Last season and in the off-season, it seemed as if Cardinals fans had seen the last of the Molina we had come accustomed to seeing
In 2015, Yadier Molina was one of the best defensive catchers in the game, evident by his 8th consecutive gold glove and 3rd platinum glove. But his bat was not the same we had seen in recent years. He ended the season batting a pedestrian .270 and slugging only 4 HRs. If you remember the 2013 season, you remember Yadi being a force in the line up, batting .319 and slugging 12 HRs.
He finished third in MVP voting that year.
The power was never there (except in 2012 when he hit 22 long balls) but the high average coupled with premium defense put Molina’s name up there for best all-around player in the game. He then took a sharp downturn in the following seasons mostly due to multiple thumb surgeries. This off-season was a scary one. Molina had to go under the knife not one but two times. Normal players would certainly not be able to return to form after 2 thumb surgeries. It’s a good thing Yadi is not a normal player.
Molina is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, both offensively and defensively. In terms of defense, there was talk of Molina’s ability to frame a pitch declining in recent years. When a catcher frames a pitch, they try to pull a ball back into the zone in order to get the call. When looking at 2015, Yadi would add .37 strikes a game. In 2016, he has more than doubled that at .78. He still has a great caught stealing percentage at 33%. That will also rise through out the season. His career CS% is at 44%. He is still bringing premium defense at the catcher’s position and is well on his way to a 9th consecutive gold glove.
#STLCards Yadier Molina year-to-date
2015: .283 AVG, 34 H, 15 RBI, 18 Ks, .672 OPS
2016: .333 AVG, 44 H, 16 RBI, 15 Ks, .853 OPS
— Nick Krueger (@NickPKrueger) May 16, 2016
But Molina’s glove was really never under too much scrutiny. It was his bat.
Yadi has put many of these concerns to rest. On the season, he is hitting .315. That is much higher than his 2015 mark. It’s astounding. He has come back from thumb surgery to be a better hitter than he was in previous seasons. The one hole to Molina’s game is his lack of over-the-fence power. Now, many of his doubles and 1 triple (I was at that game. Really a beautiful sight.) were tattooed off of the top of the wall. He is just missing round-trippers. I am sure that he will finish with around 10 HRs when the dust settles.
Molina is one of the main reasons why this Cardinals team still has a shot at the division title. His bat stabilized the middle of the lineup while there was no real presence there (enter Stephen Piscotty). He is apart of the aging core and he is the only one that has not shown his age just yet.
Take a good look Cardinals fans.
We are getting to see something special happen and we know all too well how quickly it can end.
Photo Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports