If you have followed along this preseason, you know that I have been looking at some of the chances that veterans who are getting a bit long in the tooth have for the Hall of Fame. Thus far I have looked at Adrian Beltre (read it here), Torii Hunter and Aramis Ramirez (read it here) and Carlos Beltran (read it here).
So, will Yadier Molina make the Hall of Fame?
Yadi’s case for the Hall of Fame has certainly been thrown back and forth over the past few years. The Cardinals faithful will tell you he is a lock for Cooperstown, while most of the media will agree. A small contingency still feels that Yadi needs to do a bit more in these final seasons to show that he is indeed a Hall of Famer.
Well, first thing’s first — let’s look at the numbers offensively. Let’s compare Yadi to the premier catcher before he took over — Ivan Rodriguez — and then to the catcher than many feel will be the best when Yadi hangs it up.
- Ivan Rodriguez (21 seasons played): .296/.334/.464, 2,844 hits, 311 home runs, 1,332 RBI
- Yadier Molina (12 seasons): .283/.336/.397, 1,429 hits, 100 home runs, 645 RBI
- Buster Posey (seven seasons): .310/.375/.484, 850 hits, 102 home runs, 447 RBI
So, offensively speaking Yadi is no where near Pudge (Rodriguez not Fisk) and will be surpassed for his entire career by Buster in about three seasons. But it’s not fair to solely judge offense when it comes to Yadi. After all, Molina was essentially an offensive afterthought until 2011, the seventh year of his career.
Yadi has always been known for his defense. He has a career dWAR of 20.3 throwing out 44% of the base runners who have tried to steal on him over his entire career (leading the league in that category four times). He’s won the last eight Gold Gloves in a row at catcher in the National League.
Now Pudge — who many will argue is the greatest defensive catcher of all time — posted a 28.7 dWAR and threw out 46% of attempted base thieves, leading the league in that category nine times. He won 13 Gold Gloves, including 10 in a row.
When you look at the modern catcher, defense has become less important. There are 16 catchers in the Hall of Fame and the most recent edition — Mike Piazza — had a dWAR of one. ONE! No Gold Gloves, threw out 23% of runners over his career. Posey — the modern day benchmark of catching — has a dWAR of 4.8 with no Gold Gloves under his belt either.
It seems like the days of balanced catchers — the Gary Carters, Johnny Benches, heck even Carlton Fisks — are long gone. So to hold Yadi’s offensive prowess (or lack thereof) against him doesn’t seem too fair, right? I mean if you are going to allow Mike Piazza into the Hall, who was essentially a DH in catcher’s gear, why wouldn’t you simply allow the opposite?
Allow me to take a quick step backwards. As a member of the IBWAA, I am part of a Hall of Fame election. There has always seemed to be no rhyme or reason whatsoever in the Hall of Fame selection process. Are stats more important than overall portfolio? Does being a nice guy give you the edge over some of baseball’s all-time jerks? No one really knows because there is no criteria, every BWAA writer is allowed to vote based on whatever reasons they have come up with. They may not even be the same reasons from year in to year out, it’s just weird.
Anyway, I ask myself three questions when it comes to the Hall of Fame.
- Was said player the best at his position when he played?
- How does he stack up against others before him?
- Did he sustain the success for a long time?
You see, it’s usually the third question that eliminates most candidates. Take Don Mattingly for example. Donnie Baseball was arguably the scariest offensive threat in baseball for three years. He was the best defensive first baseman in the league for eight or nine years. He broke records set before him, and was on pace to set some more. But that pesky back got in the way, and he simply didn’t do it long enough.
There is no question that Yadi has been the best catcher in the NL for some time and depending on your criteria, you can argue he has been the standard in the MLB for quite sometime. Offensively, his excitement at the plate has been short lived, but his defense has never faltered. In fact, you can argue it was what kept him in the lineup for the first seven years of his career. Despite his bat showing clear digression over the past two seasons, he has still taken home two more Gold Gloves and hasn’t shown much diminishing in the defensive department.
Yadi is now 33-years old. He has taken a bit more bumps and bruises over the past few seasons, so how much more he has behind the plate will need to be seen. He is signed through 2017 with an option in 2018, so we know we have a few years left.
Here is something to factor in when looking at Yadi’s resume. He has been one of the anchors of a team that has won four NL pennants and two World Series. Most of those banners have been won behind a nasty pitching staff, one that has seen many interchangeable parts over the years. Yadi is a big part of that.
Furthermore, look at his numbers when it comes to World Series play. He has 22 hits in 70 career World Series at bats (.314 average) with 12 RBI. He has no MVP awards like Buster and Pudge, but he has shown up to play on the biggest stage. You can’t deny that.
At the end of the day, I think Yadi is a Hall of Fame catcher. I’m not so sure that means he will be, since we live in a baseball society that values metrics and benchmark numbers more valuable than simply watching what a player brings to their team.
Depending on when Yadi hangs it up and the class he is up against, I would estimate that there is a 40 to 50% chance that he is a first ballot Hall of Famer with an 80 to 85% chance that he gets in eventually.