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Negro Leagues

Evaluating Negro Leagues Catchers

[All MLEs updated 7/4/18 to include (a) new 1938 and 1947 data (b) new baserunning-runs estimates(c) new, more objective playing-time estimates]

[NOTE: These MLEs were revised 12/7/17 to incorporate a new means of converting Negro Leagues DRA to Rfield and to correct a formula for Rrep that was adding 1 to 2 runs per season to each player’s totals.]

Now that you know how we will create Major League Equivalencies (MLEs) for Negro Leagues batters, we can start our tour around the diamond. Like we did for Negro Leagues pitchers, we’re going to profile a small batch of players each week who are honorees of the Halls of Fame and/or Merit. We’ll start with catchers today: Josh Gibson, Biz Mackey, Louis Santop, and Quincy Trouppe. Plus a surprise guest.

Josh Gibson

[Note: Updated 1/14/18 to include 1946 data.]

[Updated 4/23/18 due to additional 1937 data.]

The Negro Leagues’ greatest hitter. A player with the kind of prodigious power possessed by Mickey Mantle. Gibson was a legend everywhere he played. Far from a one-dimensional slugger, however, Gibson had a keen batting eye and the ability to hit for very high averages as well. He also made himself into a good catcher.

Josh Gibson stood 6’1″ tall, but he was no Satchel Paige beanpole. Instead, he looked like a tank, broad and brawny. He often wore the sleeves of his shirt rolled up or cut off so that his tree-trunk arms looked all the more intimidating. Think Jimmie Foxx or Ted Kluszewski (6’2″ 225) who was a college football hero in addition to beating the cover off the ball for a few years in Cincinnati.

Gibson died early on January 20, 1947, about three months prior to Jackie Robinson’s debut. Josh was 36 then and not as mobile as he had once been thanks to nagging leg injuries. He’d done his share of drinking and drugs and his body gave out. He left behind a career littered with bold-faced milestones and double the number of legends. He cranked out a 202 OPS+ in more than 2000 document plate appearances, to lead all known Negro Leagues players with a substantial career by more than 10 points over the second finisher. Thus far he has 151 documented homers on his ledger, second only to Oscar Charleston, who batted twice as many times. Gibson is second in batting average and OBP by a couple-few points, but his SLG outranks the second-place finisher by sixty. His isolated slugging percentage was over .300. There’s little more to say here. You’ll see that his MLE numbers will speak for themselves.

Josh Gibson
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1930–1946
Destination: NL 1930–1946
Honors: Baseball Hall of Fame, Hall of Merit, Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame

Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA  Rrep  RAR  WAR
=======================================================================
1930 18 NL C/1B   40    4    0      0     0    3   0.3    1    4   0.4
1931 19 NL C/1B  200   11    0      0     0   11   1.2    6   18   1.8
1932 20 NL C/1B  250    8    0      1     0    9   0.9    8   17   1.7
1933 21 NL 1B/C  350   22    0      2   - 1   22   2.5   11   33   3.7
1934 22 NL 1B/C  480   24    0      3   - 2   24   2.4   15   39   3.9
1935 23 NL 1B/C  630   46   -1      4   - 4   45   4.4   20   65   6.5
1936 24 NL 1B    600   39    0      5   - 6   37   3.7   19   56   5.6
1937 25 NL 1B    580   55    0      5   - 6   53   5.4   18   71   7.3
1938 26 NL 1B    630   50   -1      5   - 6   48   5.0   20   68   7.1
1939 27 NL 1B    630   57   -1      5   - 6   56   5.7   20   75   7.8
1940 28 NL 1B    620   67    0      5   - 6   66   6.7   19   85   8.8
1941 29 NL 1B    630   45   -1      5   - 6   43   4.6   20   63   6.8
1942 30 NL 1B    610   30    0      5   - 6   29   3.2   19   48   5.5
1943 31 NL 1B    660   49   -1      5   - 6   48   5.3   21   68   7.7
1944 32 NL 1B    620   38    0      5   - 6   36   3.9   19   56   6.0
1945 33 NL 1B    620   44    0      5   - 6   43   4.4   19   62   6.4
1946 34 NL 1B    580   45    0      5   - 6   43   4.8   18   61   6.9
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
                8730  574   -7     64   -73  616  64.3  272  888  94.0

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 60th
Rbat: 16th
WAA: 12th
WAR: 14th

Need to explain a few things here.

  • First off, Josh Gibson was not a regular first baseman in the Negro Leagues, but I have little doubt that in MLB he would have transitioned to first base. Jim Riley describes Gibson’s last couple of seasons like this, “Although he could still hit, his power had diminished and his defensive skills eroded. Once a superb physical specimen, Gibson could no longer get down in a catcher’s squat and resort to trying to catch by standing up and just stooping down.” In other words, he would never, ever have played catcher in MLB in that time. However, his bat remained potent enough to have a starting job. No catcher in MLB prior to Johnny Bench hit like Josh Gibson, and catching would limit his playing time. In fact, the best hitting catcher before Bench was probably Jimmie Foxx. The Beast started out as a backstop (just like Bryce Harper today), but he was rapidly moved out to third and then quickly settled in at first base. There’s virtually no way in hell that a major league team wouldn’t put Gibson at first base, and there is literally no precedent before Bench for a player with Gibson’s bat playing enough at catcher to be considered a career-long backstop. Gibson performed well at first base in 202 innings there (albeit early in his career), and given the Foxx precedent It makes sense that he would have transitioned to first base by his 30s, and that’s baked into the MLE you see above. However, we’ve made that transition a long-time process. From age 25 to age 29 we gradually increase his time at first base from 8% to 17% to 25% to 33% to 42% before finally switching him over to first base full time at 30 years old. This was a good idea, but it turns out we should have made the switch much earlier. We researched players who debuted from 1871 to 1960 who played significant portions of their careers at catcher prior to age 30. We picked out those whose primary position didn’t end up being catcher. Among those guys, most had made the move prior to age 24. So that’s what we did. We also looked at how long that move required and how players transitioned. These transitions, in the aggregate, have a slope, and you see the results of it above. For his age-18 season, we have Gibson at catcher. You can see the progression to first base in the Pos and Rpos columns. Just to restate it: I have a very high level of confidence that Josh Gibson would not have stayed behind the plate in an MLB setting.
  • This MLE is almost certainly too puffy by three to five WAR. We don’t have all the info necessary to calculate his batting numbers for 1946 so we used his career average rate of production. The Lester/Clark study whose results are printed in the endpapers of Shades of Glory shows that Josh’s production was, indeed, below his norms. (Which means that this MLE is probably a couple-few WAR too high.) But he was still an above average hitter. As those seasons filter in on the Negro Leagues Database, we will update our MLEs appropriately. For now, those last two years don’t manifestly change our perception of Gibson as a hitter. Gibson’s 1946 season was not so bad after all, at least what’s in the NLDB isn’t. A 195 OPS+ isn’t exactly an off year, even if his career mark was 202.
  • Defensively, Riley and the SABR bio both mention Gibson’s dedication to becoming a better catcher. We, therefore, give him a defensive profile that moves from below average to slightly above at catcher between ages 18 and 29.
  • On the bases, we made him a very slightly less than average baserunner. He did steal a few in his earlier seasons and was reasonably athletic during his 20s, so this is a way to hedge. This is borne out by our new baserunning technique.

Biz Mackey

Other than providing the inspiration for Biz Markie’s stage name, most folks probably haven’t heard of James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey. Too bad, because Mackey was one heck of a catcher. In fact, he may be most famous to fans these days as the guy who tutored Roy Campanella on the fine art of wielding the tools of ignorance.

As a ballplayer, Mackey hit for high averages, walked a fair amount, and had good pop for a catcher not named Josh. His OPS+ in the Negro Leagues of 140 (in 3750 PA) ranks 33rd among players with a substantial career. He ranks 6th in career doubles, 10th in triples, and 10th in homers, though he was more a compiler than a power hitter. His bat deserted him in his mid-30s, but he still had some defensive value to keep him in the lineup.

As a catcher, Mackey was known as one of, if not the, best in the Negro Leagues. He ranks 3rd in career games and 4th in career innings. As a testament to his arm, he only 15th in steals against. His 31 DRA rank third in history among catchers. He was known for his snap throws to any base, his handling of pitchers and for calling pitches that attacked hitters’ weak points.

And, as the saying goes, he was huge in Japan. He made multiple trips there as part of touring blackball squads in the late 1920 and early 1930s. Mackey was apparently well liked by the Japanese and the tours are credited with having supported the explosive interest in the game there.

Biz Mackey
Negro Leagues Stats
Career: 1920–1941
Destination: NL 1920–1936
Missing data: 1927, 1929, 1932
Honors: Baseball Hall of Fame, Hall of Merit
Year Age Lg Pos  PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA  Rrep RAR   WAR
=======================================================================
1920  22 NL  C  290   10    0       1    3   14   1.5    9   23   2.6
1921  23 NL  C  430   19    0       1    4   24   2.4   13   37   3.8
1922  24 NL  C  500   35    0       1    4   40   3.8   16   56   5.3
1923  25 NL  C  550   31    0       1    4   36   3.5   17   54   5.2
1924  26 NL  C  580   25    0       1    4   30   3.1   18   48   5.0
1925  27 NL  C  560   12    0       1    4   17   1.6   17   35   3.3
1926  28 NL  C  490   18    0       1    3   23   2.3   15   38   3.9
1927  29 NL  C  540   18    0       1    4   23   2.3   17   40   4.1
1928  30 NL  C  570   17    0       1    4   22   2.2   18   40   4.0
1929  31 NL  C  460   19    0       1    3   23   2.1   14   37   3.4
1930  32 NL  C  570   35    0       1    3   40   3.5   18   58   5.0
1931  33 NL  C  470   27    0       1    3   31   3.2   15   46   4.8
1932  34 NL  C  460   15    0       1    3   19   1.9   14   34   3.4
1933  35 NL  C  450    0    0       1    3    4   0.4   14   18   2.1
1934  36 NL  C  400  - 5    0       1    3  - 1  -0.1   12   12   1.2
1935  37 NL  C  280  - 3    0       1    2  - 1  -0.1    9    8   0.8
1936  38 NL  C  100  - 2    0       0    1  - 1  -0.1    3    2   0.2
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
               7700  273   -2      19   55  345  33.6  248  585  58.2

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 101st
Rbat: 69th
Rfield (catcher only): 33rd
WAA: 44th  
WAR: 49th

Now you might say, gee guys, if Mackey was so great defensively, how come his MLE is only tied for 13th among catchers in Rfield? The answer is that MLB ain’t quite so simple. See, everyone on the list above Mackey with two exceptions played in the deadball era or the 19th Century, and no one in Mackey’s own era shows up at all. The two exceptions are Del Crandall, whose career started a decade and a half after Mackey’s wrapped up, and Ed Bailey (ditto). Our MLEs actually do show Mackey as the best defensive catcher of his time. Here’s the list of catchers with substantial careers (3,000+ PAs) who debuted within five years of Mackey and their Rfield and their DRA:

  • Muddy Ruel: +20 Rfield, 32 DRA
  • Gabby Hartnett: +12 Rfield, 53 DRA
  • Shanty Hogan: +11 Rfield, -7 DRA
  • Jimmie Wilson: +8 Rfield, 1.1 DRA
  • Cy Perkins: +5 Rfield, 33 DRA
  • Bob O’Farrell: +5 Rfield, 21 DRA

Of course, with Negro Leaguers, we only have DRA. So from an Rfield perspective, Mackey would be the best. From a DRA perspective, Mackey would be second best to Gabby Hartnett. Either of those seems consistent with a reputation for outstanding defense.

Offensively, while 57.3 WAR might look skimpy at first blush, it would rank second behind Yogi Berra during this period among backstops.

Louis Santop

A triple slash of .327/.389/.460 looks like a good player, but not a superstar. Unless of course you compile it in the deadball era, like Louis Santop did. The big Texan’s .849 OPS results in a 147 OPS+, which ain’t half bad.

Santop was known as “Big Bertha,” reference to the big German long-range artillery guns from World War I. Santop used a huge 42 ounce bat, and he could hit ’em a long way. A superstar of the Negro Leagues in the decade before the long ball took America by storm, Santop was known for his tremendous shots. He had a very strong arm, liked a good time, and played to the crowds.

From the dawn of time to the end of Santop’s career in 1926, he led all catchers in OPS+, with the exception of Biz Mackey who had only just gotten underway and would ultimately finish behind Santop. He trailed only Mackey in doubles, triples, and homers, though Biz appeared 250 more times at the plate. Defensively, he comes in about average in 2500 innings. He also played a lot of right field and wasn’t great, but for our purposes, we’ll have him at catcher throughout his career.

Louis Santop
Negro Leagues Stats
Career: 1910–1926
Destination: NL 1911–1926
Honors: Baseball Hall of Fame, Hall of Merit

Year Age Lg Pos  PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
======================================================================
1910  21 NL  C  160    1    0       0    2    4   0.4    5    9   1.0
1911  22 NL  C  330   20    0       0    5   24   2.5   10   34   3.6
1912  23 NL  C  360    5    0       0    5   11   1.1   11   22   2.2
1913  24 NL  C  400   18    0       0    6   24   2.6   12   37   4.0
1914  25 NL  C  480   17    0       0    7   24   2.8   15   39   4.5
1915  26 NL  C  470   16    0       0    7   23   2.7   15   38   4.6
1916  27 NL  C  480   26    0       0    7   33   4.0   15   48   5.9
1917  28 NL  C  410   11    0       0    5   16   2.0   13   29   3.6
1918  29 NL  C  380   15    0       0    5   20   2.3   12   32   3.8
1919  30 NL  C  390    9    0       0    4   13   1.6   12   25   3.1
1920  31 NL  C  360   16    0       0    4   19   2.2   11   31   3.5
1921  32 NL  C  350   19    0       0    3   23   2.3   11   33   3.4
1922  33 NL  C  270   13    0       0    2   15   1.4    8   24   2.3
1923  34 NL  C  240    6    0       0    2    8   0.7    7   15   1.5
1924  35 NL  C  150    6    0       0    1    7   0.7    5   12   1.2
1925  36 NL  C  160  - 3    0       0    1  - 2  -0.2    5    3   0.3
1926  37 NL  C  110    0    0       0    1    1   0.1    3    4   0.5
----------------------------------------------------------------------
               5500  196    0       2   66  263  29.2  171  435  48.9

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 318th 
Rbat: 127th 
WAA: 62nd  
WAR: 81st

He doesn’t look like a huge superstar hitter in MLEville. Regardless, however, he’s basically got the same overall value as Yogi Berra. The fact that Mackey has more runs above average yet a couple wins fewer than Santop is perhaps not as shocking when you think about when they created that value. In the deadball era, the scarcity of runs made each one more valuable than a run in Mackey’s heavier hitting era. We can particularly see this in comparing their RAA and WAA. We estimate Mackey’s performance as equivalent to creating 32.7 WAA of value via 334 RAA. That means the ratio of runs to wins in Mackey’s era was about 10.2 to 1. But Santop created 313 RAA and 34.3 RAA of value, a ratio of about 9.1 to 1.

Santop’s data set is nearly complete if not already there, and Mackey’s is pretty close. We can say with a fair degree of confidence that these guys had somewhat similar careers, and that either of them could have started for a first-division team in either league and been a core member of a championship squad. The big difference that we now see is the result of two things: (A) That our playing-time allocation technique uses two different comp sets for these guys, Deadball catchers for Santop and Liveball catchers for Mackey. Among Deadball catchers, only Ray Schalk, Steve O’Neill, and Wally Schang have more playing time than our MLE shows for Santop.

Quincy Trouppe

[Note: Updated 1/14/18 to include 1946 data.]

Trouppe’s got one of the weirdest career paths in the Negro Leagues. He is variously reported to have been playing for top level teams in 1931 at age 18, but the Negro League Database’s information starts at 1932 when the 19 year old Trouppe split a season between Detroit and Homestead in the short-lived East-West League. In 1932, he plays for the Chicago American Giants of the NNL, and then there’s a gap for 1934. He barely registers in 1935 and 1936, is a blank for 1937 and 1938, and only shows up for 5 games in 1939. Then…that’s nearly it. We don’t pick him up again until 1945 unless we scoot over to BBREF, where we can spot his minor league seasons and a six-game cup of coffee with the Indians in 1952 to close out his career.

But we do know a little more than what it looks like we know. Taking things in chronological order…:

  • In 1934, he followed the loot (and Satchel Paige and several other stars) to Bismarck North Dakota, where the maverick owner of a semipro-league team stockpiled black talent and whupped the rest of the circuit something fierce for several years. Trouppe did play a couple games here and there for the Monarchs in 1935 and 1936.
  • Quincy Trouppe rated as a Golden Gloves boxer prior to his baseball career, and in 1937 decided to pursue boxing professionally. Why not? At the time, Joe Louis reigned in the ring and pulled down a pretty purse with each fight. There was a good living to be made. But after just a year, Trouppe traded his boxing gloves for a mitt and hooked on with an independent squad.
  • In 1939, Trouppe played a few contests with the St. Louis Giants in the Negro American League, and that’s where the Negro Leagues Database loses the scent. Trouppe departed during the season for Mexico to play for Monterrey of the Mexican League. He stayed there for three seasons and then went over to the Mexico City Diablos for another three campaigns. From partway through 1939 to 1944 he didn’t play any ball stateside.
  • Trouppe returned to the US in 1945. He won a Negro World Series with Cleveland where he stayed three years then played a year with the Chicago American Giants.
  • Nineteen forty-nine saw Trouppe go to Drummondville in the Canadian Provincial League. He was one of many Negro Leagues expats north of the border.
  • Next, he traded in the cold weather of Canada for another two summers in the Mexico, this time in Jalisco. By the end of those two seasons, he was 38.
  • Finally in 1952, Quincy Trouppe hooked on with organized baseball. He played 84 games for Indianapolis of the American Association and the aforementioned six with the Indians. Then he called it quits.

Trouppe’s stats in the Negro Leagues Database aren’t great, and they represent mostly scraps of his earliest work. In Mexico, he hit like the dickens. Defensively, we just don’t have much, though he was reputed to own a strong arm and handle pitchers well. It will be very helpful when his late 1940s stats come online.

Quincy Trouppe
Negro Leagues Stats | Major League Stats | Minor League Stats
Career: 1931–1952
Destination: AL 1933–1952
Missing seasons: 1934–1936, 1948–1949
Honors: Hall of Merit

Year Age Lg Pos  PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA  WAA  Rrep RAR   WAR
=========================================================================
1933  20 AL  C   50    0    0    0     0    0    1   0.1    2    2   0.2
1934  21 AL  C  130    3    0    0     0    1    4   0.4    4    8   0.8
1935  22 AL  C  220    1    0    0     0    1    2   0.2    7    9   0.9
1936  23 AL  C  320    0    0    0     0    2    2   0.1   10   12   1.0
1937  24 AL  C  410   15    0    0     0    3   18   1.7   13   31   2.9
1938  25 AL  C  500   28    0    0     0    3   31   2.8   16   46   4.2
1939  26 AL  C  480   31    0    0     0    3   34   3.1   15   49   4.6
1940  27 AL  C  500   27    0    0     0    3   31   2.9   16   46   4.5
1941  28 AL  C  500   21    0    0     0    4   24   2.4   16   40   4.0
1942  29 AL  C  500   43    0    0     0    3   46   4.8   16   62   6.6
1943  30 AL  C  460   24    0    0     0    3   28   3.1   14   42   4.8
1944  31 AL  C  460    6    0    0     0    3   10   1.1   14   24   2.7
1945  32 AL  C  470  - 2    0    0     0    3    1   0.1   15   16   1.8
1946  33 AL  C  380    1    0    0     0    3    4   0.4   12   15   1.7
1947  34 AL  C  380   10    0    0     0    3   12   1.3   12   24   2.7
1948  35 AL  C  350   13    0    0     0    3   16   1.6   11   27   2.7
1949  36 AL  C  300   12    0    0     0    3   15   1.4    9   24   2.4
1950  37 AL  C  220    8    0    0     0    2   10   0.9    7   17   1.6
1951  38 AL  C  150    4    0    0     0    1    6   0.6    5   10   1.0
1952  39 AL  C   90    1    0    0     0    0    2   0.2    3    5   0.5
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
               6870  247   -1    1     0   49  295  29.2  214  509  51.5

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 163rd 
Rbat: 87th 
WAA: 62nd  
WAR: t-71st

The vast majority of plate appearances we have records of for Trouppe are his salad years in the Mexican League. (I have this data separately from the Negro Leagues Database, though it may at some point in the future appear there as well.) We have very little of his decline phase. And then there’s 1937, the boxing year. In a world without segregated baseball, Trouppe would never have even considered boxing. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’d wager that fewer than three baseball players in MLB attempted to become boxers in the midst of their careers and missed a whole year doing it. The economic incentives for a white guy simply wouldn’t work that way. But for a black man, it could make a lot more sense. So we’re treating 1937 as we would any season without data.

Trouppe was said to be slow of foot by Jim Riley. That’s an interesting thing to read. He was down in Mexico for a very long time and before that appeared in relatively few games. So only his Bismarck teammates and guys who had consistently played with or against him in Mexico would have seen him run in his prime. My supposition is that Riley was talking to guys who saw Trouppe play upon his return to the states in 1945, when he was 32 years old. Catchers’ legs don’t age well, and it’s not at all unlikely he would have slowed up a lot by then. We debited him Rbaser on a very gentle scale up to age 29 but after turning 30, we increased the debit ten times. It still isn’t a big huge negative number, but it’s got some baseball logic to it.

Lastly, his fielding. Trouppe played all over the diamond, but by the time of his return to the states, he was a catcher. In the big leagues, he caught. So we’re simply making him a catcher all the time. We’re giving him a completely average glove. There’s nothing that says he wasn’t a good receiver, but there’s nothing that says he was a good one either, so we’re just splitting the difference.

Special Guest: Roy Campanella

Here’s a man who needs no introduction. But we will anyway. Campy came to the Dodgers’ attention because he was in the midst of replacing Josh Gibson as the best catcher in the Negro Leagues. He started playing for league teams at age 15, and, you guessed it, didn’t hit so good. But by age 19 or 20 might well have been an above-average player thanks to the tutelage of Biz Mackey and his Campanella’s own inherent hitting talent. As Gibson’s career began to dissipate, Campy was primed to take over the top spot. Instead Branch Rickey intervened, of course. So below we’ll show you our MLEs for his pre-MLB seasons. Note that each of his MLB seasons is just as you see it on BBREF except for 1948, which we melded together with his time in the American association that year. For baserunning, double-play avoidance, and fielding, we have simply used his career MLB rates.


Roy Campanella
Negro Leagues Stats | Major League Stats | Minor League Stats | Bio
Career: 1937–1957
Destination: AL 1941–1957
Honors: Baseball Hall of Fame, Hall of Merit, Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame

Year Age Lg Pos  PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
==========================================================================
1940  18 NL  C   10    0    0    0     0    0     0   0.0    0    0   0.0    
1941  19 NL  C  100    3    0    0     0    1     4   0.4    3    7   0.8
1942  20 NL  C  150    3    0    0     0    1     5   0.5    5    9   1.1
1943  21 NL  C  200    8    0    0     1    1    10   1.1    6   16   1.8
1944  22 NL  C  270   14    0    0     1    2    17   1.8    8   25   2.7
1945  23 NL  C  400   21    0    0     1    3    25   2.6   12   38   3.9
1946  24 NL  C  460   13    0    0     2    3    18   2.0   14   32   3.6
1947  25 NL  C  490    1    0    0     2    3     6   0.6   15   21   2.2
1948  26 NL  C  500   18    0    0     3    3    24   2.5   16   40   4.1
1949  27 NL  C  507   21    0   -1     1    4    24   2.4   20   44   4.4
1950  28 NL  C  494   21    0   -3     1    4    23   2.2   19   42   4.1
1951  29 NL  C  562   40    1   -4     2    5    45   4.5   21   66   6.7
1952  30 NL  C  533   13    1   -4     1    4    15   1.6   20   35   3.7
1953  31 NL  C  590   40    0   -1     7    5    52   4.9   22   74   7.1
1954  32 NL  C  446  -16   -2   -2     1    4   -14  -1.5   17    3   0.1
1955  33 NL  C  522   30   -1   -1     2    5    35   3.3   20   55   5.3
1956  34 NL  C  461  - 8   -1   -2    -2    5   - 9  -1.2   17    9   0.6
1957  36 NL  C  380  -12    0   -1     2    5   - 6  -0.8   14    8   0.7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
               7315  211   -3  -19    24   59   273  26.8  250  524  53.0

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 143rd 
Rbat: 114th 
Rfield (C only): t-21st 
WAA: 71st  
WAR: 67th

So that’s our five Hall of Fame/Merit catchers who played in the Negro Leagues. It’s incredibly cool that we have so much information and can paint a clearer picture than ever of what these guys’ careers looked like.

Next time, we’ll take off to first to check out Buck Leonard, Mule Suttles, and Ben Taylor, and we’ll make the turn and head to second where Frank Grant awaits us, along with another special mystery guest.

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “Evaluating Negro Leagues Catchers

  1. Don’t know how much biography work you did, but Mackie and Santop were teammates on the early 1920s Hilldale Daisies. The team went to the first couple of Negro World Series (splitting the Series’ with the Monarchs).
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | November 1, 2017, 8:46 am
  2. Thanks for your hard work on this endeavor. Did you calculate Josh Gibson’s 1940-1941 WAR totals using his stats from Mexico? His 1941 season in that league was allegedly a monster per Pedro Treto Cisneros’ book, but lack of league totals and park factors make contextualization difficult for his 1940-41 campaigns. I was just curious because I assumed his WAR for that year would have been a career high. Thanks, Brian

    Year Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB BA SLG
    1940 Veracruz 22 92 32 43 7 4 11 38 3 16 .467 .989
    1941 Veracruz 94 358 100 134 31 3 33 124 7 75 .374 .754
    Total 2 seasons116 450 132 177 38 7 44 162 10 91 .393 .802

    Posted by zaldamo | May 18, 2018, 3:50 pm
    • Brian, thanks for writing! I happen to have behind the scenes league info for Mexico that makes the process possible. I also use a rough park factor because sometimes a piece of the monstrousness of a season can be park related. Then, lastly, I use the a rolling average of seasons, not only the season itself, which counts as 60% of the MLE. This tends to flatten things a bit. As you look at other MLEs in our collection, you’ll see that most players never achieve even an eight-WAR season.

      This leveling is important because sometimes a given season has many fewer PAs of know data than another. While I could use a career average instead of surrounding seasons for this purpose, I prefer the temporal nearness of adjacent seasons. Make sense?

      Posted by eric | May 18, 2018, 4:02 pm

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  1. Pingback: Evaluating Negro Leagues First Basemen and Second Basemen | the Hall of Miller and Eric - November 8, 2017

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