Yadier Molina Probably Needs A Nap

Francisco Rodriguez attracted the media’s attention after the Mets’ 2-1 victory over the Cardinals on Saturday. After his team had taken the lead in the top of the 19th Rodriguez came on to save the game, but failed. Later, he explained that he had been up and throwing during every inning from the eighth through the 18th, resulting in roughly 100 warm-up pitches. This brought much criticism upon manager Jerry Manuel, as it should have. Yet Manuel wasn’t the only manager in the game who might have abused one of his players.

Catchers have a rougher go than most position players. While a third baseman or left fielder might handle a number of plays per game, this does not compare to the catcher, who is involved in every exchange between pitcher and batter. Not only that, but he does it from a squatting position. This can be hell on the knees. It’s no wonder, really, why catchers tend to decline at a younger age than other position players. They suffer more physical abuse. This can become a tough situation in an extra-innings game. Despite his abuse of Rodriguez, Manuel showed clemency with his starting catcher, Rod Barajas, for whom he pinch-ran, using pitcher John Maine, in the 13th inning.

The same cannot be said for Cardinals’ skipper Tony LaRussa. His team possesses an advantage at catcher, as Yadier Molina ranks among the league’s finest. Why, then, would LaRussa push that advantage to the point where he might no longer be one? I’m referring to Molina’s 20 defensive innings from Saturday. That cannot be healthy for a catcher. Molina squatted for the equivalent of extra-inning doubleheaders, without the benefit of a rest between games. Yet it’s not just LaRussa’s use of Molina in that single game that causes concern. It extends to his usage all season long.

The Cardinals have now played in 12 games, and Molina has started 11 of them. These run from April 5th through the 18th, 14 days. In other words, from Opening Day through last night Molina has had three days off while squatting for 11. That amounts to 106 total innings behind the plate, more than nine per game. Even worse, if we take it over the 14 days of the season it averages to almost 7.2 innings per day. That seems like quite a lot for any catcher, even one in the prime of his career.

Perhaps the 20-inning stint wouldn’t have been as bad if LaRussa had given Molina a day off surrounding it. Alas, that was not the case. He caught Friday night’s game, spending nine innings behind the plate. Saturday’s affair was a late afternoon game, but a day game after a night game nonetheless. Then, as if the extra couple of hours made a difference, LaRussa ran out Molina again on Sunday night. Does it come as any surprise that he went 0 for 4?

Molina has not had a day off since April 13, an off-day for the team. Since then he has caught 56 innings in five days. The Cardinals travel to Arizona for a three-game set starting this evening. Because Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time, this amounts to a two-timezone jump. Would LaRussa dare start Molina again tonight?

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

17 Responses to “Yadier Molina Probably Needs A Nap”

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  1. TedWilson says:

    The more I look at the Cards lineup and offense, they have little depth. They really need R Ludwick to return to 2008 and C Rasmus to seriously breakout. If not, then he will need to play Molina every day.

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  2. Kevin S. says:

    Joe, you are not allowed to criticize the almighty LaRussa. He has been managing thirty years and won a whopping two World Series rings, clearly a credit to his genius and not the players he had going for him. We are to ignore any and all tactical errors he may make in the course of doing his job.

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    • Ted says:

      LaRussa is certainly not above criticism, but claiming that he is not successful because he “only” has two World Series Championships is a little hollow i would say. Are you going to say that Bobby Cox is a bad manager because he “only” has one World Series? I don’t think I would, and you could make the argument that no manager has ever had more pitching talent around him for his career.

      LaRussa has made the World Series 5 times, and won it twice. I think I’ll take that in my manager.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        I was being somewhat sarcastic in response to those who used LaRussa’s track record to deflect all criticism from him in DC’s “Baseball is Amazing” post. I don’t really think you can judge a manager by team accomplishments, personally, because so much of it is a product of the players he has to work with. I think we can judge them by the quality of their decision-making, and I think there’s a strong case to be made against LaRussa’s.

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  3. cpebbles says:

    Well, the backup catcher is on the DL, and he’s being spelled by a kid they basically came out and said late in spring training isn’t defensively cut out to catch in St. Louis. I’m sure Molina isn’t feeling his best, but I’m sure he’s agreed to be the iron man for a few weeks at the start of the season until LaRue is available.

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  4. @3_2count says:

    LaRussa claimed that if Molina feels like playing, he plays.

    Of course, it’s the duty of the manager or the coach in any sport to make the tough decisions when it comes to their players; many players will want to play even if they have a broken leg.

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  5. chuckb says:

    My guess is that Yadi will be in tonight’s starting lineup. La Russa has never liked backup Bryan Anderson and, with LaRue on the D.L., another start tonight for Yadi is likely.

    The particularly strange thing about La Russa’s (borderline) abuse of Molina over the last few days is that he pulled Holliday from the 20 inning marathon citing his sickness. He even justified double-switching the pitcher into the spot in the batting order immediately behind Pujols. It was clear then and now that Holliday didn’t want to come out of the game but La Russa essentially said that sometimes managers have to pull players out of the game against their will in the team’s and the player’s best interests. Now, when the prudent thing to do clearly is to sit Yadi for a game or 2, La Russa says that Yadi’s going to play b/c he showed up saying he’s OK to go. If pulling Holliday from Saturday’s game was the prudent thing to do, so was sitting Molina yesterday (or today).

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  6. astrostl says:

    Pujols played the whole game as well, and went 0-5 in the following one. But Ludwick also played the whole game, and went 2-2 with 3 walks and a homer in the following one. It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that Yadier went 0-4, as it wouldn’t on any given day. I don’t necessarily presume it has anything to do with one long day of play, though, because of the tiny sample size. And unless a player is in physical pain, I expect any wear and tear to manifest itself more greatly in the field than at the plate.

    Yadier is the primary catcher, and LaRue is the backup. Yadier got injured in ST and it was uncertain if he’d be able to play on opening day. He did, but LaRue got injured and placed on the DL. The backup for now is Bryan Anderson, a formerly-hot prospect within the organization who was left to MiLB purgatory over apparent defensive question marks and offensive plateauing. Basically, I think what we’re seeing now is a manager’s love letter to veterans and machismo, and fear of unproven prospects.

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    • WY says:

      I think that’s overstating the case. If they disliked Anderson so much, they could have called up Pagnozzi. Anderson is still just 23. They said there questions about his D over the last couple of years, but apparently he has improved to the point where they are comfortable using him. But it’s also clear that they wanted to pick their spot in terms of giving him his debut.

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  7. Thomas J. says:

    Man up Yadier. Most people have harder jobs than catching a freakin baseball for 20 innings.

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    • J.P. says:

      Yeah, I know. I work in an office all day. That’s much harder

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    • WY says:

      Keep in mind, Molina never complained. It’s just been other people who have been discussing it.

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    • dizzle says:

      Amen, some people have to work 80+ hours a week and endure 30 hour shifts. (medical residents) I’ll bet that marathoners have it a lot harder, doing 110+ miles/week WITH strength training. Its not that baseball is that physical of a sport compared to soccer, basketball, boxing, distance running, etc.

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      • WY says:

        Apples and oranges.

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      • kardo says:

        I know it is easy to say that a catcher has it comparatively easy because a catcher does not move a lot, but from my own experience, being a catcher is hard. I have played competition basketball, soccer and volleyball and I cycle every day, but the only time I ever saw “black snow” was during a baseball game when I had to catch a 12 AB inning. There is just no rest for a catcher. The whole inning you are putting tension on your upper legs. Only once every 5 pitches are you allowed to stand up and move around a bit, but that also means you have to get up again and go down again.

        Also in Basketball and especially in soccer or American football, you do not play every single day. A marathon runner runs for 3 hours and is done. The Tour de France is 6 hours for 21 days in 3 weeks, but before and after that you can rest. A catcher cannot rest, he is expected to play 150 games every summer. That is 150 times 3 hours of physically one of the most exhausting jobs I can imagine.

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  8. WY says:

    I am pretty sure Anderson will start tonight’s game. They were in a tough spot on Saturday night because Anderson had never caught an inning in the majors (still hasn’t as of this afternoon) and had only had one at bat. On top of that, the emergency catcher, Stavinoha, was used pretty early on in extra innings. I’ll also add that they’ve had two off days so far. So, while it wasn’t ideal, there are some other circumstances to consider.

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  9. ineedanap says:

    Great title.

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