Joe Mauer to Cooperstown in 2024 and Yadier Molina in 2028 or beyond?

Joe Mauer is on track to get needed votes for a 2024 induction into Cooperstown. As of January 14, 2024, he was named on 131, for 83.4 percent of 157 known ballots. He needs 157 more votes, 69.2 percent of the remaining 227 ballots, to reach 75 percent. Mauer is the ONLY catcher to win American League (AL) batting titles, doing so in 2006, 2008, and 2009. Only two catchers won a National League (NL) batting crown: Bubbles Hargrave, 1926 Cincinnati Reds (.353), and Ernie Lombardi, 1938 Reds (.342) and 1942 Reds (.330). This blog focuses on Mauer’s merits, primarily his offense, and the case of Yadier Molina, whose strength was his defense, and benefits from newer defensive metrics such as framing. He hit well in four World Series with St. Louis whereas Mauer never played in a World Series.

A key difference between Mauer and Molina (2004-2022) is the proportion of games at catcher. Mauer’s 921 games catcher comprised 49.6 percent of 1,858 career Minnesota Twins games from 2004 to 2018. He was mainly a catcher between 2004-2013 but mostly a first baseman and DH his last five seasons. Mauer also played a lot of first base in addition to DH in 2011 and 2012He became a 2009 AL MVP, 5x Silver Slugger winner, 6x All-Star, and 3x Gold Glove recipient. The St. Paul, Minnesota native, born April 19, 1983, played at 6’5,” and 225 pounds. Table I summarizes his big-league regular season and post-season hitting stats, along with his MLB All-Star Games and minor-league hitting.

Table I: Joe Mauer’s Minnesota, Minors, All-Star Games and Post-Season Stats


#AL-NL All-Star Games. !Post-season games with Minnesota Twins. Source: Baseball-Reference.

Yadier Molina Deserves Serious Cooperstown Consideration Starting in 2028

Molina, the youngest of three brothers who caught in the majors, earned World Series rings with 2006 and 2011 St. Louis. Siblings José, 2002 Angels and 2009 Yankees, and Bengie—2002 Angels and 2010 Giants—also did so. Chris Bodig’s analysis of Yadier’s Cooperstown credentials was published on October 10, 2022, in Yadier, born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, on July 13, 1982, played at 5’11” and 225 pounds. Bodig noted these Yadier career exploits:

  • .277 BA, 176 HR, 1,022 RBI, 2,168 Hits
  • 96 OPS+, 42.3 bWAR (Wins Above Replacement)
  • 55.7 fWAR (FanGraphs version of WAR)
  • 10-time NL All-Star
  • 9-time NL Gold Glove Award winner
  • 162 “Total Zone” fielding runs above average (Baseball-Reference), 2nd most all-time for catchers to Iván “Pudge” Rodriguez
  • 40.3 percent of runners caught stealing (best among active catchers)
  • 2,184 games caught (4th most in baseball history)
  • One homer every 44.4 AB versus Mauer’s one homer every 48.5 AB
  • 2006 and 2011 World Series Champion with St. Louis Cardinals
  • .328 BA, 12 RBI in 21 World Series games.

Note: Total Zone catcher data looks at stolen bases (SB) allowed, caught stealing (CS), errors, pickoffs, passed balls, and wild pitches, among other indicators.

Table II summarizes Yadier’s hitting stats with St. Louis, minors, Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL)—Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League since May 2012, seven National League (NL) All-Star Games, and 104 post-season games with the Cardinals. He caught for Team Puerto Rico, in 2006, 2009, 2013, and 2017 World Baseball Classics (WBC), helping them win Silver Medals in 2013 and 2017. Forty-year-old Molina managed Puerto Rico to the Quarter-Finals in the March 2023 WBC, at Miami’s loanDepot Park. He managed the 2023-24 Caguas Criollos to the finals versus his old team—Carolina Giants—who play home games at Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium. He is a 3x winner of the Pedrín Zorrilla Award in Puerto Rico, and the 2018 Roberto Clemente Award, given by the MLB Commissioner. (Pedrín signed Clemente to his first pro baseball contract, 1952-53 PRWL season.) Yadier’s Caribbean Series play with Carolina (2007) and Caguas (2021) will be mentioned in the author’s 2024 book, The Caribbean Series: Latin America’s Baseball Tournament, 1949-2024.

Table II: Yadier Molina’s St. Louis, Minors, All-Star Games, Post-Season, and Puerto Rico Stats

PRWL~ 7026018327012837941.261.350  

#NL-AL All-Star Games. !Post-season games with St. Louis. ~Carolina Giants.

Sources: Baseball-Reference and

Yadier Molina’s Longevity, Clutch Hitting, and Outstanding Defense

Molina’s 2,224 big-league games included 2,184 as a backstop, 98.2 percent of the total. No other catcher in major league history has caught that many games for one team. In 2020, he drilled his 2,000th career hit, followed by RBI #1,000 in May 2022. Yadier is one of eight AL/NL catchers with over 2,000 hits and 1,000 RBIs. Table III lists the “Elite Eight” catchers. The other seven are enshrined in Cooperstown.

Table III: Eight Big League Catchers with more than 2,000 Hits and 1,000 RBIs

CatcherHT.-WT.Place of BirthHits & RBIsCooperstown
Johnny Bench#6-1, 197Oklahoma City2048 & 1376Class of 1989
Yogi Berra5-7, 185St. Louis, MO2150 & 1430Class of 1972
Gary Carter>6-2, 205Culver City, CA2092 & 1225Class of 2003
Carlton Fisk6-3, 200Bellow Falls, VT2356 & 1330Class of 2000
Yadier Molina<5-11, 225Bayamón, PR2168 & 1022Pending
Mike Piazza^6-3, 200Norristown, PA2127 & 1335Class of 2016
Iván Rodríguez5-9, 205Manatí, PR2844 & 1332Class of 2017
Ted Simmons&5-11, 193Highland Park, MI2472 & 1389Class of 2020

#1967-68 San Juan Senators catcher; >1973-75 Caguas Criollos catcher; <Eight seasons

with Carolina Giants; ^1991-92 Mexicali Eagles catcher; !Twelve seasons with Caguas

Criollos, Mayagüez Indios, and Bayamón Cowboys. &1969-70 Licey Tigers catcher.

Sources: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum 2023 Yearbook, and

Ted Simmons alerted the author, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, circa August 2020, that: “The three Molina catchers from Puerto Rico are a testament to that Island’s talent at that position. Remarkably, three brothers played the most difficult baseball position at such a high level.” Simmons added: “Yadier Molina deserves to make it to Cooperstown.”

Table IV highlights the number of Gold Glove (GG) Awards earned by Puerto Rico-born catchers, Stateside players who caught in the PRWL or LBPRC, and those who played or managed in the Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) and Venezuelan Winter League (LVBP).

Table IV: AL and NL GG by Selected Catchers with a Winter Ball Connection

AL CatchersTeams/GGTotalNL CatchersTeams/GGTotal
Iván Rodríguez!TX(10)DET (3)13Johnny Bench!CIN (10)10
Bob Boone!CAL(4)KCR(1)5Yadier Molina!SLC (9)9
Salvador Pérez#KCR (5)5Del Crandall^MLW (4)4
Earl Battey#MIN (3)3Gary Carter!MTL (3)3
Thurman Munson!NYY (3)3Mike Matheny!SLC (3)3
Lance Parrish!DET (3)3Tom Pagnozzi!SLC (3)3
Ray Fosse#CLE (2)2Tony Peña^PIT (3)3
Elston Howard!NYY (2)2Benito Santiago!SDP (3)3
Bengie Molina!ANA (2)2Bob Boone!PHI (2)2
Roberto Pérez!CLE (2)2John Roseboro#LAD (2)2
Sandy Alomar Jr.!CLE (1)1Jody Davis#CHC (1)1
Martín Maldonado!LAA (1)1Kirt Manwaring!SFG (1)1
Tony Peña^BOS (1)1Gabriel Moreno#ARI (1)1

!PRWL and LBPRC; #LVBP; ^LIDOM. Crandall managed Licey. Davis managed Zulia.

Tony Peña played for Águilas Cibaeñas and later managed them. Source: Baseball-Reference.

Post-Season Heroics

Molina’s two-run homer in Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS at Shea Stadium sent St. Louis to the Fall Classic versus Detroit. That homer off Mets reliever Aaron Heilman preceded Adam Wainwright fanning Carlos Beltrán in the home ninth with the bases loaded and two outs. Molina posted a .412 BA in the 2006 Fall Classic, won by the Cardinals in five. In Game Five, he smashed three hits and scored twice off rookie sensation Justin Verlander, a future Cooperstown inductee. In the 2011 World Series against Texas, he recorded a .471/.524/.588 slash line in Games Three-Seven, after an 0-for-7 start. This could boost Molina’s Cooperstown credentials.

Modern Fielding Metrics

Key defensive metrics include total Games Caught (GC), Catcher’s ERA (cERA), CS percentage, dWAR, WAR runs from fielding (RField), Total Zone (TZ), and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). The DRS is from FanGraphs, with the others via Baseball-Reference. Table V illustrates Molina’s defense prowess versus top-notch catchers from the same era per Chris Bodig. Baseball Writer Association of America (BBWAA) voters in 2028 should consider Table V data.

Table V: Defensive Metrics for 10 Catchers including Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina21843.694028.0138162184
Jason Kendall20254.402913.917-1127
A.J. Pierzynski19364.16288.4-43-36-62
Brian McCann16123.82257.9-23-226
Russell Martin15793.723016.55513131
Jorge Posada15744.33282.6-60-36-80
Jason Varitek14884.08238.8-7-7-11
Salvador Pérez11094.043615.3766120
Buster Posey10933.68339.84077114
Joe Mauer9214.05333.1213814

Sources: Baseball-Reference and Fan Graphs.

Post Script

Yadier Molina was named special assistant to John Mozeliak, the St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations on Wednesday, December 6, 2023, in the Winter Baseball Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee. Molina’s 19 seasons with St. Louis trail Stan Musial’s 22. Molina and Adam Wainwright were battery mates for an MLB record of 328 starts! Wainwright retired with 200 career wins. It is unlikely that no other Cardinal will eclipse Molina’s 13 post-seasons with St. Louis, 104 post-season games, or 102 hits. Molina also managed the 2022-23 Magallanes Navigators, in Venezuela, before managing Team Puerto Rico, 2023 WBC, and Caguas, during the 2023-24 winter season.

In mid-October 2020, Molina became the sole owner of the Bayamón Cowboys basketball franchise, the Baloncesto Superior Nacional league, under Puerto Rico’s Basketball Federation. The league’s maiden season was in 1930. Bayamón won their 16th title in 2022, the most in league history, and were 2023 runners-up. The author followed the Santurce Crabbers hoop team in, the 1960s and 1970s. John Candelaria played forward for the Quebradillas Pirates (early 1970s) and guard Butch Lee starred for the 1976 Río Piedras Cardinals and scored 36 points for Puerto Rico in their 94-93 loss to Team USA in, the 1976 Olympics. Red Holzman coached the 1964-66 Ponce Lions to three straight titles, pre-New York Knicks NBA titles in 1970 and 1973. Phil Jackson coached the 1987-89 Isabela Bantams, before leading the Chicago Bulls to six titles and Los Angeles Lakers to five crowns. Bobby Knight coached Team USA to the Gold in the 1979 Pan Am Games, hosted by San Juan when Puerto Rico got Silver.

The author’s mother, Paula S. Van Hyning, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota—Joe Mauer’s hometown—and is interred with her husband (Sam J. Van Hyning Jr.) at the National Military Cemetery, Hato Tejas sector, Bayamón, Puerto Rico, Yadier Molina’s municipality of birth.

Special thanks to Chris Bodig and Ted Simmons. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo placements.

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