The Determinator: Catchers 2022 (#5-1)
For the last two years, I have been ranking every starting player in the MLB by position in a system I’ve dubbed The Determinator. I don’t worry about projection systems, I look only at how well a player did that last year, analyze the data, and showcase who was and will be the best for the upcoming season.
Welcome back to The Determinator.
Today we continue with the #5-1 Catchers!
The Determinator: My General Methodology
The Determinator is a ranking system that is built upon the analyzation of 16 carefully chosen stats through a very simplistic system of comparisons. Some of these stats are more classical (Games Played, Home Runs, etc.), others are more advanced (wRC+, WAR, etc.). From this come 7 offensive stats, 4 defensive, 2 baserunning, and 3 general stats, set to contribute towards the importance of each part of the game.
The Offensive stats are: AVG/OBP/SLG, wRC, wRC+, HR, and Off (Fangraphs)
The Defensive stats are: Fielding, DRS, UZR (or Framing for Catchers), and Def (Fangraphs)
The Baserunning stats are: Stolen Bases and BsR (Fangraphs)
The Overall stats are: Games Played, Innings at Position, and fWAR (Fangraphs)
After determining this list of statistics, I then had to input each into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I sorted how each player did in each statistic from best-to-worst. If you were top 5 in a category, you got ranked as a ‘Green’. Top 6-10 was a ‘Yellow’. And, Top 11-15 was labelled as a ‘Red’. The number of each ranking was counted- so it was possible to come out with a score of zero- and given values of 5, 3, and 1 respectively.
Key Note: If player/s across a statistic had the same numbers across a border- for example the 5th and 6th players with the most Home Runs- then they would both be counted as the better ranking- in this case both ‘Green’ or 5 points- and replace one spot from the following ranking- in this case a ‘Yellow’ or 3 points. This could also stretch some statistics to include more ‘Red’ players who had equal stats to the 15th best.
Additionally, if no stats were recorded in a counting statistic that could fit into a ranking- as is seen with Catchers and Stolen Bases- then no ranking is given to those players. This would greatly increase the number of points given out, and lessen the value of each point. This is not true for advanced metrics that can produce negative values- as also is seen with Catchers and BsR.
The results were then tallied, sorted from greatest to least, and a ranking was created.
Finally, player age, 2022 salary, and contract status, were all not considered in this experiment. This is entirely statistic-based.
In order to quality for ranking by The Determinator, a player must’ve had at least 250 plate appearances during the 2021 season and at least 500 innings played at the position in question.
Number 5: Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays
Top-5: SLG, HR, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR, Fld
Top-10: wRC, DRS, FRM, Def
Total Score: 48
Mike Zunino was a high ranking prospect who flopped for a few years, hit for a few years, flopped for a few years, and then hit again in 2021. He has a career 90 OPS+ over parts of 9 MLB seasons with 4 seasons under an 80 OPS+ and 3 seasons above a 110 OPS+. If Gary Sanchez drives Yankees fans crazy for his inconsistency, Mike Zunino is the example to (not) look to. When he’s on, Zunino is easily a Top-5 catcher in the MLB. When he’s off, he’s unplayable. The Determinator expects he’ll be good again next year. Not great, not bad. Solidly good.Embed from Getty Images
Number 4: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
Top-5: Games, AVG, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, Innings
Top-10: SB, BsR, WAR
Total Score: 50
After two years where Salvador Perez was either injured or didn’t play enough to register for The Determinator, the 7-time All Star makes his debut at #4 after an absolute breakout season. Now, would you believe Salvador Perez is only 31? He’s been in the league since 2011, and while many are expecting 2021 to be his breakout/one-year peak, The Determinator believes that while Perez is not going to be the top catcher in the MLB again, he’s going to put up another great season. It’s not hard to judge, when healthy Perez’s offense is a threat and he has more time to showcase it.Embed from Getty Images
Number 3: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Top-5: AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR
Top-10: HR, Fld, Innings, FRM, Def
Total Score: 51
From one player who had missed a full season recently to another, we reach the now-retired Buster Posey. Always a threat both offensively and defensive, Posey took the 2020 season away from baseball, returned with a late-career resurgence, and (unlike most ballplayers in todays day and age) retired before he became a shell of himself. That’s honorable. Baseball will miss Buster Posey (and especially Dodger fans).
Number 2: Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers
Top-5: Games, OBP, SLG, HR, SB, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, Innings
Top-15: BsR, Fld, DRS, FRM, Def
Total Score: 58
Speaking of the Dodgers, they are the only team to have their catcher rank across every metric by The Determinator. Will Smith is as good of an overall catcher as one can hope for in the MLB. He’s a top-tier hitter (not just among catchers) with good catching defense and will be both a mainstay in the Dodgers lineup and a yearly contender for the title of “best MLB catcher” for years to come. Everything about his game is exciting which is why it’s not surprising that he ranked Top-15 amongst every one of the 16 statistics by The Determinator.Embed from Getty Images
Number 1: J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies
Top-5: Games, AVG, OBP, SB, wRC, BsR, WAR, Def
Top-10: SLG, HR, wRC+, Off, Fld, Innings, FRM
Total Score: 61
Catcher may be the only position in the MLB that has had a clear favorite year-in and year-out for the #1 spot who has not changed in the past three years. J.T. Realmuto has been, currently is, and will continue to be the best catcher in the MLB. Most major trades and $100+ Million deals do not work out, but the Philadelphia Phillies paid for the best, and got the best, when they took on Realmuto in 2019. Now, year-to-year, Realmuto may or may not put up the best WAR amongst catchers, but his consistency across offense, defense, and even baserunning keeps him at the #1 spot regardless. He does everything very-well to excellent (except DRS- the only stat he didn’t rank in) and will/should continue to do so going forward. Realmuto’s abilities are not questioned anymore. So, the only question is if the 31-year-old Realmuto will be able to continue to hold off the 27-year-old Smith going forward into the near future. The Determinator thinks so…for 2022 at least.Embed from Getty Images
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.