ST. LOUIS –– As many statistics as there are in baseball, at least one more is needed. There needs to be a number to measure the intangibles, those hard-to-quantify factors that can’t be found in the box score (or even on fangraphs.com).
Otherwise, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina never will win what he deserved to win Thursday night: The NL MVP award.
Instead, Molina finished third, just one place ahead of last year.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen received 28 of the 30 first-place votes to win in a landslide. He finished with 419 points while Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt came in second with 232.
Molina, who received the other two first-place votes, finished with 219 points. Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter was fourth, with 194. Both players were named on all 30 ballots, though Molina was voted as low as 10th on one and ninth on two others.
Molina received his first-place votes from St. Louis Post-Dispatch writers Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel, which is totally understandable. Of the 30 voters — two from each NL market — they were the only ones who saw the impact Molina made on a regular basis.
If only a number could be devised to calculate all that Molina did that can’t be found in the box score, his chances would have been far, far greater.
But how do you measure something like he did in Milwaukee in early September? The Cardinals, after blowing a two-run lead in the ninth, managed to score in the 10th to go back on top. Having already used six pitchers, Mike Matheny called on Carlos Martinez to protect the one-run lead.
Understandably a little amped, Martinez missed with his first two pitches. Molina called timeout, walked to the mound and delivered an in-your-face message to the rookie reliever while somehow calming him at the same time.
Groundout, strikeout, groundout, ballgame. Afterward, even manager Mike Matheny wanted to know what Molina had said to Martinez. Whatever Molina said, it was a show of leadership that makes — or should make — an MVP.
Much of what Molina does on the field isn’t tracked by stats: The times he turns a ball into a strike with his framing, the times a runner on first doesn’t get a big lead and then becomes the first out on a double-play grounder, the times he positions the defense just right, the times he calls for a curveball with a runner on third because he knows he can block any bouncers, the times he calls for the right pitch, the confidence he gives his pitchers. And on and on.
As for Molina’s statistics that were measured, he finished tied for third in the NL with a .319 batting average after leading the league for much of the season. He also caught in 136 games, the most of any catcher, and threw out an impressive 43 percent of would-be base stealers.
His other numbers — 12 homers, 68 runs, 80 RBIs, .359 OBP — do not stack up with those put up by McCutchen or Goldschmidt. Given the toil that catching takes in a 162-game season, Molina probably never will put up the numbers that typically win MVPs.
Unless someone comes up with a statistic that measures the true value of everything he does.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.