St. Louis Cardinals: Molina and Bader are back with a vengeance

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - AUGUST 27: Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run during the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on August 27, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - AUGUST 27: Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run during the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on August 27, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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Two players for the St. Louis Cardinals that had struggled for the majority of the year both took trips to the Minors. Now that they’re back, they are hot.

There was a growing suspicion that all the years, all the innings, and all the wear and tear had finally started to catch up with the iron man Yadier Molina. Molina has proved health was all he needed. For another St. Louis Cardinals player, it seemed like the team’s bet on him had flipped and wasn’t going to pay off. Harrison Bader has proved all he needed was a reset.

Both players found themselves in the Minors for different reasons.

Molina was finally aware enough to admit he needed an actual break to fix his ligament issue he had in his hand that landed him on the IL earlier in the season. As you often find with hand issues, the player doesn’t have the strength required to be effective at the plate. That was clear with Yadi as his .654 OPS from the beginning of the year until his most recent trip to the IL on July 6th proved.

With Bader, the struggles had been much more consistent. After a .760 OPS over the first two months of the season, Bader had just a .538 OPS in June and July while still receiving every day playing time. He was dead weight at the plate and his sophomore slump led to a clear loss of confidence at the plate.

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There wasn’t an indictment on Bader’s effort or character, he just had a flaw in his swing and confidence that needed a reset. Bader was optioned to the Minors on July 28th and made it clear he found his confidence again when he put up a 1.125 OPS in his 16 games at AAA.

Both returned within a week of each other with Molina returning August 13th and Bader on the 20th and both have been on a tear since.

In his 14 games since the return, Molina has batted .308 with a .909 OPS and three homers including his two last night. For Bader, he has put up a .360 average with a 1.140 OPS in his eight games back.

Bader’s change has been most recognizable but he also plays with a lot more emotion. Flying around center field, he has been making amazing plays and at the plate, has been showing the urgency to attack while having the patience to lay off bad pitches. His confidence is obvious and even though he has continued to bat in the eight-hole nightly, he has provided a spark with his speed and pop we didn’t see for the majority of the first part of the season.

In Molina’s case, his issues were directly related to health as his cool calm confidence is always there at the plate. He has been driving the ball much better since his return evidenced by his 140 point jump in slugging percentage since his return.

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It’s no coincidence that since the return of Molina and Bader, the offense has been on a tear. Matt Carpenter is now just about the only player struggling on the offensive side of the ball and with one hole in the lineup rather than the three before, the lineup has been super deep. Bader’s spark and Molina’s clutch factor are going to play a big role down the stretch if the Cardinals are going to fend off the Cubs in the NL Central.