Ted Simmons, Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza, Gary Carter and Johnny Bench all had 2,000+ hits in their career. They did not, however, hit 2,000 while playing as a catcher. In fact, here are the all-time leaders as a catcher, and the only three above 2,000:
Ivan Rodriguez 2,749
Jason Kendall 2,160
Carlton Fisk 2,145
Yadier Molina currently ranks 4th on that list with 1,975. When he likely crosses the 2,000 mark for his career later this week, only 21 of those hits will have come at any position other than catcher (1B, DH and PH). That’s just 1%. Even compared to Pudge, Kendall and Fisk, no player has ever hit that plateau and logged a higher percentage of their hits as a catcher.
So while we should celebrate Yadi’s 2,000th career hit, the more significant milestone will come if (and let’s be honest, when) he plays next season and logs that 2,000th hit as a catcher.
If we’re going to look at career production, it makes sense to consider postseason as well. Here’s where Yadi ranks among these peers in terms of postseason hits:
Any way you slice it, Yadi is entering elite company. There are 32 players in the vaunted 3,000 Hit Club. Yadi is about to become one of only nine catchers with 2,000 hits at any position, and very soon to become one of just four with 2,000 as a catcher.
While this is already recognized as a big deal by those of us in the Watch Fox Sports Midwest demographic, it’s been a bit unnoticed in the broader baseball community. I think there are a few reasons for this.
One reason is likely the simple fact that 2,000 is not 3,000. We’ve been primed for the idea of 3,000 as some magical number, but for catchers, 2,000 is an even bigger deal. The public still tends to group catchers in with all position players, but the rigors of their position and the high-premium on their defensive value make them another thing altogether.
The other reason is, let’s be honest, Hits have lost a bit of their luster. Whereas the hit and the associated batting average were once the benchmarks of excellence, we savvy fans now pay more attention to getting on base, slugging and weighted run creating... plus.
Counting stats in general are much less fashionable these days. So much of our modern statistical canon is about isolating “true talent,” neutralizing outside factors like park effects, etc. Counting stats are much more raw. They don’t differentiate who had more opportunity or whose production was above or below league average, etc. They just pile up.
But there’s still something to be said for piling up the stats, especially for someone like Yadier Molina - whose pile has reached historic proportions.
Even when we think we are considering catchers among their peers, often we are not. Consider some of the others who have been considered the Best Catcher in the National League during Yadier Molina’s tenure. Buster Posey has played 24% of this games at a position other than catcher. Willson Contreras, while still just 28-years-old, has already played 11% of his games elsewhere on the field.
Yadier Molina is doing something we have almost never seen before. And in an era when Load Management for catchers is becoming more of a thing, it’s something we may never see again.