The Awesomeness of Yadier Molina

He is a 6 time Gold Glove winner,  a 2 time Platinum Glove winner, a 6 time Fielding Bible Award winner, a 5 time All-Star, a Top 5 in MVP voting twice, and last year’s Silver Slugger winner for catcher.  Many more awards and his house foundation is going to sink from the weight.  He sports a career 45% caught stealing percentage, highest in all of MLB for active catchers and an MLB highest 48 career pickoffs.  Once known only for his elite defense, Molina has recorded a season batting average of over .300 for the last 3 seasons and is currently hitting .343.

How’s that for awesome?  The current consensus is that if he keeps up this production for a few more years, he could be looking at his plaque in Cooperstown some day.  And he is only 31 years old.

Molina was not always as good with the bat as he is now.  Molina hit a career low .216 in 2006, the year the Cardinals won their 10th World Championship.   His final line that year was  .216/.274/.321 .  Those are Pete Kozma numbers.  I would dearly love to get a peek at the Archives of the Post Dispatch for that year, just to see what kind of comments Molina’s offensive numbers produced in the Cardinal faithful.  I bet they were hilarious.  No doubt calls to trade or release him were made.

Tony LaRussa would never have stood for it.  In an era where offense is King and the importance of defense has been diminished, LaRussa knew Molina’s value.  He has been often quoted as saying he didn’t care if Molina hit 0, his defense was that important to the team’s success.

Fortunately, Molina’s offense improved the following season, and made it’s gradual acsension to it’s present status, with a small hiccup in 2010.  He has never won an MVP, but has gotten as high as third in the voting.  There are those who believe his elite defense and skills as a handler of pitchers does not get the praise and respect it deserves.  I am in that camp.  Even the science of baseball analytics has not figured out a way to properly rate Yadier Molina. (See:  Sullivan, Jeff, “Searching for the Value of Yadier Molina”.  http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/searching-for-the-value-of-yadier-molina/)

No doubt when MVP voting time comes around, if Molina doesn’t exceed the offensive value of some other player, he will be overlooked again.  His defensive numbers, no matter how great they were, have never been seen as important enough to put him over the top.  Offense is King, Emperor and Dictator.

After 108 at bats, Molina is hitting .343, with 4 HRs and 15 RBIs.  He also has an OPS+ of 145, a wOBA of .388, a wRC+ of 150 and he’s worth 1.3 WAR so far.   That’s sabermetric speak for “He’s totally awesome.”

We will have to wait until the end of the season to find out if he is awesome enough for the MVP voters.

 

Thank you for reading.

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3 Comments

  1. Jerry Modene

     /  May 5, 2014

    I was on the forums in 2006 (actually, I’ve been posting on forums since 1997) and remember well the fannish comments about Molina. The fans were indeed convinced that he was a nothing bat (despite decent minor-league numbers) and even when he started hitting, they were convinced it was an illusion and that 2006 was the *real* Molina. As it turns out, 2006 was his outlier season, but I can remember posters as recently as 2009 or 2010 demanding the Cards get rid of Molina and replace him with Bryan Anderson. (I can also remember the ribbing I took when I suggested, about 2009 I think it was, that Molina was a better all-around catcher than Joe Mauer, who isn’t even a catcher any more!)

    Admittedly, I didn’t think Molina would turn out to be *this* good – I had him figured as a .275 hitter with 10-12 home run power. I tend to be “early-sabr” when it comes to some of these statistics that are out there; the one that I used in this case was an old 80’s Bill James theory that basically states that you can take a player’s first full year in AA and get an quick-and-dirty idea of how he can produce in the major leagues. (Allowances, of course, for age – a 20-year-old in AA is going to be more productive, James wrote, than a 25-year-old in the same league with the same numbers.)

    I must say, too, that last night Molina looked to be a candidate for the goat horns (having gone 0-4 including a GIDP in a key situation, then that wild pitch – which he really should have blocked – that let in the tying run) before he drove in the game-winners in the ninth with that seeing-eye single (looks like a line drive in the box score).

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    • I suspect the ones who were calling for Molina’s head back in 2006, would deny it today. That’s one of the problems with the casual baseball fan, they rapidly jump to conclusions, and when their conclusions turn out to be illusory ( as they often do) they revise history to save face.

      I have always found not jumping to conclusions leads me to be wrong less often. Then when I am wrong, I am not afraid to admit to it.

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  2. Jerry Modene

     /  May 5, 2014

    Well, when I jump to a conclusion (said the skydiver whose parachute failed to open) it’s usually on the side of optimism. Thus, I thought that Junior Spivey could be of use to us; likewise I was excited over having Ryan Theriot on board. I failed to realize that both of these guys were on the way down. I should have learned that lesson in 1980; for years I had hoped the Cards would get Bobby Bonds and when they did, he was a 35-year-old bust.

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