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Molina chasing Simmons for best HR season by a Cardinals catcher

In what was arguably the play of the game in one of the wildest St. Louis Cardinals contests in recent years, catcher Yadier Molina launched a two-run home run in the ninth inning in Miami on Monday night.

Down by two, the Cards were just one out away from defeat. With a runner on first, Molina connected off Marlins closer Heath Bell to tie the score. St. Louis went on to win in the tenth inning by an 8-7 margin.

The dramatic blast was Molina’s 11th home run of the 2012 season and put him just three short of his career-best year. The 29-year-old launched 14 long balls in 2011. At this point last season, Molina had four.

From a historical perspective, this is the second-best home run pace by a Cardinals catcher in team history. Only Ted Simmons, with 18 home runs through the first 75 games of the 1979 season, had a faster start as a catcher than Molina.

At the right of the table that follows is the single-season home run leaderboard for Cardinals catchers. Simba added just eight more home runs following game 75 in 1979 to finish with the team record of 26 for the position. The gold standard for power-hitting catchers in franchise history, Simmons logged seven of the eight seasons that topped Molina’s 14 long balls last year.

Most home runs by a catcher, St. Louis Cardinals, through 75 games and full-season

Thru 75 Games Season
Catcher Year HR
Catcher Year HR
1 Ted Simmons 1979 18 1 Ted Simmons 1979 26
2 Yadier Molina 2012 11 2 Ted Simmons 1977 21
3 Ted Simmons 1980 10 3 Ted Simmons 1980 20
4 Darrell Porter 1983 9 4 Ted Simmons 1978 18
4 Ted Simmons 1977 9 5 Ted Simmons 1974 17
4 Ted Simmons 1975 9 6 Ted Simmons 1975 16
4 Ted Simmons 1974 9 7 Darrell Porter 1983 15
4 Hal Smith 1959 9 7 Ted Simmons 1972 15
9 Joe Torre 1970 8 9 Yadier Molina 2011 14
9 Eddie Ainsmith 1922 8 10 Tom Pagnozzi 1996 13
11 Todd Zeile 1990 7 10 Ted Simmons 1973 13
11 Ted Simmons 1972 7 10 Tim McCarver 1967 13
11 Tim McCarver 1965 7 10 Gene Oliver 1962 13
11 Carl Sawatski 1962 7 10 Hal Smith 1959 13
11 Tony Pena 1988 7 10 Eddie Ainsmith 1922 13
16 Eli Marrero 1999 6 16 Todd Zeile 1990 12
16 Darrell Porter 1984 6 16 Darrell Porter 1982 12
16 Ted Simmons 1978 6 16 Tim McCarver 1966 12
16 Tim McCarver 1967 6 16 Carl Sawatski 1962 12
16 Gene Oliver 1963 6 16 Del Rice 1947 12
16 Del Rice 1947 6 16 Bill DeLancey 1934 12
22 Yadier Molina 2012 11
22 Darrell Porter 1984 11
22 Joe Torre 1970 11
22 Tim McCarver 1965 11
22 Del Rice 1952 11
22 Walker Cooper 1944 11

Note that Molina already ranks in a tie for the 22nd-best season with his year-to-date total of 11. With game 75 being Tuesday night in Miami, Molina technically has one more game to add to his fast start total.

If Molina could double his total the rest of the way this season – far from a sure thing given the heat of summer and the grind of catching every day – his theoretical total of 22 homers would rank as the second-best year for a catcher in team history, just four behind Simmons high-water mark.

The table above was provided by researcher Tom Orf.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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27 Responses to “Molina chasing Simmons for best HR season by a Cardinals catcher”

  1. WesPowell says:

    Ted Simmons. The great paradox. Herzog once said that Simmons could play for him but not as a catcher. One of the great platitudes of baseball is the critical importance of defensive catching. I heard putdowns of Simmons in this regard from numerous sources. Some to the level that it was a big joke. Of course on the other hand baseball, as all sports, is neck deep in exaggeration.

    I don’t know if looking him up helps or not. He played full-time for the Cardinals from 1971-1980. In those ten years the Cardinals were cumulative under .500 and never made the playoffs. His last 6 years the Cards finished 3rd, 5th, 3rd, 5th, 3rd, and 4th in a 6 team division.

    I have no idea how much of this less than stellar team record for that decade can be laid at the feet of his poor defensive catching.

  2. WesPowell says:

    If his bad defensive catching is over-stated it’s probably the reason he isn’t Hall-of-Fame, although a reasonable case can be made he deserves it on sheer offensive output from that position.

  3. Bw52 says:

    IIRC Simba was most of the offense in the mid to late 70`s.Too many Mike Tysons,Kenny Reitz type bats.Not a real knock on Rocky Tyson or Reitzie .they where what they where.Not enough pitching,not enough batting………………………too much bad luck (Simba having a monster 1st half then breaking his hand and missing a month or more.Nothing ever seemed to mesh.Too many Don Kessingers,Steve Swishers,etc;

    • WesPowell says:

      Agreed. Can’t make any legitimate overall Molina-Simmons comparisons because Molina has been with a much stronger cast. Plus the Pirates and Phillies fielded some monster teams in the 70’s.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Simmons was the best part of the offense for 10 years, the hitting star of his era. As a hitter, he was a natural. Only spent about 2 years in the minors, a rare hitting talent. A very different path than Molina, great defender and light hitter who has developed himself into a remarkably better hitter.
      Simmons became in effect the replacement for McCarver.

  4. WesPowell says:

    I do have an installment for the lunatic fan department. They are everywhere and need to be called down whenever they poke their head above ground. I check out various blogs and talk radio, particularly when a contending team goes in a slump. Just to enjoy the lunacy. The Reds fireballer Chapman has had a couple late homers whacked off him. The riff-raff is pulling their hair out. It’s like they see him mow them down in a lengthy string of appearances and then they just assume every appearance for all eternity will be the same. Or something is dreadfully wrong.

  5. WesPowell says:

    Their general outlook and demeanor is what fascinates me.

    In many cases I can only guess that somewhere along little-league-slash-puberty it became plainly obvious to even a casual observer that any serious advancement ib participatory athletics was out of the question, much less an eventual career in it. Although it took several more years for they themselves to acknowledge it.

    So in this frustration they then devote almost the entirety of their being to sports fanship. The frustration rises to full bloom when his teams do not meet his grand expectations and demands. He quickly becomes sour, negative, and sarcastic. Often graduating to obscene and belligerent.

    They speculate about morale problems or troublemakers in the locker room, in short someone or someones with an attitude EXACTLY LIKE THEIR OWN……When the chips are down and the waters are choppy the absolute last thing you need on a team.

    So even if they had been blessed with the physical attributes to compete–where the actual divide between them and that was about from here to Saturn’s rings—Even if they had the talent their attitude, the simplest of things, is in utter contradiction to the very concept of team.

    And they spend their lives immersed in sports.

    Anyone name me anything anywhere that is funnier.

    • Nutlaw says:

      Well, it’s easy to poke at the masses and imagine endless failings. At least they care. They’re getting into it and having fun. Why begrudge that? So maybe they don’t realize that fastball strikeout pitchers tend to give up home runs or that their team can’t win all of the time. Who does it hurt? Certainly not their baseball team. Their team suffers when no one cares either way.

      • WesPowell says:

        That’s the thing. The contingent of fans that are found everywhere, who are never disappointed along WITH the team, they find their comfort in getting angry AT the team.

  6. blingboy says:

    A game featuring Zambrano and Guillon sounds promising.

    I see Darrell Porter on the table. I was never a big fan, but he came through big when it mattered. Whitey loved him like a son. A tragic figure though.

    Thing I remember about Simmons is he swung a huge bat.

  7. WesPowell says:

    It appears that Yadier took this column to heart.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Right. Make that 12 homers in 75 games. To be honest, I could have focused the column on 74 games, but that just felt more arbitrary than 75.

      • kray66 says:

        Maybe we need to see if having a column about you on this site is good luck (kind of like a reverse of the Madden/SI cover curse). Let’s pick a player daily and write about how they are leading in some stat (even if we have to make it up) to get them back on track.

        Isn’t Scrabble currently the best Cardinals pitcher to ever pitch with a last name starting with a silent “r?” Run with it Brian.

  8. WesPowell says:

    It’s a longshot but we could have 4 guys with 50 RBIs or more after 81 of 162. At least 4 above or right near it.

  9. WesPowell says:

    Have to toss Craig in there too despite his limited playing time. Beltran, Freese, Holliday, Molina, and Craig have 229 RBI’s or an average of 46 per guy, not even at mid-season.

  10. WesPowell says:

    Actually we are in the midst of a rather interesting statistical anomaly. We are averaging over 5 runs a game with a team ERA of 3.9. One starter with a 2.85 ERA and another 3.23. We are 68 runs plus over the opposition. Of 8 position guys who have played a lot, 6 are batting .300 or better and the other two .280 or better.

    And we’ve been busting our humps to stay above .500 quite a bit.

    That’s life. In the long haul sometimes the stats don’t seem to produce the proper record.

    Ya just keep smiling and keep rooting.

    And ya just keep the nose to the grindstone. Our guys are experts at that. Almost beyond belief the last 2 seasons..

  11. blingboy says:

    We passed the Pirates.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Our next adversaries are the Pirates, Rockies, and Marlins, before the All Star Game. Its good the Cards have been re-finding their winning ways, because they could do well during the next 11 games.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Don’t you think the quality of opponent has something to do with the return to winning ways? I do. The Cards have owned the Marlins and we know the recent KC history. Overall, each of those two clubs is six games under .500. It is good the Cards are beating struggling teams. Perhaps it can be a springboard to better play against winning clubs, too.

        • kray66 says:

          Very true. I’m still nervous to see how we’ll do against better teams, but maybe beating up some lesser teams will help the team get their swagger back.

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