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Where does Molina rank among the top Cardinals catchers?

Posted Tuesday, July 3, 2012, at 1:13 PM

By COREY NOLES

As St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina continues his record-setting pace in 2012, conversations are heating up about his place in the storied franchise's history.

Molina is on pace to break some of his career best numbers even before the All-Star break.

Hitting his third home run of the week on Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he now stands just one short of the most he has ever hit in a season, 14 in 2011.

In truth, Molina is on pace to crush several of his own personal records this year.

His career high RBI total is 65 and he is well over half way there. As of July 1, he is on pace to drive in 88 runs. He also sits two shy of his best single-season stolen base total of nine.

If his growing offense continues to catch up with his stellar defense, he could secure his place among the game's elite.

Continue reading to see where Molina currently ranks among the Cardinals' best catchers.

5. Tom Pagnozzi

Tom Pagnozzi was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1983 in the eighth round. That turned out to be quite a pick.

In 12 years with the Cardinals, Pagnozzi was a defensive force to be reckoned with. While he only won three Gold Gloves, he did manage to catch 293 potential base-stealers.

He wasn't a major threat with a bat, but he was definitely a solid man behind the plate for the Cardinals for more than a decade. He spent 827 games behind the plate as a Cardinal.

4. Mike Matheny

While today he manages Yadier Molina, there was a time when Mike Matheny was his mentor.

Aside from that, he was possibly the best defensive catcher the Cardinals had ever seen.

Matheny earned three of his four career Gold Gloves in St. Louis over a five-year span.

Much like Molina, Matheny was a catcher one didn't dare try to steal on. In 13 seasons as a catcher he threw out 298 runners who thought they were fast enough to beat him.

In the year 2000, he actually threw out 53 percent of all base-stealers to earn his first Gold Glove.

The only thing keeping Matheny this far down the list was his bat. As a Cardinal he averages a modest .245 batting average with a 20 percent strikeout rate.

3. Tim McCarver

While many today may know him only as a Fox Sports sportscaster, Tim McCarver once spent a lot of time behind the plate for the Cardinals.

In 10 seasons as a Cardinal, McCarver managed two World Series championships (1964-1967) and a pair of All-Star berths.

While he wasn't the best hitting catcher in the world, he did lead the league in triples in 1966 and had a .272 career average with the Cardinals. His bat is the reason he ranks above Matheny.

In five of his 12 seasons with the Cardinals, McCarver had a caught stealing percentage of more than 37. In 1967, when he finished number two in MVP voting, he shot that number up to 55 percent.

2. Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina has been a defensive force throughout his nine season MLB career with the Cardinals.

He has an average caught stealing percentage of 43 percent and in 2005 he threw out an impressive 64 percent. Three times he has led the league in this category and with good reason.

Molina has won four consecutive Gold Gloves and is on pace to win plenty more throughout a contract that locks him up as a Cardinal through 2018.

Until 2011, Molina had good spells with his bat, but had never been amazing. Over the past two seasons, he's begun to show us what he is really capable of doing.

He finished 2011 with 14 home runs, four stolen bases and a batting average of .305. Those are big numbers for a catcher. He's not setting MLB records, but he is definitely breaking new ground for Cardinals catchers.

If he continues in the direction he is headed, the time may come when he holds the next spot in this list.

1.Ted Simmons

Ted Simmons was good with his glove to that extent that he was the favorite catcher of Cardinals Hall of Fame pitcher, Bob Gibson.

His glove isn't the only thing that put him at the top of this list.

Simmons was the first Cardinals catcher to offer a serious threat from the catcher's spot in the lineup. He even led the league in intentional walks in 1976-77.

In 13 seasons as a Cardinal, he had a .298 batting average and hit 172 home runs. That's a number Molina still has a little ways to reach.

Simmons won seven of his nine All Star berths as a Cardinal, including one Silver Slugger award for being the best hitting player at his position.

Defensively, Molina is a step above Simmons already. Simmons' consistency on both offense and defense over such a long time are why he still sits at the top of the list.

With that said, if I were him, I wouldn't get too comfortable there.

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To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com, call (573)624-4545, or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

Follow him on Twitter @coreynoles


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Corey,

I think you are pretty much right on. I would switch Matheny and McCarver, simply because i can't stand McCarver's game calling now. But i totaly agree with putting Simmons at number one right now. Like you, i think Yadi could be the number one by the end of his career.

-- Posted by Dexter Native on Thu, Jul 5, 2012, at 10:06 AM


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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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