Skip to content

Could a Cardinal not named Yadier Molina win the MVP?

Sep 9, 2013, 8:24 AM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals Getty Images

The NL MVP race doesn’t have a consensus candidate, really. I feel like, among the chattering classes, Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina have the most juice behind them. But Paul Goldschmidt has his backers. Even guys like Freddie Freeman have people making their case for whatever reason. But how about a non-Molina St. Louis Cardinal? Derrick Goold presents the bonafides of Matt Carpenter’s season:

Carpenter’s two hits gave him 174 for the season, which leads the National League by eight. His two runs give him 112 so far this season. He’s the only player in the NL with more than 100. He ranks in the top 10 in average (.316), on-base percentage (.386) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.868). Baseball’s new math adores him, too, with a Wins Above Replacement at 5.5 that ranks seventh, just behind RBI leader Paul Goldschmidt’s 5.8. That is also ahead of Yadier Molina, at 5.1, who is having an MVP-caliber season.

Though WAR has entered the MVP conversation in pretty significant ways these past couple of years I don’t think it’s much beyond a talking point for single-season awards. Even among the stat-minded there is a general acknowledgment that single-season WAR numbers should be taken with copious amounts of salt given the uncertainty as to how to measure and weigh defensive numbers. Yes, it’s a fun caricature of a stat person to say they’re WAR-First and WAR-Only, but no one who thinks about this stuff thoughtfully or seriously should make such an argument (not that I think Goold is doing that here; he clearly isn’t).

All of that being said, I believe that if it came down to Carpenter and Molina, I feel like Molina will get all the support and then some, WAR notwithstanding. Generally speaking, when top notch defensive catchers hit .323, it’s really, really hard for voters to say no. Catchers do, quite understandably, get bonus points from people for stellar offense.

League-wide, I feel like it’s either Molina’s or McCutchen’s award, depending on how they and their teams finish and how much people want to wrap a bow on the Pirates’ breakthrough season. Each would be deserving. Even if Carpenter is having a great, great season.

  1. thepaintrain88 - Sep 9, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    Can’t imagine the Cardinals being where they are without either Carpenter or Molina. It looks to me that while each of their cases warrants votes, each of them will fall well short of winning. You would be hard pressed to try and figure out which of these players (along with Craig) would be the MVP of the Cardinals much less the entire league. I’ll take the NL Central (and possibly more!) before I’d be all over these guys winning the MVP. I am sure they would too!

  2. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Sep 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    The guys on MLB radio were discussing this this morning, and Joey Votto’s name came up. They immediately dismissed him because “His RBI numbers are terrible.” They said you had to go with Carpenter or Goldschmidt because his RBI numbers are there. But Goldschmidt has gotten too cold and needs to pick it up for the rest of the year. They also wanted to consider Jason Worth, who has missed large portions of the season.

    I just about threw up in my mouth.

    • spudchukar - Sep 9, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      Uh, that would be Werth.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Sep 9, 2013 at 9:13 AM

        Yes, a Typo. Apologies, it’s early in the morning yet.

      • spudchukar - Sep 9, 2013 at 9:17 AM

        It is 7:16 here.

    • mcglade1212 - Sep 9, 2013 at 9:21 AM

      Worth! What station were you listening to? Those guys need to be fired…. I don’t get the Votto thing this whole season. The guy should be in the MVP talk, stupid.

  3. spudchukar - Sep 9, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    The Cards pitching staff is 1 run per game better when Molina catches, a stat that WAR ignores. Which may say more for the shortcomings of WAR than it does the Red Bird catcher. Carpenter’s contributions offensively may overshadow Yadi’s and for much of the season, as goes Carpenter thus goes the Card’s offense, but St. Louis without Molina is a scenario that eclipses, St. Louis without Carpenter.

    • Kevin S. - Sep 9, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      You’re going to use catcher ERA to dismiss WAR without even beginning to mention all the issues with cERA? Miniscule sample size for his backups, no control for which pitchers they’re catching, the assumption that the catcher is fully responsible for any differences in pitching performance… Advanced metrics struggle with catcher defense, something that is freely admitted by those who use them. That being said, both varieties of WAR give Molina credit for being one of the best defensive catchers in the game. Junk stats that measure random variations and factors beyond the catcher’s control are most certainly not substitutes for their defensive value.

      • spudchukar - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:25 AM

        Hogwash. You create a straw man. One run per game is a huge, huge, huge difference. St. Louis enjoys a large lead in runs scored in the NL. But the difference between them and the second place Reds is only about 1/2 run per game. And a supposed knowledgeable “Stats man” ought to realize the sample size for backups is pretty much the same for all teams. Yeah Molina catches more innings than other catchers, but not enough to skew the numbers. Who catches who is purely random, and the Cards do not employ designated catchers, and what would be the reason his cERA is a run better? Global Warming?, Biometrics?, Planet tilt?

      • paperlions - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:38 PM

        First, there is no straw man there. There isn’t even anything that looks like a straw man.

        Second, your assumption that cERA is not reflected by WAR is in error. Much of cERA could be related to control of the running game, and blocking pitches in the dirt, etc….all of which are incorporated into the defensive metrics that go into various versions of WAR.

        Third, everyone that works with advanced metrics, in particular those dealing with defense, will tell you that catcher and 1B defensive metrics are still crappy and likely underestimate the value of good catchers (and good 1B). When asked which player’s value he thought WAR most underestimated, Dave Cameron said Yadi….and that it is probably Yadi every year, and will continue to be Yadi (or some other good defensive catcher) until they figure out how to better estimate catcher contributions.

      • spudchukar - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        The straw man is me. Nowhere did I criticize sabermetrics in general. But again, any critical analysis of WAR or defensive metrics is lambasted, by the extremely defensive, insecure advanced metrics proponents.

        One full run per game is a phenomenally large differentiation. And certainly cannot be dismissed by random variation or other factors.

        Hitting can be quantified. Pitching can mostly be quantified. But fielding will never be able to be quantified because it needs to use subjective analysis to quantify which, by definition, nullifies such attempts.

        And it isn’t improving, and pales in comparison to knowledgeable eyes.

      • forsch31 - Sep 11, 2013 at 1:14 AM

        You argued that the Cardinals are 1 run better per game when Molina catches, “a stat that WAR ignores.” Kevin rightfully pointed out that catcher ERA is extraordinarily faulty and is pretty much a “junk statistic” thanks to variables that he pointed out there. There is no straw man–he went right to the heart of your argument and deconstructed it.

        Any statistical analysis, traditional or saber, has one basic principal: you cannot ignore variables. Catcher ERA is rejected even by traditionalists.

    • pcoffey49 - Sep 9, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      Check out the won/loss with Yadi starting verses when he is not. That guys controls the pitchers and the tempo of the game. Something most catchers cannot do. Mr. Andrew with the Bucos might be good at the plate but how many runs does he save a game on the field. And, besides, most sports writers and talk show host are as dumb as a box of rocks! Most think Sammy Sosa was a great player…

    • cohnjusack - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:27 PM

      Cather ERA has been shown to not be repeatable, therefore unreliable as a statistic. I thought Baseball Between the Numbers should have killed this one pretty thoroughly.

      • spudchukar - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:39 PM

        Molina continues to belie your contention.

      • cohnjusack - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        Yes, to hell with meticulous, careful research! You have a narrative and you are sticking to it, no matter how easy it is to find articles comparing catchers across generations showing the complete randomness of catcher ERA. You have your theory and you are sticking it, facts be damned. What a completely un-noble conviction!

      • cohnjusack - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        I now this does no good, because facts be damned, but it makes me feel better.

        Here ya go!

      • historiophiliac - Sep 9, 2013 at 2:03 PM


      • cohnjusack - Sep 9, 2013 at 2:08 PM

        Balderdash! Un-noble is a perfectly cromulent word.

      • historiophiliac - Sep 9, 2013 at 2:18 PM

        Sheesh. Some people are so defensive. I was just trying to confab about your vocabularical choices. Last time I play nice with you.


      • cohnjusack - Sep 9, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        Just cuz yer werds is smarter than’s mines is don’t mean I need yer high-fluten snobberyishnessess.

      • spudchukar - Sep 9, 2013 at 6:10 PM

        If only the research was meticulous or careful. Facts be damned? Phooey. The facts are Molina’s impact on the staff is immeasurable. The facts are defensive metrics really suck. And there is no irony in the usage of un-noble. Plus I am wounded by the thought that nobility has escaped me.

      • historiophiliac - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:52 AM

        So you’re saying I’m right?

  4. blacksables - Sep 9, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    When I was back in Missouri last week, watching the games with knowlegable Cardinal fans, the consensus was that Carpenter should be the MVP over Molina. I realize we don’t get a vote, and I’m a huge Molina fan, but is the favorite of most Cardinal fans in a landslide.

    • blacksables - Sep 9, 2013 at 9:38 AM

      “but — Carpenter — is the favorite of most Cardinal fans in a landslide.”

      • wonkypenguin - Sep 9, 2013 at 10:13 AM

        Not for nothing, but reason #2954867402034 that HBT is better than PFT is we have an abundance of people who correct their own typos/grammatical errors. (Not that we want an EDIT FUNCTION or anything… :-) ) Of course, that also indicates that we can identify such errors, so I guess reason #2954867402035 is there, too.

  5. thehighwayman - Sep 9, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    It’s difficult for a great defensive catcher to win the MVP because voters want to compare stats and the competition will usually be with non-catchers. The stability that Molina adds to the Cardinals with his brilliant defense and handling of pitchers is phenomenal, but it’s likely to only count as a tie-breaker in the voting. He may not win the MVP award, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Yadier Molina is the league’s most valuable player.

  6. historiophiliac - Sep 9, 2013 at 10:23 AM


    • blacksables - Sep 9, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      Does the “!” at the end of his name mean he’s a Bushmen?

      • historiophiliac - Sep 9, 2013 at 10:37 AM

        Just excitement!

      • blacksables - Sep 9, 2013 at 10:42 AM

        I think they are always in a state of excitement, if I remember correctly.

      • Francisco (FC) - Sep 9, 2013 at 10:53 AM

        And here I thought he had legally changed his name to officially have an exclamation point.

    • paperlions - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      He has a 3 game hit streak going, which is 3 time longer than his usual hit streaks.

      • historiophiliac - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        That’s a boy! I love it when you get all homery. :)

      • paperlions - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        Obviously, his OK-goodness is what was missing.

        3-game Kozma! hitting streak, 3-game sweep of the Pirates….that ain’t no coincidence?

      • historiophiliac - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        You bet your britches. Maybe he came home for the long weekend to visit. Maybe he just needed to fuel up on some catfish & okra…and a Braum’s malt.

      • paperlions - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:55 PM

        Well, hopefully that re-charged his mojo for a post-season run.

      • historiophiliac - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:58 PM

        I’m still hoping for a rematch.

    • cohnjusack - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:37 PM


      Why you gotta rub that in everyone’s face you big jerk.

      • historiophiliac - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:47 PM

        You shut up!

        Kozma! Kozma! Kozma!

  7. posterkid88 - Sep 9, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    What’s sad is Carpenter likely won’t even win the Silver Slugger due to Phillips’ RBI numbers.

    • cohnjusack - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:34 PM

      Well, Phillips is just more clutch with men on base. Check out these numbers

      with RISP:
      Phillips: .349 BA, .900 OPS
      Carpenter: .394 BA, 1.034 OPS

      With Men On:
      Phillips: .317 BA, .833 OPS
      Carpenter: .400 BA, 1.054 OPS

      Bases Loaded
      Phillips: .611 BA, 1.405 OPS (HA! Beat that!)
      Carpenter: .750 BA, 1.663 OPS (well…damn)

      Perhaps we once again learn a valuable lesson that RBIs have far more to do with who is batting in front of you and your slot in the order than you “ability to knock in runs”

      • stlouis1baseball - Sep 9, 2013 at 3:56 PM

        Wow Cusack. Serious numbers. I am going to try to remember this post and re-post it any time it’s warranted. And look at Carpenters WARBANG! Untouchable.

  8. cur68 - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Matt Carpenter is a Hitting God. What’s more, he is everything Mike Young is supposed to be but isn’t: a defensively versatile infielder who can hit and is a pro about being moved all over the place.

    I scouted him for my fantasy team and was utterly surprised by his numbers leading up to this season. IIRC things looked like he could always hit well, but he played suspect defence and had no place to play being blocked in the OF, 3rd, and 1st. The word was that he was going to be groomed for 2nd, but he started out at 3rd this season due to injury to someone or other. Well, it was the Card’s good luck that injuries got him playing time. To his credit, Carpenter didn’t demand a trade or even have his name put about in the media. Without a word, Carpenter seized his opportunity firmly by the ass and produced no matter where in the infield he was asked to play. The guy carries gloves for every spot but catcher, short stop, and pitcher.

    I have a bit of a joke with Indaburg (Devil Rayz Superfan) about him being “The Poor Man’s Ben Zobrist”, since he cost me all of $1 and Zobrist cost Stex $23. Well next season Zobrist is going to be “The Poor Man’s Matt Carpenter” because Carp’s crushing all who stand before him under a barrage of walks, singles, doubles & RBIs.

    MVP of our Fantasy League, IMO.

    • stex52 - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:26 AM

      Just to remind you, Cur. I paid $23 for Zobrist. But I paid $1 each for Shelby Miller and Matt Harvey. And Zobrist has been solid. Just not like Carpenter.

      But let’s move on from this topic. Otherwise you will check and see how much I paid for Matt Kemp.

      • cur68 - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:41 AM

        I know, Stex: you got some bargains there. Can’t argue with Miller or Harvey having been worth their weight. Zobrist, too. However, considering value for dollar and the fact that Carp’s still ripping it up and your $1 guys are no longer on your team, Carp’s your Dollar-Day Redlight Manager’s Super-Special in Aisle 13 Bargain-Hunter’s Dream.

      • stex52 - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:57 AM

        Point taken. You did great with that one.

    • indaburg - Sep 9, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      Carpenter should have been MINE! MINE! MINE. I had him thoroughly scouted! Pshaw! $1? I was going to bid $10. I would have outbid your cheap ass for him because I knew how good he was going to be. /sob
      /wail /flailing

      Rookie mistake. It will never happen again, beaver.

      • cur68 - Sep 9, 2013 at 12:28 PM

        Oh yes it will, Magic Carpeter. I’m hip to your jazz now.

        Even in a K heavy league like ours, guys like Carpenter are a manager’s dream. He can do it all except homer and steal bags. He aint fast, and he doesn’t reach the seats that often, but he can do the rest of it. In the real world, Matheny should give Carpenter a big public vote of confidence for MVP, because the guy was his IF stud with a hot bat. He was more Zobrist than Zobrist, this season. I wish he was a Beaver.

      • indaburg - Sep 9, 2013 at 12:46 PM

        Bah! Gibbons wouldn’t know what to do with a multi-faceted player like Carpenter. He’s a born Ray–Maddon’s wet dream. He fits perfectly into the Rays Way. Versatile talented players who play for peanuts.

      • cur68 - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:25 PM

        You’re prolly right about Gibbons. Why didn’t Anthopolous hire Peña from The Empire or Dave Martinez from The Devil Rayz? A couple of guys who could have communicated with his players and knew how to do more with less. Alas. Looks like another year of Gibbons.

    • paperlions - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      Plus, no batting gloves = awesome.

      • jeffthomasb - Sep 9, 2013 at 2:23 PM

        There’s gotta be a metric for that, no? Wins Above Replacement Batting
        And No Gloves? WARBANG? Something like that?

      • paperlions - Sep 9, 2013 at 3:20 PM

        I’m sure many clubs have proprietary metrics that take it into account…probably why Tampa was so high on Wil Meyers…they knew that his WARBANG was crazy high.

      • cur68 - Sep 9, 2013 at 3:25 PM

        Dudez! The new stat is rockin’.

        Carp’s WARBANG is off the charts. Know who else has wicked WARBANG? Wil Meyers. Lousy haircut (seriously, does he even wash that mop?) but he’s gotta be leading the league in rookie WARBANG.

      • paperlions - Sep 9, 2013 at 3:46 PM

        To clarify, what is WARBANG an acronym for?

        Wins Above Replacement Bad Ass No Gloves

      • stlouis1baseball - Sep 9, 2013 at 4:00 PM

        No Batting Gloves = anyone who doesn’t think this is awesome deserves a titty twister.
        Yep…Women included.
        Cause’ not wearing batting gloves in today’s baseball is totally bad ass.
        Matt Carpenter is a bad ass none baseball gloves wearing Mofo.’

      • spudchukar - Sep 9, 2013 at 6:35 PM

        Matt Carpenter: “I don’t need no stinking batting gloves”.

      • historiophiliac - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:54 AM

        WARBANG is cool, but it’s no HBPiD.

  9. cohnjusack - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    You know a big bonus for Matt Carpenter?

    If Matt Carpenter doesn’t learn 2nd base in the offseason, Daniel Descalso is starting at 2nd.

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 9, 2013 at 4:01 PM

      On point John. But it’s an even a bigger bonus for the Cardinals!

    • spudchukar - Sep 9, 2013 at 7:04 PM

      Leave Descalso alone. He is a fabulous utility guy. The Cards are lucky to have him.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Wright (2529)
  2. D. Span (2366)
  3. G. Stanton (2315)
  4. Y. Puig (2268)
  5. J. Fernandez (2232)
  1. B. Crawford (2133)
  2. G. Springer (2064)
  3. M. Teixeira (1849)
  4. M. Sano (1831)
  5. J. Hamilton (1774)