The days when some pundits trashed the St. Louis Cardinals for signing catcher Yadier Molina for a five-year, $75 million contract have long passed.
Given the unusually high number of rookie pitchers and innings they were needed to pitch, Molina’s steady leadership behind the plate was a key to the Cardinals success.
Molina led the Cardinals in batting for the third consecutive season (.319) and finished fourth in the NL. He tied for seventh in multi-hit games (50), tied for fifth in three-hit games (14) and tied for third in four-hit games (4). The right-handed batter was fifth-toughest to strike out in the NL (one per every 9.84 plate appearances). His 44 doubles were second-most by an NL catcher and set a new all-time team record for the position.
The Puerto Rican native was the top vote-getter for the National League All-Star team and received his sixth consecutive Gold Glove Award following the season.
Throwing out runners daring enough to try to steal against him is Molina’s forte. This season, he gunned down an MLB-best 42.2 percent (19 of 45). Despite missing 14 games with a knee sprain, he led NL catchers in games played (131), innings caught (1115 1/3), total chances (1043) and putouts (976).
While playing all of those innings, Molina guided the Cardinals youthful staff. The Cards led MLB with 36 wins by rookie pitchers, the most for St. Louis since 1941. The club sent pitchers age 25 or younger to the mound to start 67 games, winning 40 with a 3.10 ERA.
Overall, the Cardinals starters’ 3.42 ERA was second-best in the league. The team ERA, also 3.42, was fifth.
Molina’s day in and day out leadership of the Cardinals – evidenced by their 97 wins, the most in the National League – was a difference-maker. I believe the catcher is the most indispensable player on his team.
Some believe that the Cardinals’ two Most Valuable Player candidates split the vote, keeping either from winning. Molina came in third and teammate Matt Carpenter was fourth, however Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen collected 28 of 30 first-place votes as the landslide MVP winner.