Yadier Molina is hitting .208. Not exactly a brilliant start with the bat for the St. Louis catcher. But one could argue that no one had been more important to the Cardinals winning start to the season. Yes, even more important than Pujols and Holliday and Carpenter and Wainwright. Molina’s influence doesn’t show up in the box score every night. His impact goes beyond statistics. So, all you sabermetrics fanatics, put down the charts and numbers and watch the game.
No, he doesn’t hit like Pujols or Holliday. Or even Rasmus or Ludwick for that matter. But take Yadier Molina out of the lineup and the Cardinals will be in trouble. He keeps the team together. He makes sure the machine is running smoothly so those guys can go hit and the pitchers can just throw. Molina mixes all the ingredients to create a perfect balance of team chemistry and focus in the locker room. His effect can be seen on every pitcher on the Cardinals roster.
And pitching has been the strength of this club early on. They have compiled a 2.42 ERA. The top three — Carpenter, Wainwright, and Penny — have combined to go 7-0 in nine starts. Carpenter and Wainwright were supposed to be good. Penny was a question mark. In three starts, the veteran has dazzled the opponents with straightforward approach. He is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA. And Jaime Garcia has looked more than comfortable on the mound under Molina’s direction. He is 1-0 with a .69 ERA. Right now, the Cards have the best starting rotation in baseball — a reflection on Molina’s mastery behind the plate.
“We’ve got great pitching and we’ve got great catching,” Penny said, “They’re not even trying to steal bases on us right now. These guys know how to pitch, so it should be a fun year.”
Baseball’s always fun when you’re winning. And Yadier Molina is the key to success. Tony La Russa admires his catcher’s smarts behind the plate. He knows Yadi can carry the team to a win with his preparation on any given day. He puts the pitching staff in position to win every day. What more could you want from a catcher?
On top of the intangibles that make him special, Molina is blessed with the physical tools, too. He has the rifle arm and cat-like quickness when blocking balls in the dirt. But, what sets Molina apart is his instincts as a catcher. He has a feel for the game that few others do. He knows when to push his battery mate and when to ease up. He knows when to call for the surprise curve behind in the count and when to blow a hitter away. Molina is also tough. He caught all 20 innings of the Mets marathon game! Forget about pitcher’s arms, Molina was in a squat for three hours. The Cardinals needed him there to get through the night. It’s not easy, but he makes it look easy. For some, it may be hard to notice.
It’s not as easy as looking in the box score for hits and RBIs. But baseball is far more than that. It’s a game of instincts.
And Molina is the master.
The Cardinals just follow his lead.