Molina and Posey at top of list of winning catchers

Either 1 of them could be NL MVPs for leadership as well as overall play

ST. LOUIS — Talking playoff baseball while wondering if Roger Goodell will be the biggest casualty of the Saints' bounty program:

1. Who is the best catcher in baseball? Probably one of the two guys who have been slugging it out in the National League Championship Series.

Including this year, either the Cardinals' Yadier Molina or the Giants' Buster Posey will have played in each of the last three World Series and four of the last seven, and that's hardly a fluke. You need a good catcher to go the distance.

Consider the catchers on baseball's last 10 championship teams: Molina (twice), Posey, Jorge Posada, Carlos Ruiz, Jason Varitek (twice), A.J. Pierzynski, Pudge Rodriguez and Bengie Molina.

There isn't a below-average player in that group.

Posey won a batting title this year, hitting .336 with 24 home runs, 103 RBIs and a 7.2 WAR. Molina was almost as good — .315 with a 22 homers, 76 RBIs and a 6.7 WAR.

Molina's defensive numbers were far superior to Posey's, however. He threw out 47.9 percent of runners attempting to steal, allowing just 38 stolen bases. There were 87 stolen bases off Posey, who threw out 30.4 percent of base-stealers.

Posey is considered the front-runner for National League Most Valuable Player but lots of people think Molina is equally deserving, maybe more. Their managers stated cases for them before the Giants staved off elimination with a 5-0 victory Friday night in Game 5 in the NL Championship Series.

Said Bruce Bochy: "I'd hate to think where we would be without him. He's our cleanup hitter. A guy handling the staff. … The numbers, they speak for themselves. But also his leadership on this club. We saw what life was without him last year. We lost him. The year before, Buster came up and helped lead us to win in the World Series. And last year when he went down, (we) couldn't hold on. We got him back this year, and here we are again.''

Said Mike Matheny: "To see what (Molina) does day in, day out, how selflessly he goes about his business and then how productive he is in situations. And just how tough he is mentally and physically. What a leader he is. The kind of things that don't necessarily go into an MVP vote, but you can't help but notice them and admire them when you see it day in and day out. … It has been an honor to watch what he has done this season.''

Neither Posey nor Molina has been at his best at the plate during the postseason, in large part because they haven't often gotten anything to hit. Posey has hit .189 in the first 10 games for the Giants, but he did have two homers against the Reds, including a grand slam in Game 5. Molina has hit .220 in the first 11 games for the Cardinals. Molina has five walks against two strikeouts; Posey six walks against nine strikeouts.

2. Jim Leyland believes his Tigers had too much time off before they played the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series. He vows a downturn won't happen again, and to make sure he has asked GM Dave Dombrowski to provide sparring partners for the American League champs.

The Tigers' Instructional League program was winding down in Lakeland, Fla., but a large contingent of those players will spend a few days in Detroit playing practice games in the hope that guys like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young will stay sharp until Wednesday, when the World Series begins in the NL city.

"We'll have our pitchers throw to hitters and have our hitters face live pitching,'' Leyland said. "So hopefully we'll be a little more prepared this time."

Michael Jordan would have loved this plan, especially if he could bet on his team and demand an immediate rematch if it lost.

3. Cabrera will be only the fifth Triple Crown winner to play in the World Series. The others were Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, Frank Robinson in '66, Mickey Mantle in '56 and Ty Cobb in '09. The teams of the previous four winners were 2-2 in the Series.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

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