Catcher’s Week: A Primer for the Week Ahead
This past Thursday, catcher Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants announced his retirement from the MLB after one of the best seasons in his 12-year career.
What do you do with a player of his notoriety after they voluntarily leave the game? We have to consider what his case is for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Without further ado, welcome to what I’m going to call:
A Primer Into “Catcher’s Week”:
Over the next 6 days I will be presenting, analyzing, and considering 7 catchers who are not enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This idea is spurred on from the many (many) discussion forms on the topic that have started after Buster Posey announced his retirement after a 12-year career that he spent entirely behind the plate.
With 19 catchers in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the position is the 2nd least populated (not counting DH) behind Third Base (with 17 players). Of the 19 players many of them are very prominently known by casual baseball fans. These are the guys like Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Johnny Bench, and Mike Piazza (as well as others). They were the premier talents of their times. However in the exclusive club while others are not as well known players, the guys like Ray Schalk (maybe the best defensive catcher in the dead ball era), Gabby Hartnett (maybe the best offensive catcher in his era), and Roger Bresnahan (first catcher to wear shin guards) have incredibly interesting stories themselves.
Suffice it to say that the history of the catcher position and their Hall of Fame candidacy requires a level far beyond the peers of the time. To just be a great player at catcher will not lead to a lifetime of calling oneself a Hall-of-Famer. Instead, a legacy must have been made on the field (in statistics or by revolutionizing the game).
However, it should also be noted that I am in all aspects a promoter of a larger Baseball Hall of Fame. Thus, I am happy to promote players who I believe continue that legacy and promotion of what may be the most important single position on the diamond.
The (General) Hall-of-Fame Metrics For a Catcher:
With the catcher position, the average Hall of Famer has the following metrics*:
bWAR = 53.8
bWAR7 (7-year peak) = 34.8
JAWS = 44.3
(*Note: These averages are from 16 of the 19 catchers in the HOF. They don’t count a few listed catchers who were inducted as managers or players whose stats came primarily in the negro leagues [i.e. Josh Gibson and Louis Santop])
However, this does not tell the whole story of what makes a catcher great. We can look towards other traditional metrics for HOF inclusion like our Black (Average of 27) and Gray (Average of 144) Inks, and HOFm (Average of 100), but again the stats alone may not tell the whole story.
For a catcher- moreso than any other position in baseball- defense plays a pivotal role in their value. Unfortunately though, because defense is so hard to define from the catching standpoint (how much do we considering framing over blocking? What about caught stealing percentages? etc.) it is hard for any one metric to showcase and promote those top defensive catchers in the history of the MLB.
In this week of posts, outside of 1 player, I grew up watching these various catchers behind the plate. A plurality of whom also spent time donning the Yankees pinstripes.
Will all of the 7 players I’m considering make my evaluation for the Hall of Fame? Well, no. However, I will lay out a path for each of the players I will be considering this week. To start, tomorrow I will be reviewing the case for former Minnesota Twin: Joe Mauer.
See you then!