With both the NBA and NHL seasons drawing to a close, sports fans will now turn their undivided attention to America's favorite pastime to satisfy their competitive urges.
As with every sport, there are constant debates surrounding the game of baseball. Who is the best pitcher? Who is the best power hitter? Who is the team to beat this year? You're sure to hear questions such as these on more than one occasion around the water cooler over the course of the summer.
One debate in particular that I've heard argued considerably of late is who is the best catcher in the game? And yes, I know who won the National League's Most Valuable Player Award last season, so don't get your feathers all ruffled just yet. To me, that doesn't necessarily make you the clear-cut best player at your position, because as we all know, defense isn't taken into account very much when players are considered for the award.
Simply put, catchers are field generals. Some have the ability to make average pitchers good, and good pitchers great. The most vital part of being a great catcher is good defense, but to get the nod as top dog, you have to be able to handle the stick as well.
That's why Yadier Molina is the best catcher in baseball today.
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Over the last few seasons, Molina's bat has come alive also. He currently leads the NL in hitting (.358), and is first among all catchers in total WAR (3.5).
Let's examine that last detail a bit further.
Wins Above Replacement is a statistic that attempts to measure the "absolute value" of a player over the course of a given season. It calculates the number of wins that a guy adds to his team by comparing the player's overall performance with that of a fictitious replacement.
By this standard, no catcher in baseball means more to their club than Molina does.
The Cardinals currently rank third in all of baseball in team ERA, even with a revolving door as far as starting pitchers go. Several rookies have taken the hill for the Redbirds; Tyler Lyons, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and John Gast. Second-year man Joe Kelly has also seen his fair share of action. Also, the bullpen has been riddled with injuries, and is just as young and inexperienced as many of the starters. The one constant in the team's battery? Yadier Molina. He deserves the biggest part of the credit for how this bunch has performed so far in 2013.
The guy is just a tremendous talent. He takes charge of the pitching staff, implements game plans to get hitters out with pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, then executes the plans to near perfection.
No one does it better.
St. Louis fans have a lot to look forward to over the next several years, due in large part to Molina being signed through the 2017 season. Not only is he the best catcher in baseball, he may be the best player period.
But that's a different debate for another day.