St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina needs to be benched
The St. Louis Cardinals will be battling for their playoff lives this summer. They cannot succeed with a slumping Yadier Molina playing every day.
The St. Louis Cardinals can’t keep playing Yadier Molina everyday. Regardless of why the Cardinals’ catcher is slumping mightily at the plate, the fact remains that the offensive struggles of Molina will only hinder any attempt at making the postseason.
The Cardinals are five games behind the NL Central lead, somehow keeping their postseason chances on life support despite being 11th in the NL in wOBA, 10th in wRC+ and 10th in collective team WAR. The reason they are alive in the chase for a ticket to the postseason is simple: Their pitching has covered up awful hitting.
Indeed, the Cardinals’ ranks in the NL in pitching metrics are the inverse of their offensive rankings: fifth in team FIP and fifth in team pitching WAR. When talking just about starters, the team ranks even better among their NL compatriots: fourth in the league in FIP and fifth in left-on-base percentage. Striking out batters while limiting walks and home runs—as well as stranding runners—has covered up for the impotence of many in the batting lineup, but none more surprising than Yadier Molina.
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Molina’s current batting line on the season sits at .260/.293/.416 for a wOBA of .297 and a wRC+ that is 19 percent below league average. Among the 14 catchers in the NL with at least 150 plate appearances, Molina’s wRC+ ranks eighth, his OBP 11th.
These struggles, particularly Molina’s inability to not make outs, are a far cry from his career batting line of .284/.336/.401, or even his 2016 campaign, which saw a line of .307/.360/.427.
With a BABIP on the season of .266, Molina is due some progression to the mean—his batting line, though unseemly, is not all his fault, and as more batted balls find the outfield grass, his contribution to the team will increase in kind.
That said, with the Cardinals already an absurd 12 games back of a Wild Card spot, due in no small part to the barnstorming NL West, the only viable path to the postseason is through the division. A five-game lead is surmountable, but not with a starting catcher contributing below replacement level.
Prospect Carson Kelly currently has a line of .292/.382/.466 in AAA, with nowhere else to go but to the majors. If the goal of General Manager John Mozeliak is a return to regular postseason appearances, it is time to pass the mantle from stalwart Yadier Molina to Carson Kelly.