St. Louis Cardinals: The replacements are keeping Yadi from being missed

ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 17: Andrew Knizner #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after hitting a double for his first Major League hit during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on July 17, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 17: Andrew Knizner #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after hitting a double for his first Major League hit during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on July 17, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals are obviously not the same team when they don’t have the anchor behind the plate. In his absence, his replacements are doing great.

Nobody likes to talk bad about the St. Louis Cardinals legend, Yadier Molina. I am in that crowd and I love that Yadi has been able to keep up his production, when healthy, at this point in his long-tenured career.

I stress the health part of that statement because, before his most recent stint on the IL, Molina was nowhere near healthy. Molina hurt his hand in the middle of June and before that ligament issue, he was hitting a modest .690 OPS (on average) over the first two months of the season.

This really isn’t great overall, but for a catcher, it’s serviceable. When the hand injury happened and he kept trying to play through it, Molina’s June OPS fell 100 points to .600. July has only seen Yadi get one hit over eight at-bats, but we can throw that out because again, Molina wasn’t healthy.

Because of his horrible June, Molina’s season numbers are at a less than desirable .654 OPS good for just a 72 OPS+.

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The important thing to stress here is that Molina should only be playing if he is healthy and his hand strength is back. In years past, the Cardinals couldn’t afford to give Molina the time to heal fully because the backup options of Francisco Pena or Eric Fryer didn’t exactly do a great job of filling the hole left behind the plate.

This year has been different though.

For the first time since more or less 2011, the Cardinals have a tandem of backups that are making Yadi’s injury sting a whole lot less. Those two are obviously Matt Wieters and Andrew Knizner.

On the surface, the numbers aren’t exactly appealing, as Knizner’s .136 average and .364 OPS and Wieters’ .238 average isn’t pretty, but looking past that, there’s a lot to like.

Knizner has only been up for four games in this second stint of his very young career, but of his three hits, two of them have been doubles. Very small sample size, but progress. He has also batted .250 in his last seven days.

Wieters’ stat line is where the real good stuff is. Paired with his .238 average is a .763 OPS and seven homers. His 24 hits in 101 AB’s this year have all seemed to come exactly when the Cardinals needed a big hit. According to OPS+, Wieters has been just 2% below average which is phenomenal out of a backup catcher.

Comparing Molina to the backups on the defensive side of the game is another spot where the replacements shine. According to Rdrs, Molina has actually been a below-average defensive catcher. It is disappointing to say that, but it’s true. Molina’s -1 Rdrs is lower than the 0 Rdrs that both Knizner and Wieters have put up.

On both sides of the ball, the combo of Knizner and Wieters has really been better than what Molina has put up this year. Again, I hate to be the troll who brings this up, but when Molina isn’t healthy, he shouldn’t be playing. Legend or otherwise.

Knizner may not be lighting the world on fire right now, but like Carson Kelly, Knizner is known for his offense more than defense. Let Kelly be a lesson in patience as while he had a combined .415 OPS with the Cardinals, his .877 OPS with the Diamondbacks this year would not only prove he can in fact hit in the MLB, but it would be the best in the entire Cardinals lineup.

Next. Andrew Miller is finding a groove. dark

I would bet that no other St. Louis Cardinals player will ever wear the number four. That is Yadi’s number and he earned all the accolades and respect he gets. If he isn’t healthy, he shouldn’t be on the field. Especially with the quality of backup he has. Whether he returns later this week or next, let’s hope he doesn’t push his injury too hard.

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