St. Louis Cardinals: “Tired” Yadi keeps Matheny in check

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 07: Yadier Molina
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 07: Yadier Molina /

The St. Louis Cardinals’ backstop continues to tear the ball off the cover since his “feud” with manager, Mike Matheny.

Just a little under two weeks ago, manager Mike Matheny seemed to suggest St. Louis Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina was “tired.” Naturally, Molina responded the next day by saying Matheny misinformed the media and that he was not tired. Whether you agree with Matheny, one thing is for sure, Molina’s last twelve games don’t show he’s tired.

Since his last day off, Molina has been on an absolute tear. He has been one of the Cardinals best hitters. Coincidentally, his offensive boost runs parallel to the recent resurgence of the offense over the last two weeks.

His defense has also been spectacular in this stretch of games as well. His caught stealing of Alcides Escobar Wednesday is one of the better defensive plays you will see all year. It’s the reason why Molina is an eight-time Gold glove winner and four-time Platinum Glove winner. The man is just on fire.

Since July 28th, Yadier Molina is batting .333 with four home runs, ten runs batted in, and twelve runs scored. He has fifteen total hits over the thirteen games with only seven strike outs and four walks. His OBP, SLG, and OPS in the twelve games are .388, .644, and 1.032 respectively. Defensively, he has caught six base stealers and has eight assists.

A look at the advanced metrics also give us an indication of just how great Molina has been in the last thirteen games:

Total– – –– – –8.20%14.30%0.3110.3240.3330.3880.6440.429167

Molina has had a stretch of great play and the advanced metrics on Fangraphs tell the story. In all the categories above, Molina is besting his season totals. His walk rate and strike out percentage over the season are right around 4.8 and 14.6%. While his strike out percentage isn’t significantly lower, his walk rate does tell me something. An increase in walks can only mean Molina is seeing the ball better.

If he is seeing the ball better, than we should expect to see his numbers to increase. Perhaps that is why, over the last thirteen games, Molina took his season batting average from .271 to .282. It’s also clear to see how the seeing the ball better affects the other statistics in the table.

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His BAbip on the season is right around .294, compared to his .324 mark in this stretch. He has been able to secure more hits when putting the ball in play.

It’s a sign of hitting the ball with more authority with maybe a tiny bit of luck.

According to Fangraphs, and average hitter tends to hover in the .300 for BAbip. Do his season totals mean Molina is an average hitter?

No, but his increase over this stretch just shows how good a hitter Molina can be.

Another sign of hitting the ball with authority is his ISO and SLG. We have already discussed SLG, so I’ll focus on ISO. ISO tries to tell how often a player hits for extra bases. Over the season, Molina has an ISO of .160. You may think that is not good, but according Fangraphs, and ISO of .160 would make Molina close to above average in MLB.

Above Average0.170
Below Average0.120

The increase in extra bases is a welcome sign for St. Louis Cardinals’ fans. Before the recent outburst of offense, the Cardinals were struggling to get the line moving. As we have seen now, the Cardinals are hitting the ball with more authority across the board. The extra bases have been timely, especially with Molina’s grand slam on Wednesday and Dexter Fowler’s slam last night.

Because of Molina’s stretch and ability to hit for extra bases, his wOBA is also way above his season totals. So far in 2017, Molina has a wOBA of .310, compared to his .429 in the last thirteen games. Anything above .400 in wOBA is considered an excellent grade according to Fangraphs. His .310 wOBA would actually make him below average.

Above Average0.340
Below Average0.310

Again, his increased power and extra bases has shifted his ISO and wOBA in a positive direction. While Molina does not have the most power among MLB catchers, his 2017 season is proving his doubters wrong. His home runs as of late have also not been cheap shots either. His home run in Kansas City was to one of the deep parts in the ballpark.

Lastly, his wRC+ has also taken an upswing during this stretch. Over the season, Molina has a wRC+ of 95, which would put him right around the average mark for a player. However, in this recent run of play, Molina has a wRC+ of 167, which would be an excellent grade. Molina has been able to create multiple runs with his play.

Above Average75115
Below Average6080

While we all can agree Mike Matheny probably didn’t explain himself the best, it’s very clear Yadi isn’t tired. In fact, I  think the St. Louis Cardinals are seeing this kind of winning because of the increased play in Yadier Molina.

A healthy Molina is the great. However, a healthy and productive Molina makes the team that much better. All too often we have talked about the Cardinals needing a three-hitter. While that remains true, although Paul DeJong has done nicely, the Cardinals also need protection for the three-hitter.

I’m not saying Molina should be moved to the fourth  spot, but his ability to even protect the clean-up hitter is showing its value over the last couple of games. If Molina continues to hit well, team’s will start to figure out ways to get around him. This includes pitching around him, but could also mean having to pitch to the three and four hitters in the lineup.

Given how well DeJong and Jose Martinez have done over the last week in those roles, it intrigues me to see how pitchers will handle the St. Louis Cardinals’ lineup. There are two things that scare me though. The first is the kind of pitching we’ve seen. The Royals don’t have the best starting pitching and neither did the Reds. If the Cardinals want to continue to win, the offense must show up against the good pitching too.

The second thing that scares me is the over-reliance on the long ball. Timely hitting is one thing, but waiting for a home run to happen is another. The Cardinals need to make sure they capitalize on all opportunities whether they be home runs or not. I believe the St. Louis Cardinals will continue the success, but their margin for error is even shorter now that they are just one game back of first place in the division.

Next: An ode to the cat wrangler

I don’t know about you, but Yadi doesn’t seem tired to me. He is playing better than ever and the St. Louis Cardinals need him to.