Last season was a storybook year for Cardinal Nation. However, once that was over, it saw the departure of two mainstays: Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols. While the former drew a bit more attention, the latter had an impact on the field. Albert’s legendary stay with the St Louis Cardinals came to an end. But how much have the Cardinals missed Albert?
It appeared that, in the first half of the season at least, Carlos Beltran was a perfect replacement. However, Carlos has not been the same in the second half. Of course Matt Holliday has been there, but he was also there before. So who could fill the immense shoes of Albert Pujols? His good friend Yadier Molina.
Not only has Yadier outperformed Mr. Albert Pujols this year, he is a contender for NL MVP (I would vote Buster Posey over Yadi, but Yadi is still a contender nonetheless). How much has Molina outperformed Pujols by? 6.5 fangraphs WAR to Pujols’ 3.8. Albert’s 134 wRC+ Yadi’s 147. More traditionally, looking at OPS, Yadi is hovering just under .900 OPS and Albert is at .866. No matter how you cut it, Yadier Molina has just been better at the plate than Albert Pujols. Gotta admit, I did not see that one coming.
So even if Yadi does not win the NL MVP, he is quite clearly the best position player on the Cardinals in 2012. Not only is he hitting better than freaking Albert Pujols AND Matt Holliday, he plays elite defense at a premium position. Neither of those guys do that. To say Yadier Molina is a complete player is an understatement. He is having one of the most exciting seasons for catchers.
After seeing him bowled over at home plate while blocking the plate in what looked like a football collision where one player doesn’t see the other player running at him at full force, many thought it was possible he’d be out for a long time, if not the rest of the season. This worry was nullified, however, after Yadi missed ONE GAME. The guy is tough as nails and one of the toughest catchers I’ve ever seen. After putting his own stamp on a notoriously difficult position, he has added premium hitting to his game. He is still one of the best catchers in the game and throws runners out. Hardly anyone even bothers to steal on him, as he has allowed the least stolen bases. He’ll even pick you off at first base. There is simply none other like Yadier Molina in sports.