Playoffs: 4 games left, 2 games back of Atlanta in wild card standings
CoolStandings Playoff Chances: 16%
In the midst of Lance Berkman's resurgence, Albert Pujols' down then not so down year and a flurry of midseason changes to the roster. One player has pieced together their best offensive season as a crucial player on the team. At 135 games and counting, Yadier Molina has continued to carry an extraordinary workload throughout the 2011 season.
There are only 6 catchers who have caught 135 games or more this year: Carlos Santana (Indians), Alex Avila (Tigers), Miguel Montero (Diamonbacks), John Buck (Marlins), and Matt Wieters (Orioles). Santana has logged significant time at first base while the others have all been almost exclusively catchers. Only Santa, Avila and Montero have logged a higher wOBA than Yadier Molina in 2011.There are some things about Yadier Molina that simply don't change from season to season. He's tallied his 5th straight season with a batting average higher than league average.
He's also maintained his absurdly high contact rate with very few strikeouts.
The big difference this season is Yadier Molina's increased power that has evidenced itself in a myriad of ways. He is posting the best isolated power numbers of his career in a dramatic way. His previous high from 2005-2006 was .106 and his 2011 total currently stands at .154. Part of this is the change in batted ball profile.
Molina has always maintained a consistently impressive LD rate around 20% (red line). In 2006, his flyball rate peaked coinciding with one of his season highs in ISO. (The only explanation I have for 2005 is BABIP related as well as having younger and presumably faster legs.) Molina's ability to put the ball in the air with a greater degree of frequency can only help as he's unlikely to run out many (any?) groundballs fielded by an infielder.
Molina has continued to hit the ball to all parts of the field and while most of his homers are clearly pulled balls, he's been able to drop some over the opposite field fence as well.
The clubs have a $7M club option for Yadier Molina. The option, in a vacuum is a no brainer. One has to wonder given the affinity of both the coaching staff and pitching staff towards Molina if, similar to the Chris Carpenter situation, the front office won't try to work out a longer term deal rather than simply extend the only catcher the Cardinals have really utilized since Mike Matheny's departure in 2005.
Regardless of the outcome of the season or potential negotiations in the offseason, Molina has had a tremendous year at the plate the likes of which we've never seen from him.