St. Louis Cardinals: Is Yadier Molina a Hall of Fame Catcher?

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Yadi has played in the last seven All-Star games, and he boasts eight Gold Glove awards thus far in his career. He has certainly been a great talent for the St. Louis Cardinals, but will he have a Hall of Fame resume?

Outside of the likes of one Adam Wainwright, there is not a member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization that has been more central to a now decade-long run of success than Yadier Molina.

He came on as a rookie in 2006 with his buddy Waino. Those two made up the battery on the final pitch of St. Louis’ first World Series winner in 24 years. Ten years later, Yadi is entering the twilight of his career. The 33-year-old will refuse to acknowledge that he is even close to being done in St. Louis, but you always have to consider the fact that catchers are the first ones to break down in baseball.

Apr 5, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) and catcher Yadier Molina (4) meet on the mound during the third inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) and catcher Yadier Molina (4) meet on the mound during the third inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

When considering the prospects of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, though, there is one important thing you have to consider.

Just five catchers have made it into the Hall of Fame in 60-plus years of Post-WWII baseball. There’s no way around it, catcher is just a tough position.

When it comes to the Hall of Fame, the simple fact of the matter is that offensive ability will always trump defensive excellence. After all, how many great hitters from their respective time have reached Cooperstown despite being mediocre or even bad defensively?

It is also troubling to consider the fact that an all-time great catcher like Ted Simmons was left out of the Hall, despite offensive numbers that are similar to or better than the likes of Ivan Rodriguez and even Johnny Bench in ways.

Molina has no shot at sniffing the offensive numbers (outside of a couple of 30-plus home run years) that Simmons put up in his career. But, there has never been an argument for Yadi being a Hall of Fame caliber offensive player, anyhow. His best shot is defense, rings, and intangibles.

According to Defensive WAR, Molina has been the fifth-best catcher in the history of the game from a defensive standpoint. No active catcher is even close to the Yadi’s 20.3 career Defensive WAR. If he played another five years and held his career averages for Defensive WAR, he would pass Pudge Rodriguez’s top ranking for catchers of 28.7.

Molina stands in third place among catchers for career Gold Gloves with eight. He probably has to catch Pudge again (who leads with 13) for any Hall of Fame consideration. To do so, Yadi would obviously have to play at least five more years, and do it at a very high level.

If he played another five years, he would most likely move into the Top-10 for defensive games at the catcher position. He would have no shot at unseating Pudge as the leader, as Yadi trails Pudge by almost 1,000 games caught heading into 2016.

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Yadi actually checks in at 114th overall in career Caught Stealing percentage at just over 44%. That is troubling, considering the fact that his arm is probably what he is know for most. Nobody is saying that he is the 114th-best ever at throwing out base runners, just that the numbers do not necessarily back him fully in that department like you would think.

Sure there is his ability to call a game like nobody else, but what are the chances that Hall of Fame voters take that as a serious (even leading) consideration, and how do you quantify something like that?

It is clear (unfortunately) that Yadi has a lot of work left if he is going to be considered a Hall of Fame candidate, from a numbers stand point. Granted, there is still a lot to be settled in the rest of his career, and I am only basing my judgement off of his numbers to this point and what I see him doing going forward.

So what, then, would it take to get him into the Hall of Fame, compared to where he is at right now?

Firstly, I think if the Cards win another ring or two while Yadi is here, that would go the absolute furthest in bolstering his Hall of Fame prospects. That alone probably wouldn’t be enough to get Yadi over the hump, but I think it would be pretty crucial in helping his chances.

I think that Yadi is going to have to have double-digit All Star game appearances, and he needs to at least match Pudge with 13 Gold Gloves. If Yadi somehow pulls his career average up to the .300 mark (.283 going into 2016), he would be better in that department than nine of the fourteen catchers who made it into the Hall.

Yadi finished fourth then third in National League MVP voting in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. From the Cardinals’ World Championship 2011 season through the club’s National League Championship winning season in 2013, Yadi slashed .313/.359/.481 to the tune of 48 home runs and 221 runs batter in.

Another stretch like that could do wonders for Yadi’s Hall of Fame chances, especially if he were to win an MVP. Unfortunately, he averaged 138 starts over that stretch, something I would be very surprised to see in 2016. With the help of backup catcher Brayan Pena, finding a way to cap Yadi around 110-115 starts could afford the 33-year-old the longevity to catch into his upper-30’s.

If Yadi were to reach 2,000 career hits and 1,000 career RBI, it could be a very different conversation. 2,000 hits is very possible, as he is 571 away going into 2016 with 1,429 in his career. 1,000 RBI is also plausible, although he still sits 355 shy as things currently stand.

When you consider how it is in the Cardinals’ best interest to limit Yadi’s usage going forward, some of those numbers might look more like long shots. I really don’t want to see Yadi much past the 110 games mark in 2016, because I just don’t think that he would be effective going into the Postseason if he took on much more of a work load. It could be tough for Yadi to hit those career numbers playing in 110 games a season the rest of his career.

I hate to say it, considering the fact that Yadi is one of my all-time favorite Cardinals, but all indications point towards him being on the outside looking in when it comes to Hall of Fame potential.

When it is all said and done, Yadi very well might go down as the best defensive catcher in the history of the game. If Yadi receives that subjective title, he will get a huge boost in voting. I just don’t know if it is enough to get 75% of the Hall of Fame votes, when a guy like Ted Simmons never received more than 11%.

There is no question that Yadi has an impact on the game that is matched by few in baseball. The way he calls a game makes the entire Cardinals pitching staff better. His glove work behind the plate is the best in baseball. No other catcher is close, in my opinion. The tools that he possesses defensively completely alter the opposing team’s game plan.

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But the Hall takes an awful lot, and like it or not, offensive numbers are always going to be the leading factor in Hall of Fame decisions. I wish this wasn’t the case, and I wish that Yadi was going to be there when it came down to it, but I just can’t see it.

What do you say, Cardinal fans? Tell me why I’m wrong (or right) in the comments, or get after me on Twitter!

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