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St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina should be NL MVP

While much of the National League Most Valuable Player talk has shifted out West to campaign for San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, the catcher who should receive that award is in St. Louis.

No discussion about the NL MVP award should leave out Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, but most breakdowns of the MVP frontrunners inexplicably don’t include Molina.

For years, people could point to Molina’s offensive numbers as a way to keep him out of an award that honors what a player does at the plate much more than what he does with his glove. But this year Molina is hitting a career-best .332 with 19 homeruns, 66 RBIs and even 11 stolen bases heading into play Saturday. Each of those numbers is already a career-high, and there is still nearly 20 games left in the season.

Despite Molina’s numbers, Posey still surpasses him in every category except stolen bases. Posey would be a solid choice for MVP. His return to the Giants this year after missing most of 2011 after a horrific collision at the plate has made the Giants a better team. But Molina’s skills beyond the stat sheet should give him the edge.

Molina’s defense has always been his hallmark trait. He already has four Gold Gloves and has caught 47 percent of baserunners this year, which is substantially better than Posey’s 29 percent rate. But Molina has also allowed just 33 stolen bases compared to Posey’s 80. Baserunners don’t often steal against Molina because he has such a strong reputation as a great throwing catcher, a reputation that is well-earned. Molina also has a wins-above-replacement of 6.3 compared to Posey’s 6.0.

Molina is a force behind the plate with just his presence. When Albert Pujols left in the offseason to join the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Molina stepped in as the unquestioned leader of the team. Sure, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday are also team leaders, but Molina is the drive-train that has carried the Cardinals through the 2012 season.

Interestingly, Holliday is getting more MVP attention than Molina. Holliday is hitting .298 with 27 homers and 96 RBIs. Those are certainly impressive numbers, but they don’t stand out so much that he should be considered the best, or most important, player in the league this year. Holliday is an offensive force, but Molina is the complete package. There hasn’t been an area of the game Molina hasn’t excelled in this year.

Need to catch a baserunner? Molina has thrown out 29 this year. Need the pitcher to drop a pitch in the dirt with two strikes? Molina has just four passed balls. Need a hit in a clutch situation? Molina is hitting .337 with runners in scoring position. He has also played in 123 games, the fifth-most on the team.

He will also defend the plate even if it means getting hit by a truck. Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison mowed down Molina in the second inning of a game Aug. 28. Amazingly, Molina held onto the ball for the out. He had to come out of the game, but he was back in the lineup after missing just one game.

That’s not to say Posey isn’t as tough because he no longer blocks the plate. Posey’s ankle was destroyed in a collision early last season, and it would be stupid to ask him to risk another similar injury because he is an important part of the team.

The National League has other worthy candidates outside Posey and Molina. Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen is having a great season, as is Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun. But, neither of those players play fantastic defense, and their position is not nearly as demanding defensively.

Many MVP races are decided by which team makes the postseason, but for some reason Posey is much more likely to win the award even if the Giants and Cardinals both make the playoffs. Maybe there is still a stigma against Molina’s hitting abilities.

Molina doesn’t play for a bad team, but voters have already shown they will vote for the best player regardless of the team’s record. They gave the Cy Young award to Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez in 2010 even though he went 13-12 and the team had a 61-101 record.

In any case, Molina is a deserving candidate for this year’s NL MVP award. Now it’s up to the voters to recognize his brilliance includes more than a golden glove.

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One Response to “St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina should be NL MVP”

  1. Scott Sahr says:

    Inspired by your article here… My MVP thoughts…

    I really really wanted the Pirates to do well this year and have Mccutchen win the MVP. Like a lot people outside of Pittsburgh, I was a Pirates fan in the late seventies while my Cardinls were not so good. I think he can win, but its a longshot with the Pirates fading fast. Braun is a great player, but he doesnt play a premium position. Like it or not, last year will impact the voters opinion this year. I like and respect Posey. I think he will win the award.

    The OP asked who do we think should win. I don’t claim to be right or all knowing. I do live in Saint Louis. Without Yadier Molina, The Cardinals would be out of the playoffs like the pirates and cutch. Molina is one of the top 3 in WAR. I believe Molina (the four time gold glover) to be the better defensive catcher to Posey. *As of 9-16-12, Molina has caught 47 percent of baserunners this year, which is substantially better than Posey’s 29 percent rate. But Molina has also allowed just 33 stolen bases compared to Posey’s 80 even though Molina has actually caught 18 more games this year than Posey**.. Saint Louis has had its hottest summer on record this year temperature wise. The weather causes a lot of stress to catchers. No Carp for the vast majority of the year and Wainright pitching a full season after being injured hasn’t helped the Cardinals. Rookie manager Mike Matheny has probably cost the Cardinals several games this year. For most of the year our bullpen has been average at best. Molina has been the only consistent Cardinal hitter all year. Yet, if the Cardinals hold on then the Cardinals can still get that second wild card spot.My choice for NL MVP by a pinch would be Yadier Molina…

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