Bengie Molina And The Interesting X-Factor

'X-factor' is a strange term. An x-factor is something you think may end up making a difference in a game or a series. Meaning it's a factor.

Anyway, as alleged 'x-factors' are concerned, this year's World Series presents an interesting one. Ordinarily x-factors end up being bench players or intangibles or managerial strategy or whatever. This year, one of the big things on so many tongues is Bengie Molina. Molina, you see, spent about three and a half seasons catching the Giants before getting traded to the Rangers in July. And this experience catching the Giants' pitchers may give him and his team an advantage in the biggest series of the year.

Only, will it? On the surface, it seems to make so much sense. Molina is familiar with their pitchers. He knows how they work and how they look and what they throw. He can take advantage of that knowledge himself, and he can impart that knowledge into others. Presto, the Rangers have an edge.

But when you really break it down - when you think about it, and think about it closely, I don't think it'll matter. Not much, anyway.

First, consider Molina himself. Will Molina have an edge going up against his old pitchers? For one thing, remember that he'll be seeing them from a different angle as he was behind the plate. Pitches and windups look different behind the plate from how they look beside it. And secondly, even if he has some special knowledge of how they work, he still won't know what's coming. He'll still have to identify each pitch out of the hand like anybody else. The unpredictability reduces the advantage, if not negates it completely. Molina won't know what's coming, and he also won't know how the pitcher feels on a given day, which, of course, can have a profound effect on one's normal strategy.

And then consider the rest of the team. Let's say Molina tries to teach his teammates some stuff about San Francisco's pitching staff. What are they going to learn? Knowledge is no substitute for live experience. You can't tell someone what Tim Lincecum's curveball looks like. And more importantly, what is Molina going to say about tendencies or movement that can't be picked up from the numbers or the video? The Rangers already know how Jonathan Sanchez likes to pitch. The Rangers already know about Brian Wilson's slider. There just doesn't seem to be much in the way of additional value to Molina's advice. It's not like he's going to be able to point out any tells. Had Molina noticed any tells, he would've mentioned them with the Giants earlier in the year.

I can see how Molina's history might give him some tiny, individual advantage against his old pitchers. He has a pretty good understanding of how their pitches move, and that could help him out. But it also could not, and ultimately, I think this is just an interesting topic of conversation that doesn't lead anywhere. Bengie Molina used to catch the Giants. That's weird. Maybe it'll help. It probably won't. Moving right along.

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