ESPN’s Marly Rivera caught up with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, publishing their interview earlier today. Among the topics discussed was the catcher’s future candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Molina is confident about his chances for enshrinement, saying, “All I’ve done is work hard to get better and better every single year to become the best catcher I can be. And my numbers are obviously there. I think that, because of the way I catch, that I’m one of the best catchers to have ever played baseball.”
Molina definitely has a case. To say his numbers are “obviously there” is a bit of a stretch, however. According to Baseball Reference, Molina has, to date, accrued 40.1 Wins Above Replacement over his 16-year career. There are only 25 catchers in the Hall of Fame; Molina’s career WAR would rank ahead of only four of them: Ernie Lombardi, Roy Campanella, Ray Schalk, and Rick Ferrell. Among catchers who had a lengthy post-integration career, Molina is well behind Ted Simmons (50.3), Yogi Berra (59.0), and Mike Piazza (59.6) for starters.
Of course, it’s not just about WAR, but it’s a good place to start. Molina has hit .282/.333/.405 over his career, good for an adjusted OPS of 98. 100 is average. Defense was more Molina’s forte. Of that 40.1 WAR, 25.0 of it came from defense. The only Hall of Fame catchers with more dWAR than Molina are Iván Rodríguez (29.6) and Gary Carter (26.1). Molina ranks ahead of Johnny Bench (19.7) and Carlton Fisk (17.0). If we’re talking only about defense, then Molina’s claim, “I’m one of the best catchers to have ever played baseball,” is true.
Further bolstering Molina’s case is that he was a nine-time All-Star, a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, a four-time Platinum Glove Award winner, and he even won a Silver Slugger in 2013. He also helped the Cardinals to two championships in 2006 and ’11. That being said, Molina has a career .683 OPS in 380 playoff plate appearances.
Molina is, at minimum, a fringe Hall of Fame candidate. Depending on which aspects of his playing career and which statistics you value most, he may or may not make the cut. Molina, who is a free agent after 2020, says he wants to play two more years, which would mean he would first become eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2028. We’re going to have to wait a while longer to see how the BBWAA electorate feels about Molina’s career.