Every season it seems we’re talking about how much Mike Matheny has been using Yadier Molina. When he slumps or gets injured in the second half, it becomes a talking point to criticize Matheny. Every spring the team pays the fans lip service that they’re looking for ways to rest Molina more, so that he can be around when the team needs him most. And every September he’s still racked up as many innings as the year before.
None more than this year.
And as Molina struggled through June, hitting .222/.281/.283, fans blamed Matheny for overusing the star catcher. But it didn’t slow down.
With 7.33 innings caught per team game in the second half of this season, Molina is setting a career high for second half usage. And it’s not like his first half was a breeze either, clocking in at 7.63 innings caught per team game as his third most usage behind 2015 (7.91) and 2013 (7.71).
Entering play tonight, Molina is 14 1/3 innings away from setting a new career high in innings caught this season. If he starts at least 6 of the final 7 games this year, and there is no reason to think he won’t start all of them, surpassing 1200 innings behind the plate seems like it’ll be a slam dunk.
We know Molina likes to play, but perhaps the most astounding part of it is that he’s doing while being one of the best hitters in baseball in the second half.
Molina’s .358 average is 3rd in baseball among players with more than 200 plate appearances. His 19 doubles stack up 9th. He has a 146 OPS+ in the second half, the second best of his career behind 2012 where he hit .328 with 9 HR and had a 147 OPS+. And Molina still has 7 games to go to surpass it.
Over the full season, Molina has a 106 OPS+, which makes it his most successful offensive campaign since he hit .319 with 12 HR in 2013 and finished third in MVP voting. He leads the team with a .301 batting average, 35 doubles, and 153 hits.
Behind his three standout offensive seasons from 2011 to 2013, Molina is having his best offensive season. The kind of season many of us doubted we’d ever see from Molina after he shed a bunch of weight a couple seasons ago to increase his longevity. At 34. While catching 1,200 innings.
And he’s finishing stronger than ever. He has a .388 batting average over the last four weeks and .436 over the last two weeks.
Is it a fluke? Probably.
But the last time I bet against Molina, saying that he’d never hit double digit home runs again after hitting 14 in 2011, he went and bettered it, hitting 22.
The bottom line is that basically, Yadier Molina is laughing at your idea that he’s “overused.”