Phillies Opposition Roadblock: Yadier Molina

Apr 11, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) looks on in the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) looks on in the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Phillies visit Busch Stadium this week for a four-game series vs the host Saint Louis Cardinals.

Each series I have been looking closely at each opposing team and deciding who should be the player upon whom the Phillies should focus the most. In looking at this week’s opponents, the Saint Louis Cardinals, I am humbled a bit.

There are plenty of offensive threats up and down their order.  The Cards seem to crank out productive kids from their system on a yearly basis, like current outfielder Stephen Piscotty and Cuban shortstop Almedys Diaz.

They still have veteran holdovers such as their trio of Matt’s: outfielder Matt Holliday, 3rd baseman Matt Carpenter, and 1st baseman Matt Adams around as well.

However, until one man leaves the organization for greener pastures, he will always hold the title of most threatening player on the Cardinals, because of what he presents in every facet of the game.

Yadier Molina has been a St. Louis Cardinal for a dozen seasons.  The beginning of his career was not as productive offensively, but he has certainly grown throughout his career. Over the last decade of his illustrious Cardinals career, Molina has only seen his average dip below the .270 mark one time.

But Molina is tremendously valuable even if he is not hitting. The 33-year old is one of the absolute best defensive catchers (if not the best) of all time.  An eight-time Gold Glove Award winner who owns a career .994 field percentage, Molina has thrown out 287 of 646 (44%) of base runners who have unwisely attempted to swipe a base with him behind the dish.

I have normally made my “Opposition Roadblock” pick based solely on offensive ability to this point, but the Phillies have made plenty of mistakes on the base paths over the course of the just concluded first month of the 2016 season.  Molina can highlight those mishaps with ease if the Phillies are not careful.  He will fire down to first with a pick-off attempt before a runner even plants on the last step of a secondary lead.

Molina has even become a much better hitter, second among Cardinals with more than 70 at-bats.  After the first 25 games of the season, the seven-time All-Star is slashing .329/.412/.435 to go along with 10 RBI.

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Molina will not overwhelm you with power.  He will also not swing at many pitches outside the zone, only offering at 28% of pitches not in the strike zone.  When he does, he makes contact about 80% of the time.

It will be crucial for Phillies starters to force Molina out of his comfort zone and get the ball in on his hands.  The Puerto Rico native loves to extend his arms and hit the ball to right field.  If pitchers get the ball in on his hands, he tends to struggle a bit more to extend and make solid contact.

In terms of hitting lefties and righties, Molina is a picture of consistency. Against right-handers he has knocked out a .286/.333/.396 line.  He has also posted a .276/.350/.404 against left-handed pitching.

It does not matter where Phillies’ manager Pete Mackanin turns late in the game when it is time to face Molina, the wily veteran will be able to handle himself.  While he does not dominate either type of armed pitcher, it is obvious that he can hurt a team no matter who is standing sixty feet, six inches away at any point.

After starting the season a surprising 15-10, the Phillies head to a very difficult Busch Stadium for this four game series.  If they want to add to their success and wins total, they will need that dominant pitching to hold down Molina 15-20 times. And the Phils’ base runners will need to really pick their spots.

Next: Series Preview: Phillies at Cardinals