you're reading...
2016 Update

2016 Update, Catcher

joe-mauer-siPal of the HoME, verdun2, recently wrote about how difficult it is to evaluate catchers. We think we do a pretty good job here at the HoME, but we completely agree with verdun2 that it’s tough work. And it’s tougher evaluating catchers than any other position.

Last month I had Johnny Bench as the best catcher ever. Today I have Buck Ewing. Neither time have I been comfortable with my choice.

Anyway, enough about ancient history and even ancient-er history. We’re talking about active catchers who are making their way toward the Hall and HoME. Many are making great cases for eventual inclusion. It’s possible we have four or more actives who will one-day be members of the Hall of Miller and Eric.

Make sure you check out our updates at other positions: 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, and RF. And stay tuned for upcoming reviews of RP, LHP, RHP, and MGR candidates.

Joe Mauer
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.2

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 17
Eric: 14

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 15
Eric: 13

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Ernie Lombardi, Ted Simmons, and Thurman Munson
Eric: Roy Campanella

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Roger Bresnahan
Eric: No one, though Joe Torre is in reach with a season just slightly better than 2016

Current career trajectory:
Ever since concussion symptoms knocked him off the backstop, Mauer’s value per annum has plummeted. There’s a strong parallel here to George Sisler, though Mauer was further along in his career. Sisler never again reclaimed his all-around ability and, in fact, suffered blurry or double vision through the remainder of his career. Mauer was recently quoted to the effect that he was trying some kind of eye-movement exercises or another to improve his hitting. Mauer’s got two years left on his franchise-player deal, and the Twins are paying dearly for him. He’ll probably hang around average for a couple years, then we’ll see whether anyone in the game wants a 36-year-old first baseman with an OPS+ around 100.

HoME Outlook:
Mauer’s already done plenty enough to earn our vote. It’s simply sad to see any once-great talent diminished so quickly by injury.

Yadier Molina
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.9

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 29
Eric: 43

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 26
Eric: 37

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Deacon McGuire, Darrell Porter, and Jack Clements
Eric: Victor Martinez, Rick Ferrell, Chief Zimmer, John Clapp, Ellie Howard, Jocko Milligan

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Lance Parrish, Jason Kendall, and Jim Sundberg
Eric: Walker Cooper, Del Crandall, Johnny Kling, Sherm Lollar

Current career trajectory:
Molina had a peak from 2012-2013 when he was an MVP candidate. He’s down from that level now, and at 34 next year, unlikely to recover. He still can be a useful bat, and catchers sometimes develop late power surges. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

HoME Outlook:
Depends who you ask, I guess. Eric thinks he’s on the outside looking in. I think he has a chance. With a single 3-win season, he’d be nipping on the heels of HoMEr Bill Freehan. Given that’s where he was this season, I think there’s a great shot he gets there. Even a pair of 2-win seasons gets him where he needs to be. There might have to be a deep discussion about Molina in a few years.

Russell Martin
2016 BBREF WAR:
1.7

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 30
Eric: 23

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 27
Eric: 22

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Deacon McGwire, Darrell Porter, and Jack Clements
Eric: Mike Scioscia

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Jason Kendall, Lance Parrish, and Jim Sundberg.
Eric: He would tie Jorge Posada

Current career trajectory:
OK, OK, you’re saying to yourself, Is Eric crazy? Yes, better question: Does he have some weird man crush on Russell Martin? No, I don’t. But I have chosen to incorporate some data in the last year or so that’s very favorable to Martin. It turns out that a 2012 study by Max Marchi shows Martin as one of the best handlers of pitchers in the game. Of course, he’s also placed highly in many framing studies. In other words, the sum total of his defensive contribution appears greater than either rfield or DRA shows us. I’m using that data in a very diluted state, because I don’t want to overplay this data. But it’s been done rigorously and it answers crucial questions for us and it helps to bring the best catchers a little closer to the best hitters.

HoME Outlook:
Well, if you’re me, he’s very close to the borderline, and with two more decent to good seasons he probably creeps over the line.

Buster Posey
2016 BBREF WAR:
4.7

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 38
Eric: 43

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 30
Eric: 31

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Cal McVey, Johnny Kling, Rick Ferrell, Duke Farrell, Del Crandel, Sherm Lollar, Walker Cooper, Deacon McGuire, and Darrell Porter
Eric: Big names include Sherm Lollar, Rick Ferrell, and Darrell Porter

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Jack Clements, Lance Parrish, Jason Kendall, Jim Sundberg, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, and Bill Freehan
Eric: Lance Parrish, Javy Lopez, and Jason Kendall if he is a little better in 2017 than he was in 2016

Current career trajectory:
Posey is charging up the charts, routinely posting seasons in the 4 to 6 WAR range. He’ll be 30 next year, and that’s old for a catcher, but he plays a little first base too. His career so far looks something like Joe Torre’s from the perspective of how much value he’s accumulated. But Torre wasn’t as good defensively and was less athletic. Even greats like Bench and Carter started to decline quickly after age 30, each gong off the cliff offensively before age 34. But they still managed a couple peak and All-Star type seasons before they fell off. In all likelihood, Posey still has at least 10 to 15 WAR in his body.

HoME Outlook:
Should Posey follow the trajectory above, he’ll creep into the lower reaches of HoME catchers. Another 20 WAR makes him a mortal lock.

Victor Martinez
2016 BBREF WAR:
1.6

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 43
Eric: 40

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 42
Eric: 39

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Mickey Tettleton
Eric: Rick Ferrell

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Ray Schalk, Smoky Burgess, and Chief Zimmer
Eric: He won’t.

Current career trajectory:
Clearly V-Mart isn’t a catcher any longer, donning the tools of ignorance only 31 times over his half-decade in Detroit. But even if his time at DH passes his time behind the plate, which it might with two more years of health, we’re still going to categorize him here. At 37, he still has two years left on his contract in Motown, and his bat was again a plus this year after having a down campaign in 2015. But we can’t expect any better than what he did this year going forward.

HoME Outlook:
Victor Martinez has had a very nice career, and it’s not over yet. Still, he was never great enough at his best. And he’s not really gaining a lot of value moving forward. He has very little chance of getting into the HoME. Just about none.

Brian McCann
2016 BBREF WAR:
0.9

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 48
Eric: 44

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 47
Eric: 38

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Chief Meyers
Eric: Tim McCarver, Ray Schalk, Tom Haller, Bob Boone, Ellie Howard, John Clapp

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Elston Howard
Eric: He’d tie Jocko Milligan

Current career trajectory:
McCann no longer has the bat that made him a star in Atlanta. On the other hand, his yearly homer totals are wonderfully consistent: 23-21-21-24-20-20-23-26-20. Maybe he’ll hit another 20 next year, but I don’t think we’re going to see a star season out of McCann again.

HoME Outlook:
He’s not close, and he’s not going to get there.

Advertisements

Discussion

6 thoughts on “2016 Update, Catcher

  1. And thank you for the plug.
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | November 4, 2016, 9:08 am
  2. Hey, we’re both small blogs that do good work. I suspect our readers would like your stuff (and I actually suspect that we have some real overlap in readership).

    Posted by Miller | November 4, 2016, 11:58 am
  3. I’d like to give a shout to Brian McCann, if the Baseball Prospectus defensive metrics are to be believed (or mostly so), McCann is already HOF level: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=45449

    He rates tops amongst his generation at BP, ahead of Martin, Mauer, and Molina.

    Posted by Ryan | April 2, 2017, 12:40 pm
    • Believing the BP defensive metrics is the problem I have. I must admit that I pay far less attention to BP than I once did because BBREF is entirely transparent in their WAR estimates and Fangraphs almost entirely so (if not entirely). For me, BP asks me to have a bit too much blind faith, or at least it did when I began to pay less attention to is.

      I don’t hate McCann. There’s nothing wrong with being a top-50 gut all-time. But in order for McCann to be top-20, his pitch handling would have to be a lot more valuable than I think it is. Since I don’t trust even the best pitch handling metrics close to 100%, I discount them in my calculations. As a result, no catcher could gain all of the ground he needs on handling alone.

      Thanks so much for reading, Ryan!

      Posted by Miller | April 2, 2017, 12:56 pm
      • Fair points, it would be great for either BP to become more transparent, or for other metrics to be able to quantify catcher non-offensive value. For record keeping, BP has McCann with 155 framing, 27 blocking, and -3 throwing runs.

        Posted by Ryan | April 2, 2017, 2:52 pm
    • Have you seem Max Marchi’s stuff? It’s my favorite catcher handling stuff, and I still can’t justify using it at full strength.

      Posted by Miller | April 2, 2017, 3:28 pm

Tell us what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Institutional History

%d bloggers like this: