Catcher’s Week: Russell Martin and Brian McCann
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.
That brought about “Catcher’s Week”, a time I’m taking to evaluate 7 catchers’ cases for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In today’s edition, let’s talk about two former New York Yankees: Russell Martin and Brian McCann.
Russell Martin and Brian McCann’s Career Stats:
Russell Martin started his career on May 5th, 2006 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This would begin a 14-year career over 5 teams. He would stay in LA from 2006 to 2010, would become a New York Yankee from 2011 to 2012, a Pittsburgh Pirate from 2013 to 2014, a Toronto Blue Jay from 2015 to 2018, and would go back to LA for his final season in 2019.
Brian McCann started his career on June 10th, 2005 with the Atlanta Braves. This would begin a 15-year career over 3 teams. He would stay in Atlanta from 2005 to 2013, would become a New York Yankee from 2014 to 2016, a Houston Astro from 2017 to 2018, and would go back to Atlanta for his final season in 2019.
Russell Martin was a 4-time All-Star, a 1-time Gold Glover winner, and a 1-time Silver Slugger in his career. Brian McCann was a World Champion* (in 2017), a 7-time All Star, and a 6-time Silver Slugger in his career.
As a hitter, Russell Martin hit to a .248/.349/.397 triple-slash (.746 OPS/101 OPS+/104 wRC+). He also had 1416 hits, 191 Home Runs, and 771 RBI’s. Brian McCann hit to a .262/.337/.452 triple-slash (.789 OPS/110 OPS+/110 wRC+). He also had 1590 hits, 282 Home Runs, and 1018 RBI’s.
Defensively, Russell Martin played 1579 games at catcher and 13433.2 innings at catcher with a fielding percentage of .993, a DRS of +131, and a framing of +165.8. Brian McCann played 1612 games at catcher and 13501.1 innings at catcher with a fielding percentage of .993, a DRS of +27, and a framing of +165.6.
Over WAR-based metrics, Russell Martin had a +38.9 bWAR (Baseball Reference), a +55.1 fWAR (Fangraphs), a +59.8 WARP (Baseball Prospectus), and a +33.0 JAWS (Jay Jaffe). Brian McCann had a +32.0 bWAR (Baseball Reference), a +54.5 fWAR (Fangraphs), a +62.2 WARP (Baseball Prospectus), and a +28.3 JAWS (Jay Jaffe).
Are either of these two worthy for the Hall of Fame?
The Case For Martin or McCann’s Induction into the BBHOF:
If we look at the more defensive-friendly advanced metrics of our age (fWAR and WARP) it seems like they are nearly among the Top-10 catchers in the history of the MLB. However, these metrics are also very heavily skewed towards catchers who have played while metrics like DRS and Framing have been calculated. While the greats of the game still hold their value (Bench, Carter, Fisk, Berra, Piazza, etc.) by these metrics, these metrics do largely inflate the players of the modern era.
That isn’t to say that Russell Martin and Brian McCann were not great players, by bWAR and JAWS they rank 27th and 33rd respectively which are fantastic numbers when considering just how many catchers there have been in the MLB. However, what the cases of Martin and McCann remind us is to be mindful about how we consider, select, and evaluate players based off of statistics.
Additionally, neither Martin nor McCann stood out as excellent players in their careers. They each had 0 Top-10 MVP or bWAR finishes across any season in their careers. Martin did not reach 1500 hits and McCann finished just over at 1590; both are on the wrong side of 2000.
Both were great players. Both are solid players for the “Hall of Very Good”. Both were solid Yankees in their short times in the Bronx.
Brian McCann officially retired from baseball after the 2019 season, though Russell Martin has yet to officially announce his retirement and was considering signing for a team before the 2021 season. If Martin does not return to baseball in 2022, both catchers will be eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot in 2025. I fully expect there to be a large rush of support for both catchers then during which I will likely have to reevaluate my considerations, but as the current moment holds, I will not check off either of their names for the IBWAA in 2025.