Exit Interview 2017: Yadier Molina

For the sixth straight year, we’re taking a look back at everyone that played for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  Whether they were a major contributor or a bit player, here all year or for just a little while, we’ll look at their season and talk about what went right and what went wrong.  The stat line listed is just their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers in the discussion may be for the entire year.  Imagine this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a little review on their way home for the winter.  As always when you see incredible artistry in the blogs, all credit for the header work goes to @cardinalsgifs.

Player: Yadier Molina

Season stats: 136 G, 543 PA, 60 R, 27 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR, 82 RBI, 9 SB, 28 BB, 74 K, .273/.312/.439, 96 OPS+, 2.0 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 7, Goat 10

Overall grade: B+

Positives: Continued to be the iron man of catchers, leading the NL in catching innings by 30 and falling just 20 innings short of Martin Maldonado of the Angels for the major league lead….had an .850 OPS against lefthanders….evenly split his home runs between the first and second halves….hit .312 in August with a .905 OPS….hit .352 with a 1.067 OPS when he was ahead in the count….hit .313 with one out in an inning….hit .315 with runners in scoring position….shone in big situations (.322/.333/.534 in high leverage plate appearances)….hit .308 against groundball pitchers….had three homers against the Cubs.

Negatives: As good as the offense seemed to be, he was still not league average in OPS….lost a win in WAR….hit just .233 in September, a month cut short because of concussion issues….had a .495 OPS when the pitcher was ahead….hit .231 with two outs and RISP….had a .209 average when he hit in the first inning….hit .053 against the Braves….hit .212 against the Cubs.

Overview: Molina signed a three-year extension in the spring, an extension that doesn’t actually start until next season.  There were worries at the time that this was going to well overpay Molina’s production and it probably will, but if Yadi can put up a few more years like this one the overpay won’t be as great as feared.  Molina went on a run in August, which may or may not have been tied to the promotion of Carson Kelly, and there were times where he was one of the better hitters in the lineup.  That said, no matter what he was doing, Mike Matheny was going to hit him fifth, which was a significant source of consternation.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad year for the Cardinal catcher.  His defense seemed to be a little better than it was last season (and he did have fewer passed balls and wild pitches).  He showed in the World Baseball Classic he could still bring the fire and passion and while he couldn’t sustain that over 162 games, it’s good to know that it is still in there.  Given that Yadi will be 35 next season, age feels like it’s going to get to him soon, but there’s no doubt Molina’s got enough pride in his performance to try to fight off Father Time for as long as possible.

Outlook: With Kelly likely on the bench instead of Memphis at the beginning of the year, Molina might wind up with a few more days off throughout the season.  It would seem unlikely that Kelly will not make an appearance until the fifth game like Eric Fryer did (though not something that can be completely ruled out).  With a bit more rest, with a lineup that forces him down to sixth or seventh, it could be a resurgent year for Yadi.  He can’t be a centerpiece anymore but he can still be a significant help to the club.

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