Cardinals need a healthy Yadier Molina to win it all

Molina's injury a tough break for Cardinals (1:57)

ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez explains how Yadier Molina's thumb ligament injury will impact the Cardinals. (1:57)

It looks like the St. Louis Cardinals avoided the worst news regarding Yadier Molina's thumb injury, as they report that he could return before the end of the regular season. "I think this is sort of the best news we could hope for," said GM John Mozeliak.

How important is Molina to the Cardinals? You often hear "indispensable" thrown around for a lot of players, but in Molina's case there seems to be a lot of truth to that. You have to be careful whenever you throw out the "record with and record without" information, but check out the Cardinals' records in recent years when Molina starts and when he doesn't:


With him starting: 84-47

Without: 8-9


With him starting: 62-47

Without: 28-25


With him starting: 83-48

Without: 14-17


With him starting: 76-57

Without: 12-15


With him starting: 72-60

Without: 18-12


With him starting: 72-58

Without: 14-18


With him starting: 449-317 (.586)

Without: 94-96 (.495)

Since 2010, with Molina catching opponents hit .249/.309/.373; when anybody else catches, they hit .259/.329/.397.

So, let's state the obvious: The Cardinals are a better team with Molina behind the plate than Tony Cruz, even with Molina's bat in decline from his 2011-13 offensive peak. They need him for the postseason.

In other injury news, Adam Wainwright will soon pitch a simulated game. If that goes well, the Cardinals would want to get him into a regular-season game to consider him as a bullpen option for the postseason. If that possibility arises, it will be a tough decision for manager Mike Matheny on how to employ him. It's Wainwright, so the natural inclination would be use him in high-leverage situations. On the other the hand, the team won't have much work to evaluate his performance on.

Keep in mind that entering Monday the Cardinals had the best bullpen ERA in the majors at 2.67, a pen that added depth with Steve Cishek and Jonathan Broxton at the trade deadline. Plus, with a rotation that goes five deep, Matheny already has the option of moving Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn or Jaime Garcia to the pen if he wants. If you consider those five postseason locks, plus relievers Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Cishek, Seth Maness and Randy Choate, you'd be looking at Wainwright, Broxton, Carlos Villanueva, Miguel Socolovich and maybe Matt Belisle in the picture for the 11th and 12th men on the pitching staff.

None of those are bad options but if you keep 12 guys, it seems reasonable that the Cardinals squeeze Wainwright on to the roster.