Just as when it earlier came time to select the top relief pitcher on the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals, choosing The Cardinal Nation Player of the Year has two very strong candidates, each with a strong case that can be made on his behalf.
Matt Carpenter, new second baseman, leadoff hitter and the man with the most hits and runs scored in the league versus the best defensive catcher in the game and the team’s leading hitter in Yadier Molina.
This is not to diminish the accomplishments of a trio of other Cardinals stars.
First baseman Allen Craig drove in a team-leading 97 runs despite missing most of the final month of the season. The first-time National League All-Star led the majors with a .454 batting average with runners in scoring position and was a top 10 NL finisher in RBI and batting average (.315).
Matt Holliday quietly batted .300 again, drove in 94 and ranked among the NL top 10 in runs (103), RBI, on-base percentage and game-winning RBI.
Carlos Beltran also earned an All-Star berth as the top vote-getter among NL outfielders. The 36-year-old led the Cards in home runs for the second straight year with 24 in 2013.
If only we had a Most Improved Player of the Year Award here at The Cardinal Nation, it might give me a graceful way to escape from my dilemma.
While learning a new position, second base, Carpenter played in a team-best 157 games while playing solid defense. Soon he moved into the leadoff spot, starting 136 games there while delivering a high on-base percentage. Among MLB players, Carpenter finished first in runs (126), hits (199), doubles (55), multi-hit games (63) and tied for most three-hit games (18).
Carpenter was named an All-Star and ranked in the following places among NL leaders: batting average (.318, fifth), on-base percentage (.392, seventh), walks (72, tied for ninth), extra base hits (73, 3rd), total bases (.301, third), triples (seven, 7th), singles (126, fifth) and sacrifice flies (seven, tied for 5th).
Molina led the Cardinals in batting for the third consecutive season (.319) and finished fourth in the NL. He tied for seventh in multi-hit games (50), tied for fifth in three-hit games (14) and tied for third in four-hit games (4). The right-handed batter was fifth-toughest to strike out in the NL (one per every 9.84 plate appearances) and his 44 doubles were second-most by an NL catcher and set a new all-time team record for the position.
The 31-year-old was the top vote-getter for the National League All-Star team and is a finalist to receive his sixth consecutive Gold Glove Award.
Throwing out runners daring enough to trying to steal against him is Molina’s forte. This season, he gunned down an MLB-best 42.2 percent (19 of 45). Despite missing 14 games with a knee sprain, he led NL catchers in games (131), innings caught (1115 1/3), total chances (1043) and putouts (976).
While playing all of those innings, Molina guided the Cardinals youthful staff. The Cards led MLB with 36 wins by rookie pitchers, the most for St. Louis since 1941. The club sent pitchers age 25 or younger to the mound to start 67 games, winning 40 with a 3.10 ERA.
Overall, the Cardinals starters’ 3.42 ERA was second-best in the league. The team ERA, also 3.42, was fifth.
Molina’s day in and day out leadership of the Cardinals - evidenced by their 97 wins, the most in the National League - is the difference-maker for this award. The catcher is the most indispensable player on his team.
Over the long course of the 2013 regular season, Yadier Molina earned our selection as The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com St. Louis Cardinals Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.
Note: For more information on all The Cardinal Nation minor and major league award winners for 2013, click on this link. You will be taken to an index page with links to all articles about previous winners across the system club by club, schedule for upcoming award announcements as well as 2013 team recaps. Note that many of the detailed articles are subscriber-only.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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