VEB's ego is getting out of control. Have you noticed? I have. Churlish sandwich arguments, birthing advice, serious minded discussions of trading for Matt Kemp and Carlos Gonzalez... It has to stop. I think most of this arrogant strutting about seems to have blossomed especially since our collective success in projecting Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn was revealed. So in the spirit of popping the rancid balloon of our growing self-confidence, let's take a look at the pre-season projections for Yadier Molina.
There isn't too much to parse here. Yadi underperformed every projection system in every category except caught-stealing, and VEB was the most optimistic across the board in the rate categories. The only thing we look at all good on here is that we didn't think he'd accrue a full season's worth of PA's. Yay? PECOTA did best at forecasting Yadi's slashline, so I'll give them the gold star despite their optimism about his playing time. But it's a small gold star, and the corner is ripped a bit.
"Now, waitaminute there, Finkel. Yadi hurt his thumb and had a bunch of bad PA's in September before he could get all healed up. That had to suppress his numbers!" you might say. And you'd be right, but not enough for it to change anything. In Yadi's 335 PA up until his injury on July 9, he had a .287/.341/.409 line, good for a .329 wOBA and a 110 wRC+. Now, those are good offensive numbers for a fantastic defensive catcher, but they're still slightly lower than even the most skeptical of the prognosticators predicted before the year, and a significant drop from Yadi's heady 2011, 2012, and 2013 seasons, during which he averaged a .363 wOBA.
So what do you make of it? His K%, BB%, and BABIP all seem relatively stable, but groundballs were up to 50% from around 40 the last two seasons, and his ISO took a big hit down to .104 after averaging .168 the last three years.
Yadi's had a strange career with an unexpectedly good hitting peak. If his 2011-2013 seasons weren't out of line with what happened before, we'd be thrilled to see his good but mostly punchless line continuing through 2014. But given that those seasons did happen, 2014 looks a lot like the start of a decline phase. Of course, as long as Molina continues his wonderful defense and handling of the Redbird pitchers, he will be valuable regardless of what he does at the plate. However, it's hard to ignore that at 32 years old and with 11,000 innings caught, a possibly steep decline with the bat over the next 3-4 seasons (Molina is signed through 2017 with a team option for 2018) wouldn't be at all surprising. In fact, it would be less surprising than a return to his peak hitting performance. Yadier Molina has surprised us before.