St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina Defies Father Time
By Zach Gifford
Yadier Molina continued to defy Father Time for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016. What can we expect from him in 2017?
Entering 2016, the St. Louis Cardinals and fans were unsure what to expect from Yadier Molina. He would begin the season at 33 years old, having caught 1,438 games as a St. Louis Cardinal. He had logged 12,026.2 innings in his MLB regular season career, not to mention the eighty-nine playoff games he has been a part of.
To add on to the uncertainty, Yadier Molina underwent two surgeries on his left thumb. There was significant risk that the backstop would not be 100 percent in 2016, or that re-injury could occur.
Molina’s value had declined every year since accumulating 6.1 fWAR in 2012. In 2015, Yadier Molina was worth only 1.3 WAR, his worst season since 2006. Molina’s career innings were taking their toll, and the St. Louis Cardinals were seeing an inevitable decline from him.
Except that in 2016, Molina showed that he wasn’t done just yet. In fact, Molina accumulated 2.4 WAR while playing in 147 games and catching in 146, both career highs. He hit for a .307 average, the highest among all Cardinals with at least 100 plate appearances. After three straight years of declining offensive value, Molina’s .307/.360/.427 line in 2016 was his best offensive season since 2013.
Molina brings an unquantifiable value to the team as well. In the clubhouse, he is arguably one of the most respected leaders in the MLB. At the end of Spring Training this year, Molina met with manager Mike Matheny along with Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright, and Matt Carpenter to address concerns about the clubhouse climate.
Further, his effort to pour over scouting reports on opposing hitters to develop a game plan tailored to each pitcher has a tremendous impact on the staff’s effectiveness.
In 2016, Yadier Molina bounced back to become one of the St. Louis Cardinals’ best players for another season. While it remains to be seen if he can sustain this higher level of production, his impact on the Cardinals both on and off the field continued to impress.