Yadier Molina’s four seasons in one

The small data points about St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina’s diminishing chances to win National League Most Valuable Player Award have been piling up.

For example, in yesterday’s post, I shared a comment from an official of gambling site Bovada.lv. Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen is said to be such a favorite for the MVP that the race has been taken off the betting board.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark took a run at identifying the “Face of Baseball” via a reader poll. Stark tweeted afterward that he thinks the three most under-supported players in the poll are McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw and Buster Posey.

Asked about Molina, who had even less voter support, Stark replied, “Based on his play, absolutely. But he goes out of his way to dodge the limelight.”

In reality, Molina is well-known enough. After all, he was the top vote-getter for the NL All-Star team back when he was leading the league in batting average. Yet, I cannot help but wonder if the lingering problem with his right knee has taken its toll.

Revolving around his injury, I view Molina’s 2013 season to-date in four segments:

1)     Pre-July 5. On the latter date, Molina’s right knee irritation was disclosed and he underwent an MRI.

2)     July 6-30. Molina continued to play, including starting in the All-Star Game.

3)     July 31-August 14. Molina was on the disabled list with a right knee sprain.

4)     August 15-present. Molina returned to the lineup on his first day active but is currently away from the team for a short time on a family matter.

I will acknowledge right up front that the four time periods are unequal in length. Still, none of the three stints during which Molina was active are less than 20 games in duration.

Molina Games Games
“Season” Dates played percent started percent BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Opening day-7/5 81/85 95.3% 79/85 92.9% 0.346 0.388 0.490 0.878
2 7/6-7/30 17/20 85.0% 15/20 75.0% 0.236 0.300 0.418 0.718
3 7/31-8/14 0/14 0.0% 0/14 0.0% 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
4 8/15-9/11 22/26 84.6% 21/26 80.8% 0.267 0.284 0.477 0.761

Note the huge drop in Molina’s results in “season two” immediately after his early July MRI. While he played less, the catcher still appeared in 85 percent of St. Louis’ games – until he went onto the disabled list.

Following his activation, Molina is starting more in season four than during the interim injury period, season two, but less often than when he was more healthy, season one.

In terms of his season four numbers, Molina’s batting average rebounded from season two, but is about 80 points below his season one league-leading mark.

His on-base percentage over the last four weeks has skidded even further from season two. In fact, over his most recent 22 games, Molina has drawn just two walks, indicating less patience at the plate. His season four OBP of just .284 is more than 100 points below his result during season one.

On the positive side, his slugging percentage here in season four is only 13 points lower than during season one.

In a team sport such as MLB, one could argue that winning is all that matters. In that view, season four has been the best of these four stints for the Cards this season. The worst was during Molina’s time on the DL, season three.

“Season” Dates St. Louis record Win percent
1 Opening day-7/5 51-34 0.600
2 7/6-7/30 11-9 0.550
3 7/31-8/14 6-8 0.429
4 8/15-9/11 17-9 0.654

Of course, Molina’s contribution to his club is much more than just as a hitter. Yet, there are so many factors that play into the team won-loss record that the extent of Molina’s personal impact will remain debatable.

One thing is for sure, though. Unless the “season one” version of Molina the hitter returns very quickly, any hopes of winning the MVP are pretty much dashed. Another World Championship would probably salve the wounds, however.

Follow me on Twitter.
Follow The Cardinal Nation Blog on Facebook.