rowand OF 34.7 8.1
Pablo Sandoval 3B 30.7 5.6
Randy Winn OF 30.3 1.8
Fred Lewis OF 24.5 0.3
Edgar Renteria SS 19.2 -6.0
Bengie Molina C 18.9 -7.0
Emmanuel Burriss 2B 15.4 -9.3
Juan Uribe 3B 14.1 0.6
Travis Ishikawa 1B 12.5 -2.7
Andres Torres OF 4.2 0.8
Rich Aurilia 1B 3.8 -5.8
Nate Schierholtz OF 2.9 -5.5
Matt Cain P 1.8 -1.5



Okay, you say - what about positional adjustment? Surely Bengie's C as a C, has a lower baseline than that of Fred playing LF? Well, to again use the simplist positional adjustment metric, lets use VORP from BP; essentially, the value over a replacement scrub at the given position, offensively. VORP isn't directly comparable with wRC above because the baseline assumption isn't 0, but its still fairly low. Again, we see the same point; while BP's pitcher values for VORP may be insanely low (in fact, I think they may be 0) in fact, Matt Cain has contributed more offensive value to the Giants than Bengie, and Bengie's offensive value is essentially equivalent to that of Osris Matos (1 AB, a triple, is essentially 1 run of value above replacement). If that doesn't sum up his value, I'm not sure what does.

Aaron Rowand SFN cf 16.6
2. Pablo Sandoval SFN 3b 14.2
3. Randy Winn SFN rf 7.4
4. Juan Uribe SFN 3b 5.4
5. Fred Lewis SFN lf 3.8
6. Matt Cain SFN p 2.3
7. Edgar Renteria SFN ss 1.5
8. Andres Torres SFN lf 1.4
9. Jeremy Affeldt SFN p 0.9
10. Osiris Matos SFN p 0.9
11. Bengie Molina SFN c 0.8


Now clearly, there are 2 aspects I haven't measured above - baserunning and defense. Baserunning can be crudely estimated with a basic run matrix; using BP's statistics, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Bengie is the worst baserunner in baseball; last year, he was agout a -7 run player  vs the average and this year, he's a -3 run player; conversly,Fred Lewis is a +3 runner this year.  Over this year, the baserunning value differential between Fred and Bengie alone should be worth at least a couple of wins (~20 runs), and maybe more.

So that leaves us with defense;with the full caveat that its probably way too early in the season to use UZR's or your defensive metric of choice, Fred Lewis has a UZR of 0.8; his UZR/150 is 4.2, suggesting that he's about 4 runs better defensively than your average LF (IT was 3.5 last year, so I'm willing to accept this is a reasonable sample). Now C defense is brutal to measure (and many defense metrics just throw up their hands and pass), but I think anyone would be hard pressed to argue Bengie is elite at this; ignoring poor metrics like his CS% (which is 19.2%, per THT), let us assume optismitically that Bengie is at least as good defensively as Fred; ie, so far this year, he's been a +1 defensive player so we can take that off the tabel.


Fred Lewis has created more runs than Bengie Molina (wRC); when he's played, he's been a more productive player than Bengie Molina (wRAA), and even adjusting for positional scarcity, he's been a better hitter (by VORP), although not my much. When we further take base running into account, Fred Lewis is a better player.


The broader point here though is not that about Lewis; this is very simplistic, quick and dirty summary with reasonable holes to pick (ie, Fred sitting against LHP improves his wRAA, for example), but mainly to raise this point - whatever metric you use, Bengie Molina is probably the 2nd worst regular on the Giants; Manny Burris is the only guy who has done less. Adjusting for positional scarcity (but not for defense) even Edgar Renteria (he of the immortal .259/.330/.333 line) has been a better or equivalent offensive player to Bengie.

This FanPost is reader-generated, and it does not necessarily reflect the views of McCovey Chronicles. If the author uses filler to achieve the minimum word requirement, a moderator may edit the FanPost for his or her own amusement.

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