Molina raising catcher durability standard

Matheny makes case for veteran's ninth straight Gold Glove

Molina raising catcher durability standard

ST. LOUIS -- After establishing a career best with his 138th start behind the plate on Tuesday, Yadier Molina will surpass his previous high in innings caught Wednesday as he continues marching toward becoming the third catcher in franchise history to log at least 1,200 innings behind the plate in a season.

Molina's durability has been notable this season given his age (he turned 34 in July) and the fact that he underwent thumb surgery twice last offseason. He entered Wednesday leading the Majors in starts at catcher and innings caught (1,175 1/3).

Those figures would seem to enhance Molina's candidacy for the Gold Glove Award, though he may have to overcome other numbers to net that defensive honor for a ninth straight season.

Molina has allowed a career-high 61 stolen bases and boasts a career-low caught-stealing rate of 21 percent in 2016. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a four-time Gold Glove winner himself, hopes the managers and coaches who cast Gold Glove ballots do not take those numbers without context.

"His numbers are down," Matheny said. "They're not the lowest in the game, by any means, but he's made good throws, so that does bear some weight on it. But I don't think that's the whole story."

The broader issue has been the struggles for several of the team's pitchers in holding runners on. Whether too slow to the plate or too repeatable with their delivery, pitchers have, at times, given Molina little chance. Mike Leake, who entered Wednesday night's start having allowed 15 stolen bases, and Jaime Garcia, who has given up 14, have been particularly susceptible.

Per Statcast™, the average velocity on Molina's throws is 83.3 mph, eighth-best among catchers. Last year, his velocity registered at 80.51 mph. His pop time -- the time elapsed from the moment the pitch hits the catcher's mitt to when the intended fielder receives the throw -- is 1.96 seconds, up slightly from his 1.92 mark in 2015, when Molina caught 41 percent of attempted basestealers.

As for Molina's workload, Matheny believes that should enhance his standing among Gold Glove voters. No other National League catcher will make as many as 130 starts this year.

"I know whenever I'm evaluating, the catcher's workload says a lot about the value of a guy," Matheny said. "I think that's something obviously that he has done exceptionally well. He has a handle to keep going out there and figure out a way to be an impact player on the field."

Worth noting

• Cardinals players, all dressed in their home white uniforms, and staff gathered on risers in center field Wednesday afternoon to pose for the annual team photo. Afterward, players changed into hockey-style Blues jerseys, which they wore for batting practice. The Cardinals teamed up with the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday to help kick off the hockey team's 50th anniversary season.

• Matheny said the club has still not scheduled another live batting practice session for Matt Holliday, who is running short on time in his attempt to return from right thumb surgery.

Kolten Wong tested his sore right shoulder with some fielding work on Wednesday and is expected to be available, if needed. Wong received a cortisone shot in the shoulder two days ago.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.