Only one of the three leaders of the St. Louis Cardinals’ “aging core” had a 2016 to remember, Yadier Molina. Matt Holliday declined, missing time due to injury before being let go after the season and Adam Wainwright struggled with inconsistency and bouts of ineffectiveness.
The catcher defied conventional wisdom, however, putting together one of his better years offensively in his age 33-34 season – despite carrying his heaviest workload in 13 MLB campaigns.
In 2016, the Puerto Rican native led the Cardinals with a .307 batting average, eighth-best in the National League and first among all MLB catchers, as were his 164 hits. Molina’s 38 doubles were tied for ninth among all NL hitters and again were the most of any MLB backstop.
With a revolving door of far lesser back-ups behind Molina, manager Mike Matheny basically told him he would be in the lineup daily unless he opted out. He ended up playing in 147 games and leading all MLB catchers with 1,218 1/3 innings. Both the games and innings caught are career highs for Molina. In fact, 2016 marked his ninth season with over 1,000 innings squatting behind the plate.
Molina logged a career high 16-game hitting streak and two different 11-game streaks. From July 8 to August 11, his 24 consecutive games reaching base was the longest by a Cardinals catcher since 1982.
When catchers are expected to wear down, Molina was even stronger. He delivered his best offensive results down the stretch, batting .365 (89-for-244) following the All-Star break. That was the second-highest second-half batting average among all MLB players, regardless of position. He concluded 2016 with hits in 17 of his final 18 contests.
The only indication of Father Time was a decline in some aspects of his defense, which led to his eight-year Gold Glove Award streak ending. Molina’s caught stealing percentage was just 21.2 percent, half of his career rate prior to 2016. In only one other season in his career was his caught stealing under 34 percent. Last season, more runners attempted steals against him than in the prior two years combined.
Yet there were still defensive highlights, including this one from MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch.
“Yadier Molina got 1,109 called strikes on pitches outside the zone in 2016. That was the highest total in MLB.”
Molina’s seven-year National League All-Star run was also broken in 2016, but it was still a stellar year for one of the best ever at his position and a future Hall of Fame candidate.
The next step appears to be a spring discussion between Molina’s agent and the team on a contract extension that would potentially enable the icon to finish his career as a Cardinal.
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