Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Is Yadier Molina more valuable than Albert Pujols?

A few months after the St. Louis Cardinals lost Albert Pujols to the Las Angeles Angels, they signed catcher Yadier Molina to an extension.  One can infer from the timing that, losing Pujols freed up the money the Cards needed to make the Molina deal and, with that, the Cardinals made Molina the face of the franchise.

Of course, ask any Cardinals fan back then who they would rather have, they would say Pujols.  Now, I'm not so sure.

In his first American League season, Pujols struggled out of the gate and had the worst season of his career (albeit still a very good season).  Meanwhile, Molina had a breakout year for the Cards. 

Which leads to the question is Molina more valuable that Pujols, at least going forward?

Looking at their raw stats, there is not much difference between the two:

Pujols - .285/.343/.516, .859 OPS (141 OPS+), 30 HR's
Molina - .315/.373/.501, .874 OPS (137 OPS+), 22 HR's

However, when you look at their sabermetrics, its pretty clear that Molina had the better year.

Take, for instance, their 2012 wins above replacement (WAR) per Fangraphs:

Pujols 3.6 WAR
Molina 6.2 WAR

In addition, Pujols has been in a steady decline over the last few years.  Here are his WAR's from 2009 to 2012:

2009:  8.7
2010:  7.0
2011:  4.3
2012:  3.6

At the same time, Molina's WARs have increased the last few years:

2010:  2.6
2011:  4.4
2012:  6.2

Pujols, at 33, is 3 years older than Molina (and some still question if that is Pujols' true age) and appears to be in the decline phase of his career.  While Molina is still in his prime. 

Plus, WAR cannot measure the intangibles that Molina brings, such as handling the pitching staff, as well as things like framing pitches to get a called strike

That's not to say that Pujols cannot have a bounce back year or that Molina might, as a catcher, go into a decline earlier than most everyday players.  But, going forward, I think that Molina will be the better value and considering that he makes $10 million less a year, he is an absolute bargain.


  1. I was always glad that Pujols signed with the Angels and I am a Cardinal fan from St Louis. Giving Albert a 10 year contract did not make sense. He has had back and other minor ailments. This is a concern for a homerun hitter because it makes it harder to turn on a pitch. Also, he always had average speed at best. Thus, as he would get older there would be no more doubles only long singles and even hard shots to the hole at short will result in outs. Plus, he would then be a liability on the base paths. just like McGuire. McGuire was either a homerun, a long single or an out. And it was possible to hit into a 3-1-4 double play when McGuire was on base at first.
    Lastly, you can not compare Albert with other recent star players because many of them were on the juice. I doubt Albert will improve with age like Bonds, Clemens, etc.

  2. I wanted Pujols to stay. I wanted them to pay him. I knew he was in decline but he gave and stayed and was a great teammate for a bargin for many years. That said I also knew that Molina is the best player we got. I kinda was hoping for the ownership to open the pocket books just once. For me it wasnt about either or it was just pay Pujols

  3. I think a majority of Cards fans were glad to see Pujols go. When you look at a player that hit into more double plays than any one else in MLB for three consecutive years, see a player choke time after time in high pressure situations, see a player go o-fer in 5 out of 7 World Series games, and see a highly paid player gain a majority of his statistics against weak teams and pitchers. it was easy to pass the problem to another team.

  4. As a Cards fan, I too wanted Albert to stay, but not for the deal he got. 10 years would have handcuffed the Cards in years 6-10 and probably cause them to lose the great class of upcoming stars.