Disclaimer: This will be a shorter post than usual so that we can get to the 3 Monkey Sports Giveaway at the end of the post!
Two and a half years (2004-2006) into his Major League career, Yadier Molina was a .238 hitter. Yet, during this time, Molina threw out 62 of 122 (51%) would-be base stealers, so his lack of offense was not too big of an issue.
In his book, One Last Strike, Tony La Russa said that he would have started Molina at catcher every single game during his tenure as manager even if he had a .000 batting average. This is a testament to Molina’s ability behind the plate. In nine years for the Cardinals, Molina has racked up an ample amount of defensive trophies: 5 Gold Glove Awards, 2 Platinum Glove Awards, and 5 Fielding Bible Awards.
Yet, if the last three seasons are any indication, Molina has shown to have developed quite the ability at the plate as well–hitting .305 in 2011, .315 in 2012, and .319 this year. Here is a quick look at his standard batting statistics from the last three seasons:
As I looked deeper into the statistics, I found that of his 465 hits since the start of 2011, 105 of them (22.6%) have occurred on the first pitch of the at-bat. For perspective against his overall averages, Molina hit an incredible .361 on the first pitch from 2011 through this season. I used to question Molina’s approach when he swings at the first pitch, but after looking at his numbers, I can no longer complain.
Next, I looked at his yearly spray charts, and I found something quite intriguing–something that shows how good Yadi truly is at handling the bat and making season-to-season adjustments.
As you can see, the majority of Molina’s hits were to center and right field in 2011–the year in which he hit .305. In 2012, pitchers undoubtedly made adjustments after watching game film of Yadi’s approach in 2011.
Yet, as you can see by the 2012 spray chart, Yadi was one step ahead of the pitchers and made his own adjustments as well. He hit .315, and the majority of his hits were to left field.
Finally, in 2013, a year after he was largely a “pull-hitter,” Yadi reverted back to his 2011 approach by having the majority of his hits to center and right field–while recording a career-best .319 batting average.
Molina is obviously one of the best defensive catchers in the Major Leagues, if not the best. One of the main reasons he is so good defensively is his baseball intelligence–something raved about by both La Russa and current manager, Mike Matheny. Well, over the last three seasons, Molina has applied his baseball intelligence to the plate as well, and here’s how:
1) Molina realized that sometimes the best pitch to hit in at-bat is the very first pitch, and his .361 batting average combined with 12 home runs and 57 RBI on the first pitch have been an integral part of his offensive production over the past three seasons.
2) Molina, as a game-caller for his own pitchers, knew that pitchers would make adjustments to his hitting approach based on his performance the year before. Thus, he made adjustments as well–being an “opposite-field” hitter in 2011, a “pull” hitter in 2012, and an “opposite-field” hitter again in 2013. Is this merely a coincidence? It very well could be. However, with such a big sample size–an entire season–one would think that he has purposely brought different approaches to the plate each year.
Information on the 3 Monkey Sports Giveaway Contest!
How to enter:
1) Follow them on Twitter: @3monkeysports
2) You can follow me on Twitter, too: @stlCupofJoe (optional)
3) Enter your Twitter handle/name into the “Comments” section of this blog post.
4) Only one entry per person, and only legitimate Twitter handles/names will be accepted
How the Winners will be Picked:
1) The contest opens at 11:30 AM CST on 10/3/13 (when this was published)
2) Entries will be taken up until 11:30 AM CST on 10/4/13 (one day later)
3) At this time, I will compile the list and place all names into a hat.
4) The first name picked (AND verified) will get first choice on their prize.
5) The second name picked (AND verified) will get the remaining prize.
6) @3monkeysports will contact the winners on Twitter via Direct Message.
7) Winners must reside in the United States or Canada for shipping purposes.
For privacy reasons, I do not want people to be sharing emails in my comments field because this can lead to unwanted spamming. Thus, this contest is limited to people who have a Twitter account. If you do not have a Twitter account, I am sorry, but this is just the best way to do it. You can always make one if you do not already have one as well.
Be sure to check out www.3monkeysports.com for all sports’ memorabilia! Thank you so much for their generosity in providing two awesome items of two young Cardinal stars!
Good luck to all! Make sure to share this blog and contest with other Cardinal fans!
Until next time…