Is Molina the Giants' greatest catcher?


Bengie Molina's the best catcher in the 52-year history of the San Francisco Giants? John Shea thinks he might be:

    These may be the final days in San Francisco for Bengie Molina, though it would be wise for the Giants to try to persuade the catcher to return for one more year to split time with Buster Posey -- if Posey proves worthy.
    If it is the end, Molina has done enough in three years to warrant comparisons to other all-time San Francisco catchers. In fact, a case can be made that he ranks No. 1 in the team's 52 years in San Francisco.


    Plus, pitchers generally like throwing to him, and he's one of two Giants to serve as the primary catcher for a Cy Young Award winner. For Molina, it was Tim Lincecum. For Tom Haller, it was Mike McCormick in 1967.

    Haller, who hit .248 with 107 homers and 320 RBIs in seven Giant seasons, played the most games (761), hit the most homers in a season (27 in 1966) and was a two-time All-Star.

    Dietz, Santiago and Bob Brenly (.250, 90 homers, 327 RBIs, nine years) also were All-Stars. Kirt Manwaring (.246, 16 homers, 207 RBIs, 10 years) won a Gold Glove, and Mike Matheny is the only other Giants catcher who can say that.

Well, I'm glad that Shea did mention the other top candidates. But a reasonable case simply can't be made that Molina is the Giants' No. 1 catcher.
This is not difficult stuff. Molina has played 410 games for the Giants, with a 90 OPS+. What that essentially means is that he's been 10 percent worse than an average National League hitter, OPS-wise. Granted, OPS isn't the perfect metric. But it's good enough for this ...

Tom Haller and Bob Brenly both played more than 750 games with the Giants, with OPS+'s well over 100. Dick Dietz was a Giant for only 536 games and wasn't much with the glove, which is why I rated him (in this old book) behind Haller and Brenly. But Dietz's OPS+ as a Giant was 129. Is Molina's defense really good enough to balance the difference between them in hitting and playing time?

One can easily push Molina past Santiago, and with a bit of charity perhaps even past Milt May. That's as far as we can go, though. At best, Molina comes in fourth behind Haller, Brenly, and Dietz. If he remains a Giant and plays exceptionally well and regularly for another two or three years, he might gain entry into the pantheon. But considering both his and Posey's talents, that doesn't seem real likely.

(H/T: BTF's Newsstand)