Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
Player: Yadier Molina
Season stats: 123 G, 503 PA, 55 R, 120 H, 20 2B, 20 HR, 74 RBI, 4 SB, 3 CS, 29 BB, 66 K, .261/.314/.436, 103 OPS+, 1.8 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 11, Goat 8
Overall grade: A
Positives: Reached 20 home runs for the first time since 2012….won his ninth Gold Glove after a two-year hiatus from the award….continued a streak of not being caught stealing more times than he was successful, which also runs back to 2012….had a two-homer game against the Phillies in June….fifteen of his home runs came against right-handers….had an .801 OPS against left-handers….hit .294 with a .901 OPS on the road….hit .315 in July….hit .283 when he was second in the lineup….had a 1.043 OPS when he was ahead in the count….had five homers and a .767 OPS with runners in scoring position….hit .302 in the first inning….had a 1.094 OPS in the ninth….four of his home runs came against the Brewers….hit .283 and had six doubles against the Cubs, the most doubles he had against any team….hit .298 in day games and nine of his homers came in the sunshine (in 180 or so fewer AB than night games)….was an All-Star both mid-season and after the season, as he led a group of players to Japan and had a remarkable series….survived a tough injury that we are not going to discuss and missed only a month.
Negatives: Went 1-for-18 in the last week of the season, though the one hit was a homer….hit just .228 at Busch Stadium with only three of his 20 home runs coming at the home field….hit .249 in the second half of the season….had a .664 OPS in August….was 0-2 with a walk as a pinch-hitter….had a .247 average batting fifth….had a .703 OPS on the first pitch….batted .208 with two outs….hit .253 in high leverage situations….had a .693 OPS against relievers….hit .235 against power pitchers….even with those four homers, batted .127 against the Brewers….hit .234 against teams over .500….allowed 39 wild pitches, the second-highest amount in his career.
Overview: By this time, we thought we’d see the time share start. We thought that whomever the heir apparent was, probably Carson Kelly, would get a significant amount of playing time and Molina would start easing his way toward retirement. Instead, Molina started 120 games and it would have been more had Jordan Hicks‘s fastball not been fouled by Kris Bryant….you know, we said we weren’t going to talk about that. Obviously, Father Time hasn’t come for Molina just yet. While his overall offensive game might have taken a bit of a hit, the power is still there and he’s still a significant threat whenever he’s up to bat. Defensively, he may have slowed a tick but when you are miles ahead of most everyone else with the glove, slowing down a tick isn’t all that noticeable. Just like he did with the World Baseball Classic, he was a fired-up and productive player in Japan this winter when the MLB All-Stars headed overseas. Molina was the elder statesman and played like he was in his prime, even picking off a runner at first. There’s a reason the Birds on the Black crew had #YadiWeek late in the season.
Outlook: Molina’s work ethic and amazing training regimen probably means that his trip to Japan won’t really impact him in 2019. It’s not like he’d have headed home to Puerto Rico and chilled for a few weeks if he hadn’t been playing ball. Still, Yadi will be 37 midway through next season and, eventually, things are going to have to slow down. Kelly is out of options and will need to play a bit more than twice a month if he’s not going to be wasted. Juggling that and a proud and productive Molina could be a huge task for Mike Shildt next year. However the end game comes around over the next couple of seasons, whenever Molina does hang them up they’ll have a statue and a red jacket waiting for him.