17 amazing Waino-Yadi facts to celebrate their record

September 15th, 2022

For nearly two decades now, and have worked together in harmony, one on the mound and one behind the plate. It’s impossible to think of one without the other.

This terrific Cardinals tandem made history on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, when Wainwright took the ball for first-place St. Louis against NL Central-rival Milwaukee with Molina catching. It is their 325th regular-season start together, passing the Tigers’ Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan to set a new AL/NL record for the most common pitcher-catcher batteries in the Modern Era (since 1900), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

In honor of that achievement, here are 17 more facts and figures you should know about this prolific duo -- one for each season in which they have appeared in an MLB game together.

Start at the beginning

• It’s hard to imagine now, but when Wainwright’s professional career began, he wasn’t a Cardinal. Drafted 29th overall by the Braves in 2000 from a Georgia high school, the right-hander spent his first four pro seasons in the Atlanta system, rising to Double-A, before being traded to St. Louis in December 2003.

Therefore, this historic battery first formed in 2004. It first happened at Triple-A Memphis, where Wainwright spent that entire season and Molina played until making his Major League debut in June.

• For all of their time together and despite the fact that Molina started the game in which Wainwright made his MLB debut, Molina was not actually the first to catch Wainwright. The date was Sept. 11, 2005, and Wainwright came out of the Cardinals’ bullpen to face the Mets in the top of the ninth inning. But by that point in the game, Molina had been subbed out, and it was Mike Mahoney (not to be confused with Mike Matheny) behind the plate for St. Louis. It was one of just 46 MLB appearances Mahoney ever made and the only time he caught Wainwright in a regular season game.

• Therefore, the first time Molina worked with Wainwright in an MLB game was Sept. 23, 2005, at Milwaukee, where Wainwright threw one scoreless inning of relief. Almost exactly 17 years later, they’re still going.

• More appropriately, Molina did catch Wainwright’s first Major League start, on April 6, 2007, at Houston. Wainwright, a postseason hero of the bullpen the previous October, set the tone with his batterymate, pitching seven strong innings for a victory.

How long ago was that? The Astros were part of a six-team NL Central, Wainwright’s first hitter was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio (in his final season), and Albert Pujols was joined in the Cardinals’ infield by Adam Kennedy, Scott Rolen and David Eckstein.

Standing apart, together

• It’s only over the past couple of years that Wainwright and Molina have moved into the top five on that aforementioned list of the batterymates with the most starts together in the Modern Era. They passed the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale and Johnny Roseboro (283), the White Sox’s Red Faber and Ray Schalk (306), the Braves’ Warren Spahn and Del Crandall (316) and now, finally, the Tigers’ Lolich and Freehan (324). But what do all of those duos have in common? They played in different eras, mostly before free agency and at a time when pitchers had larger workloads. Lolich and Freehan, the most recent of those, worked together in the 1960s and '70s -- when Lolich made as many as 45 starts in a season.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, if you limit the field to the Divisional Era (since 1969), Wainwright and Molina’s closest competition is Steve Rogers and Gary Carter of the Expos (270). If you limit it to the Wild Card Era (since 1995), it’s Tom Glavine and Javy Lopez of the Braves (232, although they made 16 more starts together in ‘94).

• What about active duos? Among those who have worked together in 2022, the closest would be the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras. Their total of 105 starts is less than one third of Wainwright and Molina’s.

Others in the mix

• Molina has already said that 2022 is his final season. Wainwright has not, raising the possibility that he might return in ‘23 and work with a different primary catcher. For now, though, Wainwright’s most innings pitched to any backstop besides Molina is a mere 109, to Tony Cruz, who was with St. Louis from 2011-15. That is barely 5% of the 2,141 1/3 innings piled up by the dynamic duo. 

• Wainwright has pitched to 17 catchers besides Molina in the Majors. Those bit parts have been filled by All-Stars such as A.J. Pierzynski and Matt Wieters, as well as obscure names such as Matt Pagnozzi and Travis Tartamella. Those 17 have combined to accrue only 412 1/3 innings with Wainwright, or about 16% of his career total. While Wainwright has a 3.21 career ERA with Molina, he has a 4.06 mark with his other backstops.

• Iván Herrera, the Cardinals’ No. 7 prospect, debuted earlier in 2022 and caught Wainwright’s June 27 start against the Marlins. He was 6 years old the first time Waino and Yadi started a game together.

• Obviously, Molina has caught other pitchers much more than Wainwright has pitched to other catchers. Even so, Molina’s 2,141 1/3 innings behind the plate with Waino are 1,057 1/3 more than he logged with Chris Carpenter, his next-closest partner at 1,079 innings.

A winning team

• Wainwright plus Molina has equaled success for St. Louis over the years. It was appropriate that the club beat the Brewers on Wednesday, which improved its mark in the duo's 325 starts to 213-112. Those 213 victories are a Modern Era regular-season record -- 11 more than the Braves had behind Spahn and Crandall.

• That comes out to a .655 Cardinals winning percentage when Wainwright starts on the mound with Molina behind the dish. That equates to a 106-win pace over a 162-game season.

• What about some other categories? Their 2,141 1/3 regular-season innings together rank fourth, trailing Spahn-Crandall (2,418 1/3), Lolich-Freehan (2,332 1/3) and Red Ruffing-Bill Dickey (2,165 2/3). Their 1,816 strikeouts in appearances together trails only the 1,876 compiled by Lolich and Freehan.

Back me up, bro

• It seemed appropriate that Molina, who had scuffled offensively for much of this season, popped two home runs in Wainwright’s last start and then lined an RBI single to give the Cardinals the lead on Wednesday night. While defense has always been Yadi’s calling card, he has certainly done his part offensively to back up Wainwright over the years as well. Three of Molina’s nine career multihomer games have come in Wainwright starts, including the first, which came back on Aug. 16, 2007, at Milwaukee.

• Molina now has racked up 337 hits in games started by Wainwright. That’s the third-most hits by any player in starts by any pitcher in Cardinals history, behind only Lou Brock’s 443 for Bob Gibson and Curt Flood’s 365 for Gibson.

• Of Molina’s 337 hits in Wainwright starts, 336 have come with him also appearing as a starter (one was as a pinch-hitter). No other starting catcher in AL/NL history has recorded more hits in games started by the same pitcher, with the closest being Dickey’s 327 for Yankees teammate Ruffing.

Postseason pair

• With the Cardinals in playoff position, Wainwright and Molina could extend their partnership for a while longer. It would hardly be the first time, of course. Wainwright has made 15 of his 16 career postseason starts with Molina catching, tying them with the Yankees’ Mike Mussina and Jorge Posada for the fifth-most-prolific starting postseason battery, per Elias. One more will tie them with the Yankees’ Posada and Roger Clemens for fourth. Also ahead: Molina and Carpenter (18), Glavine and Lopez (19), and Andy Pettitte and Posada (24).

Of course, that doesn’t count their work together in 2006, when Wainwright pitched out of the bullpen, saving series-clinching wins in both the NLCS and World Series.