Baseball is a team sport. Every position has a different role to play defensively. Centerfielders serve as the “captain” of the outfield, having the right to call off other outfielders if they’re tracking a ball. The first baseman’s job is to act as a human vacuum, fielding all throws on infield ground balls. Probably the most important defensive position is the catcher. One of the best in baseball, at least of this current era, is St. Louis Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina. But how exactly does one qualify him as the best? There are four statistics that help show exactly why Molina is number one.
Yadier Molina career offensive statistics
Before taking a look at the statistics that truly define Yadier Molina, let’s take a look at his offensive production (all stats are valid as of games played on September 27, 2019):
- 1,962 hits
- 156 home runs
- .282 batting average
- .333 on-base percentage
- .408 slugging percentage
- 916 RBI
- .738 OPS
- 700 runs scored
These numbers aren’t staggering, particularly for a player in his 16th year. But to get the true idea of Molina’s impact on the Cardinals, forget his record at the plate and take a closer look at his accomplishments behind it.
Why catchers are so important to a team’s defense
Yadier Molina is a masterful defensive catcher. It’s important to understand why having one is critical for any baseball team’s success. There are a few reasons why having a catcher as good as Molina is important to a team:
- The catcher works with the pitching staff. It’s the catcher’s job to call pitches and generally work with the pitcher on a strategy of attack for the lineup they’re facing.
- The catcher prevents stolen bases. When facing teams with speed, a catcher with a solid arm is sometimes the only thing stopping opposing teams from taking an extra base.
- The catcher is essentially a baseball team’s version of a goalie. It’s the catcher’s responsibility to field all pitches cleanly. That means cutting down on wild pitches or passed balls. These type of plays allow baserunners to advance without the batter getting a hit.
Catching is one of the most physically demanding positions on the diamond, making the degree of difficulty at the position even harder. That’s what makes Molina’s career so impressive: he spent more than a decade and a half at the hardest position to play, playing it at a high level.
But what specific accomplishments make Molina so valuable to the Cards and, in turn, the best catcher of this era?
4 stats that prove Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is the best of his era
There are four stats that show just how great Molina is defensively. FanGraphs researched some of Molina’s stats and found the following:
- Since 2005, the Cardinals have the fewest stolen bases attempted against them. 2005 is the year Molina assumed catching duties.
- Not only have the Cardinals allowed the lowest number of passed balls since Molina assumed catching duties, but they’ve surrendered 200 below the league average.
- The Cardinals have the best stolen base percentage against them since 2005.
- The Cardinals also have the lowest number of stolen bases attempted against them since 2005 by about 400 attempts. They are 700 attempts below average.
It’s readily apparent that Molina’s defensive presence looms large for the Cardinals. He’s not just a solid defensive player. His superior defensive abilities impact how other teams employ their own baserunning strategies. Base stealers don’t just get thrown out by Molina (though he’s definitely very good at that), they don’t even try to run on him.
No other catcher can point to a statistical profile as dominant as Molina’s, at least defensively. It’s why he’ll go down as the best of his era.