[Ed. note: Once or twice throughout the season, the United Cardinal Bloggers undertake a roundtable discussion via e-mail that involves and answers various questions from the bloggers taking part over the course of a few weeks. We've spent most of our writing time answering those questions and taking part in those discussions (gladly, I might add), so figured they are fair game to post here - not to mention trying to gain a little exposure for both the project as well as some other blogs you all should be reading.]
Pip from Fungoes asks:
If you were Tony La Russa, what on-field move (or moves) would you make for 2010, and why?
I would limit the amount of innings Yadier Molina is catching.
I’m not trying to make a case for seeing more Jason LaRue, but 2009 saw Molina play 1176.2 innings behind the plate – 139.1 more than his previous career high – in 136 starts (also a career high, by 18 starts).
As much credit as Yadi receives for his superior defense, I’d argue that Molina’s value to the Cardinals is largely undervalued. Most see his ability to block balls in the dirt, throw out baserunners, and generally play a sound defensive game behind the plate but neglect to see the full picture of how Molina alters what opposing managers do with their game strategy. The Cardinals routinely lead MLB in fewest stolen base attempts against them.
LaRue was signed to be the backup for his defensive capabilities, but he lacks Yadi’s improving presence at the plate. Beyond Molina and LaRue in the organization, there isn’t anyone who could step in and offer what Molina does on a day-to-day basis. Bryan Anderson supposedly projects as a big-league hitter, but lacks in defensive ability. Matt Pagnozzi is a light-hitting glove man.
Without digging up specific evidence or statistics, I think it safe to say anecdotally that catchers have careers with a shorter lifespan than other position players or pitchers, on average. We often see catchers move to first base after years of abusing their knees and other body parts behind the plate – Molina may not have that option in St. Louis if Pujols remains around, nor does Molina necessarily carry a big enough bat to warrant such a move when his catching days are over.
So why not give Yadi day games off after a night game? Give him a day off once a week – let him rest and recover – and extend his career both for his benefit and the pitchers he handles.