Yadier Molina (left) leaves the game with a trainer after being injured in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
By Keith Kuetemann
(The Cardinal Nation Show) -- Yadier Molina turned in, arguably, the best season of his career. In addition to his typically outstanding defensive play, Yadi posted his the best offensive season. Perhaps most impressive, he did all this while sustaining injuries to seemingly every part of his body.
The 2012 season was an incredibly eventful one and one that showed that Yadier Molina just keeps getting better year after year.
After Albert Pujols left town for the Los Angeles Angels, many people in St. Louis thought Molina might be the next to go as he was due to be a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. Molina and the Cardinals calmed those fears by signing a 5-year, $75 million contract extension in February.
After the potentially distracting process of the contract extension was over, Molina's focus went straight back to baseball. And it showed.
Molina has always been an exceptional defensive catcher. This year was no different. He caught the second most games of any catcher in the League at 138, finished second in the league among catchers in fielding percentage at .997, and 1st in defensive assists at 88.
To prove just how far removed he is from the rest of the catchers in the league, he threw out 48% of potential base-stealers compared to the league average of only 27%. This extraordinary defense has come to be expected by Cardinal fans, but the offense he showed this year was not.
2012 is Molina's best offensive year to date. He led the team with a .315 batting average, good for 5th in the National League. He smashed 22 home runs and drove in 76 RBI. He had a slugging percentage of .501 which is behind only Allen Craig for best on the team.
He posted career bests in hits (159), runs (65), home runs (22), RBI (76), stolen bases (12), batting average (.315), on-base percentage (.373), slugging percentage (.501), and total bases (253). This type of production would be unbelievably impressive under any circumstances, but when you consider the amount of injuries that Molina has sustained and come back from, this season is verging on miraculous.
Molina missed a handful of games that would have meant lengthy DL stays for any 'normal' player. But as Molina continues to show us, he is no 'normal player.' He took a fastball from Mitchell Boggs off his left hand. He was back two games later. He sprained his thumb on a slide to first base. He missed one game. When his back tightened up on him in mid-August, he missed only 3 games. When he rolled his ankle later in August, he sat out for only one game. On August 28th, most fans will recall that Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates lowered his shoulder and ran over Molina when he attempted to block the plate. Molina held onto the ball for the out, and, oh yeah, only missed one game. In a late-season game with the Cubs when most players were wearing down and dropping out, Molina spun out of the way of a Carlos Marmol fastball, tweaking his back in the process. Oblique injuries typically require a long recovery process. Molina missed, you guessed it, one game.
There is seemingly no stopping this man. He continues to improve in every aspect of the game no matter what this game throws at him.
Molina has been considered for the MVP award in years past, and this year tops all those. There is nothing he can't do. He is the best defensive catcher in the game; his offense has improved every year since his rookie campaign and has shown no sign of stopping; and most impressive of all, Yadi continues to be unyieldingly durable.