Is Yadier Molina a fine wine? Does he hit better with time?

While watching the Cardinals and Mets earlier in the week, the TV commentators started talking about how Yadi has improved his hitting game over time to make himself a legit threat in the Cardinals’ lineup.  I thought that I remembered a turning point in his hitting career being 2011, when the Cardinals last won the World Series. However, my memory isn’t foolproof so I decided to go to the monitor (baseball-reference.com).

I pulled Yadi’s hitting stats from the major categories (BA/OBP/SLG) just to get an idea of how his career has trended in those areas. Sure enough, my memory was correct. 2011 was the start of a new version of Molina at the plate. 2011 was his best hitting season up to that point in his career. He went on to surpass those numbers the following season in 2012, when the Cardinals lost Albert Pujols to the Angels of Los Angeles/Anaheim/The Outfield.

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After perusing the data, what stuck out most to me wasn’t his career batting average, which sits at .282. This is a solid average, don’t get me wrong. That stat in itself makes him an extremely valuable player, not to mention his 8 Gold Glove awards. However, the area of his hitting that stuck out to me the most was the variation that existed in his slugging percentage over the years.

Definition of  Slugging percentage:

“Slugging percentage represents the total number of bases a player records per at-bat. Unlike on-base percentage, slugging percentage deals only with hits and does not include walks and hit-by-pitches in its equation.”

Yadi Hitting Stats

 

If you don’t know, the area of a player’s results that most impact his slugging percentage is home runs since you get credit for the most bases per at-bat with 4. Not including the 2018 season, Yadi’s career slugging percentage is a shade below .400. He has hit above this average during five seasons of his 14 year career, prior to 2018. If you look at how he is trending so far this season (6 HR in 85 AB), he is on pace to have the best power hitting season of his career by far.

As I noticed the large spikes in slugging percentage over the course of Molina’s career, I wanted to see how many home runs he was getting per season and how that averaged against his at bats. With this information I invented the basic “Yadi Power Curve”. Below is a visual representation of the rate that Molina hits home runs compared to his number of at bats.

Yadi Power Curve

 
Taking out his rookie year in 2004 (he only had 135 AB), Yadi has averaged 458 AB per season. During this same time frame, he has averaged 9.53 home runs per season. This means, that on average, Molina has historically hit a home run during around 2% of his at bats. However, this season, Yadi is hitting homers at what is a blistering pace for him: 7.1%. To put this into perspective, Mike Trout –who is leading the MLB in home runs this season– is hitting them at a 10.5% clip so far this year and 6.0% pace for his career.

This could all just be a short-lived fluke as a result of St. Louis constantly playing the Reds, but the fact still remains that the 35 year old Yadier Molina has hit the second most home runs on a top four home run hitting team. This newfound power is just what the Cardinals need to make a run in the NL Central and reclaim the right to play in October. 

#GoCards

@barnburnerbro

Featured Image Courtesy of CBSSports.com

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