After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season. They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post. Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. This year, of course, was anything but typical. So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative. There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable. As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!
Player: Yadier Molina
Season stats: 42 games, 156 PA, 12 R, 38 H, 2 2B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 6 BB, 21 K, .262/.303/.359, 81 OPS+, 0.1 bWAR
Postseason stats: 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, .462/.500/.615
Statcast: .286 xwOBA, 2.4% barrel %, 84.7 exit velocity, 25.4% hard hit %
Best Statcast category: K % (93rd percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Sprint Speed (1st percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 2, Goat 3
On COVID IL: Yes
Overview: Oh, Yadi. Yadi, Yadi, Yadi. What do you say about the guy that, for a myriad of reasons, is the guy most associated with the Cardinals on the national stage? What do you say about a guy that catches like he’s still 25 (at least in innings and games played) when he’s 13 years older than that? Yadi always has a knack of coming up big–look at him homering while wearing #21 for Roberto Clemente or that postseason line–but those moments are becoming more spaced out. Three of the last six years he’s had an OPS+ under 90. His OPS has dropped from .787 in 2016 to .662 this past season. He still causes baserunners to hesitate and his arm is still there, but he was yet again left off the Gold Glove nominees this past season. It feels like more wild pitches or passed balls get by him these days, though I don’t know if the numbers bear that out.
Yadier Molina is a legend, there is no doubt about that. Whenever someone else takes regular time behind the plate, whether it is Andrew Knizner, Ivan Herrera, or Yadier Molina Jr., we’ll feel the loss profoundly. The problem is, how do you honor a legend while still trying to put up an offense that can win games? If this was the 2004 offense surrounding Molina, perhaps we don’t worry as much about the fact that the power is draining from his bat and the reason he doesn’t strike out much is because he tends to put the first pitch in play and not always with authority. It’s also perhaps worth noting that he hit .328 from when he returned from the COVID-IL until Knizner was sent down, then .217 the rest of the way. Part of that is being rested, of course, but it goes on the pile of evidence that Molina is motivated, in part, by making sure nobody takes his job.
It was great to see Molina get his 2,000th hit before the season wrapped up. It was completely fitting to see him get two hits and drive in three runs in his first game back after dealing with the virus. I am sure that he’s frustrated because he didn’t catch 60 games, but instead just 42. That lack of a grind is part of the reason he’s looking for a two year contract, it seems. It was a solid year for Molina, for sure. I’m just not sure it was the best season the Cardinals could have had from the catcher position.
Outlook: Obviously you know that Molina is a free agent and there is a nonzero chance that he won’t be returning to the Cardinals to finish out his career. I think most of us, at least any Cardinal fan with a heart, wants to see him return. However, you look at Carson Kelly being traded away, you look at Andrew Knizner having really nothing left to learn in the minors, and you look at Ivan Herrera on his way. Is it in the best interests of the Cardinals as a team to bring him back, especially when the pandemic is going to require a payroll sacrifice? My hope is that Yadi can come to some agreeable terms and finish his career as a Redbird, but I also hope he is more willing to help facilitate a transition than he has been over the length of his last contract.