The Determinator: Ranking the Top 10 Players at Each Position; Catchers: #6-10
Before every season, baseball minds across the sport test their skills with crunching numbers, diving deep into analytics, and reviewing game footage in order to determine who the best players are in the game. Often times they give their analysis fun names; one of the most notable being The Shredder from MLB Network.
Sometimes the results astound people- like in 2015 Hanely Ramirez was rated the top Left Fielder in the MLB before ever playing there. Other times, the results are unsurprising- spoiler alert, but Mike Trout was probably the best CF in baseball, and most likely will be again.
Starting today, and every weekday at 4:00 PM throughout the next few weeks, I will be posting my own analysis on who the top players at each position truly are.
Welcome to The Determinator. Today I will reveal the 10th through 6th best Catchers in the MLB, as well as explaining my methodology for these rankings. Tomorrow, will be #1-5, as well as some honorable mentions.
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 is seen with Catchers and BsR.
The results were then tallied, sorted from greatest to least, and a ranking was created.
Finally, player age, 2020 salary, and contract status, were all not considered in this experiment. This is entirely statistic-based.
The Determinator: Catcher-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 110 different players who played any amount of time at catcher during the season, I set-up two separate boundaries for catchers:
They must’ve had at least 250 PA’s during the 2019 season.
They must’ve had at least 500 innings at catcher during the 2019 season.
I understand that these boundaries are a little low, but catchers are the main position to be substituted and get injured so I didn’t want to leave anybody out.
This limited the number of catchers down to 32.
However, without further ado, let’s get to the Bottom-5 (of the Top-10):
If a catcher led a statistic, it will be bolded.
Number 10: Wilson Ramos, New York Mets
Top-5: Games, AVG, OBP, Innings
Top-10: Stolen Bases, wRC
Top-15: wRC+, Off
Total Score: 28Embed from Getty Images
Wilson Ramos, in 2019, rated as an average offensive catcher in the MLB, leading all in Batting Average with .288, but had very poor base-running (-5.8). He is also a bottom-tier catcher when it comes to defensive value with all but one of his defensive metrics coming out negative, but his ability to stay healthy at a very physically demanding position helped propel him into the Top-10. He racked up Top-5 finishes in both games played (141) and innings behind the plate (1016.1), allowing the Mets to get a consistent bat in the line-up and avoiding the need to use a BUC.
Number 8 (Tie): Omar Navarez, Seattle Mariners
Top-5: Games, AVG, OBP, wRC, wRC+
Top-10: SLG, HR, Off
Top-15: BsR, WAR, Inn
Total Score: 38Embed from Getty Images
Omar Navarez is the epitome of what many Yankees fans think of their catcher Gary Sanchez: An absolute monster at the plate, but a terrible defender. Luckily for the Mariners, his offensive far outweighs the negatives of his defense, even according to The Determinator, who very highly values defensive metrics. He failed to lead all catchers in any of the selected categories in 2019, but was Top-10 in every offensive category, and this isn’t outside of the norm for him, as his 2018 season was very similar across the board (OPS+ of 119 and 120 respectively).
Number 8 (Tie): Roberto Perez, Cleveland Indians
Top-5: HR, Inn, DRS, FRM, Def
Top-10: Games, WAR, Fld
Top-15: SLG, wRC, wRC+
Total Score: 38Embed from Getty Images
Roberto Perez is the first catcher who has a predominant defensive game to make The Determinator’s Top-10 list, where he led all catchers in the MLB with a DRS of 29, far above the competition (next closest was 22). Perez was Top-5 in all but one defensive metric- and the lone miss he was still Top-10 (Fld). He also hit 24 HR’s in 2019, which helped bring his SLG (.452), wRC (59), and wRC+ (98) to above-average levels for catchers. His ability to stay in games, helped him also accumulate Top-10’s in each of the overall stats as well.
Number 7: Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins
Top-5: AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR
Total Score: 41Embed from Getty Images
Mitch Garver of the Minnesota Twins was an expected Top-5 catcher in the MLB’s due to his insane offensive numbers, but his lack of play time as a catcher in 2019 and poor defensive metrics bumped him down to the 7th space. Everything about his game screams phenomenal, especially considering how he led all catchers in Slugging (.630), wRC+ (155), and Off (24), while still playing Top-5 across the remaining 4 offensive categories of AVG (.273), OBP (.365), HR (31), and wRC (71), as well as fWAR (3.9). His downside came with a lack of games played in 2019, along with decent base-running, which cost him a closely contested 6th spot. Garver is a Top-5 catcher, but needs to stay healthy, a career average of less than 100 games per year over the past two seasons isn’t going to cut it.
Number 6: Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
Top-5: OBP, SLG, HR, wRC+, BsR, Off
Top-10: AVG, SB, wRC, WAR
Total Score: 42Embed from Getty Images
Today’s final catcher is Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs, a catcher who could potentially be on the move this offseason. Like Mitch Garver (above), his ranking is entirely based upon his offensive value, coming out as a slightly better all-around player because of better base-running metrics. Contreras did come out as the second best offensive catcher in the MLB behind Garver, according to Off (14.9), and was still Top-5 across OBP (.355), SLG (.533), HR (24), wRC+ (127), and BsR (0.2). Also similarly, Contreras may have missed a Top-5 bid due to lack of playing time, only recording 105 games in 2019, and while has averaged a much better 120 games over the past three seasons, he’ll also need to stay on the field to crack into that next level.
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.
Check back in tomorrow at 4:00 PM to see the Top-5 Catchers in the MLB.