Since beginning his career in 2004, Yadier Molina had never had an extended stay on the disabled list until July 9 of this year. While sliding into third base in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Molina’s hand dragged through the dirt tearing a ligament in his thumb.
After being diagnosed, the Cardinals said that Molina would miss eight to twelve weeks. On Monday, Molina had his hard cast removed and was fitted for several splints, including one that allows for increased movements, according to Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. This puts the Cardinals’ backstop right on schedule, meaning Molina could be back at the beginning of September.
But September is a long way away, and the Cardinals have tried a few things to replace their all-star catcher. They had confidence in their backup catcher Tony Cruz, but they needed to back him up. Just two days after Molina’s injury, the Cardinals claimed George Kottaras of waivers.
Kottaras had three home runs in 21 at-bats with the Indians before being designated for assignment on July 7. Kottaras, a left-handed hitter, appeared in just four games before the Cardinals decided to go with another option.
A.J. Pierzynski was available when the Cardinals decided to go with Kottaras, but on July 25 the Cardinals sprung for the Boston cast-off. As the only active catcher with more innings caught than Molina, and more enemies in the sport than a bad umpire, the Cardinals picked up a veteran and someone to bring some attitude to the Beige Birds.
With their most important player out for four weeks now, the Cardinals have attempted to hold their head above water. In the 23 games since losing Molina the Cardinals are 12-11. In the 23 games, the Cardinals have scored slightly more runs, but have allowed way more runs than they had in the first 93 games of the season.
In addition to the increase in runs allowed, teams have increased their aggression on the base paths. When he went out, the Cardinals had only surrendered 24 steals in 43 attempts through 93 games. In the 23 games since, the Cardinals’ catchers have allowed 14 steals, including steals from Clayton Kershaw and Jose Molina, in just 15 attempts.
Surprisingly, the Cardinals have the second best record in the NL Central since losing Molina. They have tried multiple options behind the plate since then, but seem to have decided on Pierzynski unless he has a terrible match-up or needs rest.
If the Cardinals can stay within striking distance until September they could make up a lot of ground. Six of their eight series in September are against NL Central teams, and the other two are home against the Rockies and at the Diamondbacks. They will have plenty of head-to-head opportunities to make up any ground they might lose over the next month.