In a game on September 20th, Cubs’ shortstop Addison Russell hit a pop fly to Cardinals’ right fielder Jason Heyward. Anthony Rizzo was standing on third and prepared to tag up. As Heyward came down with the ball, Rizzo took off for home and slid as the throw came in. Heyward’s throw was on the money and catcher Yadier Molina went to apply the tag on the sliding Rizzo. As Rizzo was coming in however, his cleat caught Molina’s glove and Molina would leave the game with an injury.
You can see Molina fall to his knees and start feeling around his hand as trainers come onto the field moments later. An MRI would show partially torn ligaments in Molina’s thumb. Although the veteran catcher has said he feels good and will be re-evaluated in the coming week, the original prognosis was that the seven-time Gold Glover would miss the rest of the season, including the postseason. Now on the surface that may not seem like a huge blow, as Molina slashed a mediocre .270/.310/.350 this season. Also given the fact that the team has already endured the losses of Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, and Randal Grichuk this season, while still managing to rack up 100 wins and the best record in baseball. But this loss goes far deeper than just replacing someone in the lineup. Losing Yadi for the season would mean losing not only an excellent defensive presence behind the plate but also the on-field general. Molina brings much more to the table than just a bat and a glove. Molina is the team’s on-field pitching coach, he calls a game like no other. There are no stats to give value to leadership but there are stats to show how a pitcher does when one catcher is behind the plate as opposed to any other catcher. Exactly how do Cardinals’ starters potentially on the postseason roster perform with and without Molina?
With Yadi: 24 starts 147 IP, 6+ innings per start, 3.06 ERA, 124 K, .273 BABIP
With Tony Cruz: 7 starts, 34 1/3 IP, 4.9 innings per start, 4.72 ERA, 29 K, .290 BABIP
With Yadi: 24 starts, 138 IP, 5+ innings per start, 2.87 ERA, 139 K, .326 BABIP
With Cruz: 7 starts, 32 1/3 IP, 4 2/3 innings per start, 3.90 ERA, 26 K, .306 BABIP
With Yadi: 28 starts, 187 IP, 6+ innings per start, 2.84 ERA, 146 K, .300 BABIP
With Cruz: 5 starts, 31 IP, 6+ innings per start, 2.32 ERA, 29 K, .307 BABIP
With Yadi: 14 starts, 92.2 IP, 6+ innings per start, 2.72 ERA, 68 K, .268 BABIP
With Cruz: 6 starts, 37 IP, 6+ innings per start, 1.70 ERA, .273 BABIP
While there isn’t a big gap between Yadi and Tony Cruz with veterans like Jaime Garcia and John Lackey. The biggest difference comes with Wacha, who’s ERA is more than a whole run better with Yadi, as well as a better innings per start ratio. Lance Lynn’s numbers are significantly better with Yadi as well, as his ERA is more than a run better and he averages more than an extra inning per start with Yadi. If you’re still not convinced we can take a look at the bullpen as well.
With Yadi: 57 2/3 IP, 1.72 ERA, 1 HR, 71 K, .234 BA against, .301 OBP against
With Cruz: 11 IP, 4.09 ERA, 2 HR, 12 K, .262 BA against, .340 OBP against
With Yadi: 60 IP, 1.50 ERA, 3 HR, 72 K, .192 BA against, .286 OBP against,
With Cruz: 13 2/3 IP, 5.27 ERA, 1 HR, 16 K, .231 BA against, .328 OBP against
The top two guys in the Cardinal bullpen, the difference in numbers is staggering. Siegrist and Rosenthal clearly do not have the chemistry with Cruz that they do with Yadi, and as the 8th and 9th inning guys respectively, surely manager Mike Matheny would want his guys to be comfortable when trying to nail down a game for the team. Given the pressure of a playoff game already, you don’t need any extra pressure on your late inning guys than necessary as it is. Now, recently the news came out that Yadi is recovering at a very fast rate and the hope is that he will be ready for game 1 of the NLDS on Friday, but if not things look much shakier for the Cardinals and their hopes for a fifth consecutive deep playoff run.