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All-Time HoME Leaders, Sidebars

All-Time HoME Leaders, Catcher – 21-40

I’m a debater. I want to think, to learn, and to try to find truth. I don’t care if I “win” the debate. To me, the winner is the person who has the right answer after the debate is over. And if both parties are working to find truth, there’s a good chance the parties can agree on the answer. I really mean that. If you can convince me that you have the right answer, I am very happy to change my mind. I don’t lose any ego points when I do.

Not long ago I started a discussion with a reader, Michael, about the value of the DH position, the specifics of which aren’t important here. I don’t know who’s right, but I do know the discussion has been incredibly interesting. I bring all of this up for a couple of reasons. One is to publicly thank him for a thought-provoking discussion. The other is to make a point – I’m very confident that I’m right, he’s right, or the truth is somewhere in between. In other words, we’re really close. And even if we never agree, we’ve narrowed to what the answer could be.

As far as catcher rankings go, I’m frustrated. I just don’t know how “right” we are. I don’t even know how to know. And that makes me super uncomfortable.

So enjoy the second part of our catcher discussion, and if you want to read areas where I feel more confident, check out absolutely any other post in this series.–Miller

[MAPES+], [CHEWS+], [1B, 1-20], [1B, 21-40], [2B, 1-20], [2B, 21-40], [3B, 1-20], [3B, 21-40], [SS, 1-20], [SS, 21-40], [C, 1-20]

Catcher – 21-40

C, 21-40

Where do we project the active player(s) to finish in our rankings?

Buster Posey

Posey is one 6.0 WAR season away from reaching my Hall of Miller and Eric in/out line. Other than his injury decimated 2011 campaign and his seven-game cuppa coffee in 2009, Posey has never finished a season below 3.9 BBREF WAR. He’s on the old side of thirty now, a time in their lives when many catchers’ bodies betray them, and/or a career of toil erodes their abilities. The following is a list of every retired catcher who earned from 28 to 48 BBREF WAR through age 30 (Posey reached 38) and what they went on to do. It’s sorted by their WAR through age 30:

             THROUGH 30  |   AFTER 30
NAME          PA    WAR  |   PA   WAR
J TORRE      6188  47.8  |  2614   9.8
T SIMMONS    6450  45.0  |  3235   5.4
M PIAZZA     4075  41.6  |  3670  18.0
M COCHRANE   4861  40.8  |  1347  11.4
T MUNSON     4819  40.4  |  1086   5.7
Y BERRA      4945  37.5  |  3414  21.9
B EWING      3744  36.3  |  2028  11.4
B FREEHAN    5240  36.2  |  1660   8.6
B DICKEY     4411  35.6  |  2654  20.2
C FISK       3483  34.9  |  6370  33.6
D PORTER     4933  32.1  |  1637   8.8
J KENALL     5283  30.7  |  3419  11.0
L PARRISH    4674  30.1  |  3123   9.4
J SUNDBERG   4148  29.8  |  2751  10.8
R BRESNAHAN  3916  29.7  |  1460  11.2
G TENACE     3597  28.3  |  1930  18.5
AVERAGE      4673  36.1  |  2650  13.5
VS pre-31                    57%   37%
B POSEY EST  4260  38.3  |  2428  14.2

So here’s a High/Realistic/Low series of estimates for Posey’s career based on the information in this table.

      THROUGH 30  |   AFTER 30   |  CAREER
NAME   PA    WAR  |   PA    WAR  |   PA    WAR  NOTE
HIGH  4260   38.3 |  3780  26.8  |  8040  65.1  BASED ON TOP-3 AVG
REAL  4260   38.3 |  2428  14.2  |  6688  52.5  BASED ON GROUP AVG
LOW   4260   38.3 |  1817   7.0  |  6077  45.3  BASED ON LOW-3 AVG

If Posey hits on the high scenario, he’s going to end up with a career total that with my adjustments looks like Dickey’s, Hartnett’s, or maybe Piazza’s, and ends up among the top dozen catchers ever.

If Posey reaches the realistic scenario, he’s going to end up looking in my system like Joe Torre, Wally Schang, or maybe Mickey Cochrane. In that case, he’s over the line and probably just outside the top fifteen.

Finally, if Posey sags to the low estimate, his career total in my system will end up near Roy Campanella’s, Thurman Munson’s, or Jim Sundberg’s. He’s likely in that scenario to make it juuuust over the in/out line and to be quite similar to Munson’s career.

Any way you cut it, barring an horrific collapse this year, he’s going into the HoME. It’s only a question of by what degree he exceeds the in/out line.—Eric

Russell Martin

One of the bigger surprises I’ve come across since starting in-depth research on the game’s best players is that Russell Martin has a chance to be a deserving Hall of Famer. Not a good chance, but a chance. Even at age-34, he put up yet another 2-win season (with my adjustments) in only 91 games in 2017. That’s the good news. The bad is that his only real value aside from position is in the DRA part of his defense. As you enter your late 30s, defense doesn’t pick up. In a best case scenario, he gets past Jason Kendall, Jorge Posada, and Jim Sundberg, which would put him immediately behind HoMEr Bill Freehan. That likely won’t be enough to get him in. What may be enough is if we learn more about handling and find that his is even better than we think.–Miller

He’s probably something like the Jim Sundberg of his era. Martin’s bat seems to have given out, but he’s still an average regular catcher. It’s not going to be enough with his low peak to get him over the line, but he’s much closer than anyone would have guessed.—Eric

Yadier Molina

Many Cardinal fans are 100% certain he’s a defensive genius, the likes of which we may never have seen. I disagree but still like the 35 year old. By straight WAR, he has only two seasons at more than 3.2. My adjustments help but don’t move the needle a ton. There’s likely not enough peak here to make him a HoMEr unless there’s a lot more left than we’d normally expect from a player his age. He’s averaged 2.15 adjusted WAR over the last three campaigns. If he somehow manages 2 over the next five, he’ll only move up three places, assuming Martin keeps climbing. If he only has two such seasons, he’d flip places with Lance Parrish. That’s about it. He’s going to be a very interesting debate in a few years, one that I expect to be on the losing side of.–Miller

Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?

Yadi’s not a bad player by any stretch. But he has two seasons above 3.2 BBREF WAR. He’s by far the best Molina, however.—Eric

Based on much of what I hear on Twitter, I’m pretty far off on Yadier Molina. And Eric is waaaaaaay off with Yadi at #43. Word is that he’s already a Hall of Fame lock. Perhaps this word comes mainly from Cardinal fans. Likely this word comes from those who haven’t done the appropriate research. What seems certain is a career ending injury to Molina would bring about some real debates between Redbird backers and Eric in five years. With me too.–Miller

Where do we disagree with one another the most?

We’re looking at differences in these 20 based quite a bit on how much we’re willing to trust Max Marchi’s handling numbers. Eric has more trust than I do, so he prefers Tony Pena and Mike Scioscia by ten and twelve places respectfully. No biggie though. Neither is close enough to the HoME to spark debate.–Miller

Pena is pretty close, for me. One more All-Star season would have given us a lot to talk about. Pena’s the number one backstop in Marchi’s results. That’s 248 runs he saved through his work with his pitchers. Or 25 wins worth of runs—if you take them at face value. I don’t. I use them at half strength, so Pena receives 124 runs to the good. It so happens that Scioscia finished second in Marchi’s rankings with 210 runs. As you look down the list, some interesting names pop up. There’s Mike Piazza with 204 runs, providing additional evidence that he was an excellent defensive catcher except for defending the stolen base. Pudge Fisk finishes fifth, and there’s our friend Russell Martin in seventh place. Tim McCarver made a reputation as a smart handler of pitchers, and Marchi rates him as 116 runs better than average. The just mentioned Yadier Molina’s just 10 runs above average in this category, but his brother Jose was ninth with 150 runs saved. Benji, on the other hand, gave up 12 more runs than average. There are other surprises. Bill Freehan, given high marks for his work with Denny McClain and the 1960s Tigers finished 18 runs over par. Wish we’d found Marchi’s work before we elected him…. Some other leader-of-men types are among the worst handlers: Joe Girardi, Darren Daulton, Dan Wilson, Mike Lieberthal. This is all to say that my higher ranking of Pena depends considerably on this information, even at half strength. Imagine how bad those 1980s Pirates rotations would have been without him!—Eric

Are there any players who MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate? 

Naturally, Roy Campanella thanks to the impact of the odious color line. But let’s turn elsewhere. We’ve written extensively about Ernie Lombardi, and it’s a near certainty in my opinion that Lom’s career, as currently presented by BBREF is overstated by as much as 4 to 7 WAR. They show him at +5 for baserunning and don’t assign GIDP value to his era yet. Once they (finally!) get around to turning the latest two or three rounds of retrosheet data into WAR, Lom’s WAR legs will buckle badly.—Eric

Maybe there are. Maybe we underrate an entire century at the position. From the start of the National Association through 1971 – that’s 101 years – there are only nine catchers who can boast at least 35 WAR. But there are 28 in the game’s history. I suppose it’s possible we don’t adjust the game’s catchers sufficiently for a good period of time. It’s also quite possible that there were some major down years for backstops, followed by some great years in the age of Carter, Bench, Fisk, Torre, Munson, Simmons, Sundberg, etc. Or maybe we adjust just right. You know how we say that relief pitching is incredibly valuable, though relief pitchers really aren’t? Maybe that was the case with catching for so many years. Perhaps none but the best catchers played enough to accumulate HoME-level value.–Miller


One week from today, we get started on the left fielders. Who’s it going to be, Teddy or Barry?



4 thoughts on “All-Time HoME Leaders, Catcher – 21-40

  1. Thanks for being open and honest about ranking catchers, I have the same viewpoint.

    A shout to Brian McCann also from the active guys with pitch framing a huge swing from solid player to potential hall of famer.

    Posted by Ryan | May 1, 2018, 7:05 pm
  2. Very true on McCann. He’s #43 for me.

    Posted by Miller | May 1, 2018, 7:37 pm
  3. First off, thank you as well for the DH discussion, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and to which I’ve been way too delinquent in responding recently, and in providing my list here for catcher as well. Unfortunately, we’ve been really busy as well as shorthanded at work, so the free time hasn’t been as plentiful the last couple of weeks,

    And I completely agree with the difficulty in evaluating catchers. I figured when you first announced this series, there would probably be the biggest discrepancies at catcher, although I agree with both of you in having someone other than the consensus pick at #1.

    And obviously, the thing that can cause the most variation in rankings is how to handle framing runs. Personally, I use the Max Marchi numbers, regressed by 1/3, through 2011. After that, I use BBRef’s RszC at full value.

    (With the caveat that Josh Gibson would be #1 if I included Negro League only careers

    1. Mike Piazza 178
    2. Carlton Fisk 176
    3. Gary Carter 169
    4. Yogi Berra 159
    5. Johnny Bench 158
    6. Roy Campanella 155
    7. Ivan Rodriguez 152
    8. Bill Dickey 147
    9. Deacon White 143
    10. Gabby Hartnett 140
    11. Buck Ewing 135
    12. Mickey Cochrane 128
    13. Charlie Bennett 120
    14. Joe Mauer 120
    15. Russell Martin 114
    16. Buster Posey 108
    17. Roger Bresnahan 107
    18. Joe Torre 105
    19. Ted Simmons 102
    20. Wally Schang 102

    21. Thurman Munson 96

    Will post explanations about differences later.

    Posted by Michael Mengel | May 3, 2018, 10:05 pm
  4. It really is all about Marchi. You can see that on a typical list, versus mine, versus Eric, versus yours (which I think is the order in which we accept his numbers). It’s comforting, however, to know that we all agree with the difficulty in evaluating this position.

    Russell Martin in the Hall? While I happen not to agree, I certainly can’t put up a fight. From my perspective, this is yet another strong list.

    Posted by Miller | May 4, 2018, 3:27 pm

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