In 2012, Yadier Molina fully emerged from the long shadow of Albert Pujols and became the clear Most Valuable Player of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Beyond Pujols’ departure, the 30-year-old had additional reason to feel heavy responsibility. Prior to the season, ownership granted him the fourth-largest contract in team history at five years, $75 million. That deal initially raised some eyebrows around the game.
Molina did his part, putting together the best offensive season of his career for the second consecutive year. He became the first St. Louis catcher ever to lead his team in batting in back-to-back seasons (.315 in 2012, .305 in 2011). Molina also paced the 2012 Cardinals in wins above replacement (WAR). His 6.3 mark was far ahead of the next-closest Cardinals, at 3.9 WAR.
Molina set new career highs this season with 22 home runs, 76 RBI, 64 runs and 159 hits. Those 22 home runs are second only to Ted Simmons (26 in 1979) for the most by a Cardinals catcher in one season.