Yadier Molina Ranks Fourth in Hits by an MLB Catcher as a Catcher

photo: Yadier Molina (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

With his single in the seventh inning of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday evening at Busch Stadium, Yadier Molina became the 12th catcher in history to join Major League Baseball’s 2000-hit club – and the sixth Cardinal ever.

It is another highly-celebrated milestone in what is shaping up to be a Hall of Fame career for the 38-year old, who first came up with the Cardinals in 2004.

As I see it, it is not only important because of the number, 2000, but also for the fact it was accomplished by a catcher – while playing for the same team.

Yet, what may be most notable was glossed over by many. Because of his durability, Molina has continued to catch almost every day when others eventually moved to less demanding positions.

As a result, his hits accrued while playing as his team’s catcher improve his ranking from 12th to fourth all-time.

Let’s look at each of the key elements of Molina’s accomplishment.

2000 hits

This is considered by some to be a gateway to Cooperstown, yet it alone is not and should not be enough.

After all, Molina is the 288th player in MLB history with 2000 hits. Alongside sure-fire Hall of Famers are players who were consistently good and remained healthy and productive for a long time. Random examples include Raul Ibanez (19 seasons), Tony Phillips (18) and Tony Taylor (19).

Personally, I get less excited about longevity records, thinking of them more like Lifetime Achievement Awards than winning the Oscar. But for Molina, there is much more.

2000 hits as a Cardinal

Especially in today’s world of free agency, a player achieving 2000 hits with the same team is quite a feat. To do it exclusively with one club is even more extraordinary and even more so with a franchise as storied as the Cardinals.

Molina became just the sixth to accrue 2000 hits as a Cardinal, following Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Rogers Hornsby, Enos Slaughter and Albert Pujols. Of them, only Stan the Man played his entire career with St. Louis.

Yadier Molina

Yet, this remains an open question for Molina, who intends to keep playing beyond the conclusion of his current contract, which expires this fall.

“It was in my mind to get it this year, wearing this uniform, because you never know what’s going to happen next year,” Molina said Thursday evening. “It was a great moment I’ll always remember.”

2000 hits by a catcher

According to MLB, Molina is recognized as the 12th catcher in history to reach 2000 hits.

Rank MLB catchers Total hits Years played
1 Ivan Rodriguez 2,844 1991-2011
2 Ted Simmons 2,472 1968-88
3 Carlton Fisk 2,356 1969-93
4 Joe Torre 2,342 1960-77
5 Jason Kendall 2,195 1996-2010
6 Yogi Berra 2,150 1946-65
7 Mike Piazza 2,127 1992-2007
8 Joe Mauer 2,123 2004-18
9 Gary Carter 2,092 1974-92
10 Johnny Bench 2,048 1967-83
11 A.J. Pierzynski 2,043 1998-2016
12 Yadier Molina 2,000 2004-20

However, these list-makers cut corners (or at least shave off the edges) by including hits accrued while playing other positions on the field.

As the above list reinforces, MLB history includes a number of great catchers, however many migrated to less-physically demanding positions later in their careers. With the likely permanence of the designated hitter in the National League, this should become even more common in the future.

However, this shift away from the plate never occurred for Molina, who has remained defensively-strong while having improved his offensive production as his career progressed.

In fact, it is it is important to recognize that Molina is sixth on the all-time list of games caught at 1986. This longevity and results achieved while carrying a daily load behind the plate for 17 seasons and counting sets Molina apart.

Yadier Molina (Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports)

It did not happen without a lot of hard work.

“He wasn’t an offensive player when he came into the league,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “What is more impressive is that he got better on offense as he went along – without sacrificing his defense. I don’t see the Hall of Fame as an evaluation (meaning he believes there should be no debate about Molina’s credentials).

The catcher used the early-career doubts by others as incentive to improve – and he did.

“When I came up, I focused on my defense,” Molina said. ““A lot of people in the media – they just gave up on me and my offense. Obviously, I was a poor hitter, but I worked hard to prove them wrong. Right now, I’m in this moment – and thank you to them for giving me the motivation.”

2000 hits by a catcher as a catcher

Trying to sort out numbers of hits while in the game as a catcher is a bit challenging, but doable with the help of career splits at Baseball-Reference.com. I took the same list of 12 catchers recognized with 2000 hits and broke out their catching-only hit totals.

The list is reordered substantially, with Molina moving up from 12th to fourth.

Rank MLB catchers Hits as C Total hits Years played
1 Ivan Rodriguez 2,749 2,844 1991-2011
2 Jason Kendall 2,160 2,195 1996-2010
3 Carlton Fisk 2,145 2,356 1969-93
4 Yadier Molina 1,978 2,000 2004-20
5 A.J. Pierzynski 1,971 2,043 1998-2016
6 Ted Simmons 1,908 2,472 1968-88
7 Gary Carter 1,907 2,092 1974-92
8 Mike Piazza 1,906 2,127 1992-2007
9 Yogi Berra 1,765 2,150 1946-65
10 Johnny Bench 1,646 2,048 1967-83
11 Joe Mauer 1,118 2,123 2004-18
12 Joe Torre 933 2,342 1960-77

As noted, only three have collected 2000 hits while in the catching spot in their team’s lineup. With 22 more hits, Molina will become the fourth. He also has 11 hits as a first baseman, three as a designated hitter and eight as a pinch-hitter.

There seems no doubt Molina will get those last 22 – and many more!

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