St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina Defies Father Time

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

How will Yadi peform with the bat in 2017?

Perhaps the most impressive part about Yadier Molina’s 2016 St. Louis Cardinals campaign was his success at the plate. Prior to this season, Molina’s batting average had declined two straight seasons. His OBP and SLG each declined three consecutive years.

It was generally accepted that Molina was past his prime at the plate, and any offensive value would just supplement the defensive and intangible value he brings to the St. Louis Cardinals. Instead, Yadier Molina was able to reverse the course. His average, OBP, and SLG were each his best since 2013. He posted a 113 wRC+, also his highest since 2013 and good for the fourth best offensive season of his career.

it is unsurprising that a catcher with Molina’s career workload would see his defense decline, especially at his age…

This sharp rebound to resist decline and post an offensive season worthy of his prime led me to think that Molina might have altered his offensive approach. Maybe he found something in his swing that allowed him to square the ball up more, maybe he was more patient, or maybe he sprayed the ball to all parts of the field more effectively.

It is unclear what Molina did differently at the plate in 2016, if anything. His 6.7% BB% and 10.8% K% were in line with his career percentages.

He saw 3.57 pitches per plate appearance compared to 3.50 for his career. Additionally, his 2016 spray percentages were all within 1.0% of his career spray percentages. Given how closely 2016 numbers were to his career patterns, it is clear that a changing offensive approach was not the key to Molina’s 2016 success.

One thing that sticks out from Molina’s 2016 season at the plate is his .335 BABIP. This was the second highest rate of his career, trailing only his .338 BABIP from 2013. This success on balls in play was supported by a 31.1 Hard%. This was the third-highest of Molina’s career and topped his career average of 26.7% by nearly five percent.

It is encouraging for Molina’s success going forward that his Hard% has cracked 30.0% four times in the past five years, with a 25.3% in 2015 being the exception. Therefore, while it is unlikely that Molina will sustain a .335 BABIP going forward, a .310 BABIP is not out of the question (his career mark is .300). In fact, Steamer projects Molina’s 2017 BABIP to come in right at .310.