Note to Jim Tracy: Chris Iannetta is good

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No actual quote yet, but here’s one of Troy Renck’s latest tweets, as Jim Tracy takes on his usual whipping boy, Chris Iannetta.

Tracy said iannetta in tough spot hitting 8th. He’s getting walks but has to be ready to hit when pitch shows up w risp

And then there’s this quote from Sunday, indicating that it’s mostly Iannetta’s glove that’s keeping him in the lineup.

“He’s going to get the opportunity to get that figured out because what’s going on behind the plate,” Tracy said. “With regards to our sequences, calling a game, keeping our pitchers in the game and getting some big outs when we need them to give us a chance to get back in a game, that’s something that he has improved immensely in.”

From that, one would think Iannetta is in the slump of his life. And, yeah, he is hitless over his last three games. But Iannetta has a .407 OBP and a .442 slugging percentage to go along with his .186 average. He’s ridiculously far from being an offensive liability, and Tracy just doesn’t get it, as evidenced by his usage of Iannetta in previous years as well.

Of course, it’s a fair criticism of hitters like Iannetta that they don’t drive in enough runs. An inability to hit singles and a willingness to take a walk with men on base will do that.

But Iannetta has seven RBI in 43 at-bats this year. And he’s doing it from the eighth spot in the lineup. Thanks largely to him, the Rockies lead the NL in RBI from the eighth spot in the order so far this year. Even putting the walks back into the equation, Iannetta is averaging an .119 RBI per plate appearance this year. National League No. 8 hitters as a whole average .085 RBI per plate appearance.

So, Iannetta is 40 percent better than the average No. 8 hitter in driving in runs. Despite spending most of his career batting seventh or eighth, he’s averaged 92 RBI per 550 at-bats. Joe Mauer, for comparison’s sake, has driven in 84 runs per 550 at-bats.

And, as a reminder, he’s also getting on base 41 percent of the time this season.

So, yeah, do the rest of the NL a favor, Jim. Bench him now while you still can.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.