With all the success of Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman and the struggles of Albert Pujols getting most of the writers’ ink, one of the least-recognized contributors to the St. Louis Cardinals’ early-season success in 2011 has been Yadier Molina. It is sometimes forgotten that this is the catcher’s seventh season as a major league regular.
In terms of offensive results, this is the 28-year-old’s best start yet, as measured by both counting and rate stats – hits and doubles, along with batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. His home run count of three ties his best 43-game total and his RBI total is second-most.
The negatives are few. Molina’s walks are down, which reduces his on-base percentage compared to other seasons, and his ground into double play total is his highest yet.
Molina’s heavy workload and late-season injuries have been ongoing topics of concern in recent years. This came to light again the other night as Molina appeared to injure his knee in a home plate collision, but he remained in the game.
As measured by plate appearances, the addition of veteran starting catcher Gerald Laird has led to a slight reduction in Molina’s workload this season compared to the previous two years. Molina’s 142 PAs through 43 games in 2011 was identical to 2008 and considerably more than he logged in his first three years as a starter.
Researcher Tom Orf pulled the following table of Molina’s aggregate stats through the Cardinals’ first 43 games in each of his seven seasons. They are listed in order of the catcher’s games played.
Yadier Molina, through St. Louis Cardinals game #43, 2005-11
bold = career bests in 2011
In the just-completed Houston series, the Cardinals catching success continued as Molina went 3-for-4 on Wednesday, improving his 2011 line to .323/.361/.466. Laird got the start on Thursday afternoon and contributed a crucial two-run double in the Cards’ 4-2 win.