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How Much Longer Can Yadier Molina Keep Up His Catching Workload?

Yadier Molina has been perhaps the hardest-working catcher in the majors since becoming the starting catcher in St. Louis. Entering his age 31 season, maybe it's about time the club had a plan to get him more rest.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals pitchers and catchers reported to camp in Jupiter, Florida last week. So naturally manager Mike Matheny fielded questions about pitchers and catchers from the media. One of those questions had to do with whether Matheny had a plan in place, different from a year ago, to get catcher Yadier Molina, the most indispensable Redbird, more rest in 2014.

Per Hall-of-Fame St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Rick Hummel, Matheny replied that there was no new plan in place for 2014. Matheny indicated he would balance how Molina feels on a given day with the Cardinals' need to have their MVP backstop behind the plate:

"When he feels good, it's hard, not just for me, but for him, too, to sit back and try to store up for October when we really need him today, now.

"We're continuing to try to be smart. There's no plan in place. There's going to be people who don't like it, but right now, we're going to go with how he feels."

Yesterday, in his weekly chat, the Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold added some details about the give and take between manager and catcher that goes into Molina taking a day off:

[Matheny] said there is not a plan in place different from last year. That plan was to try and get Molina days off, ask him about, let him make his case, get convinced by his case, and then start him. The same plan is in play this season. They'll plan a day off for him, if Molina isn't receptive to it he'll get a chance to convince them otherwise, and then he'll start.

Entering his age 31 season, Molina has logged a lot of time behind home. The following chart shows his innings caught totals for each season of his career.

Molina Innings Caught by Year (2004-13)

The last season in which Molina caught fewer than 860 innings was 2004, when he fielded 344 innings while serving as Matheny's understudy and backup. In 2007, Molina caught 861 1/3 innings. That was the last year he notched fewer than 1,000 innings while wearing the tools of ignorance.

For some context, let's see how these innings caught totals compare to Molina's catching peers since he took over as the starting catcher in St. Louis. The following graphs track the running MLB leaders in innings caught from 2005-13, 2006-13, 2007-13, and so forth.

MLB Leaders in Innings Caught (2005-13)

MLB Leaders in Innings Caught (2006-13)

MLB Leaders in Innings Caught (2007-13)

MLB Leaders in Innings Caught (2008-13)

MLB Leaders in Innings Caught (2009-13)

MLB Leaders in Innings Caught (20010-13)

MLB Leaders in Innings Caught (2011-13)

MLB Leaders in Innings Caught (2012-13)

MLB Leaders in Innings Caught (2013)

Since becoming the Cardinals' starting catcher in 2005, Molina has caught the second-most innings of any catcher. In fact, for each rolling time span charted above, Molina is in the top two for innings caught. He has been the most steady workhorse catcher in MLB since ascending to the starting job in St. Louis. Over the years, various catchers have caught more innings. Most recently, Matt Wieters. But in terms of usage and longevity, Molina is the hardest working catcher in the game. His steady, heavy workload makes one wonder if Matheny and the Cardinals should have a plan in place to steal Molina some additional rest.