St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has been the mentor and leader team Puerto Rico needed to make it into the championship round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Quite a feat in and of itself as Puerto Rico was ranked twelfth coming into the tournament.
Molina and Angel Pagan have provided the offensive spark for Puerto Rico which led them past the likes of team Italy and the United States. Molina tops the team in batting average hitting .386 and is one of the best getting on base with his .400 OBP. Defensively it goes without saying that no one can question Molina’s impact in that facet of the game; more importantly the type of impact that makes key plays throwing out potential base stealers.
As the starting catcher, Molina has done a tremendous job handling a very thin Puerto Rico pitching staff fronted by Nelson Figueroa who has a 1.80 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP. As anyone who has been caught by Molina could tell you, he can make anyone that much better.
Molina instills confidence in his pitchers and produces a sense of trust allowing them to be more comfortable handling each batter they face.
In Friday night’s 4-3 elimination of the US, Molina was instrumental holding down their potent lineup. Molina made all the right pitching calls and used his Major League Baseball experience to set up hitters and get critical outs.
It also helps that Molina is a two-time World Champion. His experience in high pressure games can help keep his teammates grounded as well as their heads up. I don’t think we need to talk about the 2011 postseason to make my point with that one.
Molina was given a break behind the plate on Saturday’s loss to the Dominican Republic. The game was simply to determine seeding in the championship round, so it was best to give the best catcher in the tournament a break.
If Puerto Rico manages to overcome the tremendous challenge that is team Japan, Molina will undoubtedly be a reason why. Regardless of team Puerto Rico’s fate, Cardinal Nation should be incredibly pleased with Molina’s performance during the tournament. Its clear he’s ready for 2013 baseball and can be relied upon to handle a few of the question marks the Cardinals pitching staff may have this season.