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Some interesting things about catchers

Tuesday 3/7/23

Catcher is my favorite position in any sport. I've always been fascinated by catchers. It's really hard to be successful as a catcher. Someone like Jody Davis in the 1980s was a very good ballplayer. But he was a catcher, so he wasn't that good for that long. Which can make one think less of Jody Davis, unless one realizes how hard it is to be an effective catcher--let alone an All-Star level catcher--over a decent stretch of time. Rich Gedman was a good catcher. But how many strong seasons did he have?

Only eight catchers have ever had 2000 hits and 1000 RBI. Do you know who didn't? Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane. The eight are: Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, Ted Simmons, Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez, and Yadier Molina.

Molina is the surprising one, but he played a long time. The first seven are in the Hall of Fame, and Molina will make it. I'm not saying he should or shouldn't make it. He will, though.

Mike Piazza is far and away the best offensive catcher of all-time, which should come with the caveat that we also don't know enough about Josh Gibson. Maybe it's Gibson, but there isn't enough information. (Something that concerns me about Gibson is his alcoholism. He died at thirty-five. To die at thirty-five in large account because of drinking means you'd been drinking a lot for a while, which makes me question how good Gibson could have been in his thirties. But I don't know.)

That it took Piazza four tries before he got into the Hall of Fame is one of the more messed up facts about the Hall of Fame, and there are all kinds of random and wrong Hall of Fame things.

Do you know what catcher is closest to being in that 2000/1000 club? I'm not certain myself. But I would think it's likely Lance Parrish. He had 1070 RBI and 1782 hits. Actually, there could be someone closer than he is because he was two seasons away from getting to 2000 hits.

I think Lance Parrish is one of the best catchers baseball has had, but again, it's so hard to be a catcher that when you're somewhere between the fifteenth and twentieth best catcher of all-time, you maybe don't look super impressive by your stats.

For catchers I look at their defensive ability, their durability, their All-Star count (I feel like this means more at catcher than most positions), and their offensive peak. Did they have three, four, five highly-productive offensive years? Also were they on championship level teams?

Catchers are rocks. I think they have a lot of influence over a club. Their presence means a lot. They set a tone for a team in multiple areas. They can talk about anything with anyone. They're not on the pitching staff but they also kind of are and that is not true about any other position player. Plus they are big and and commanding. They have dignity. If they mash, the catcher is just everything you want to be, at least for a time.

Matt Nokes had more thirty home run seasons than Yogi Berra or Bill Dickey and as many as Carlton Fisk. He had one: in his rookie year with Detroit in 1987.

Rod Carew--who was not a catcher--had one 100 run season in his career. Isn't that very surprising? He was on base all the time. If you took Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, and Rod Carew and asked someone to decide who the best hitter of the three was, I think many people who know baseball well--if we somehow found them--would answer Carew. I'd have Gwynn last on that list. I don't think he was as dynamic as Boggs, the most dynamic hitter of the three, but Carew was like a scientist with how he got hits.

Carlton Fisk--who definitely was a catcher--had as many 100 run seasons as Rod Carew. They both had their 100 run season in 1977, when Carew led the American League in that category and Carlton Fisk finished second. That's pretty cool, right?

Here is something else that is cool about Carlton Fisk, which no one knows. I'm not sure how this worked out mathematically, because while he had a very good year offensively in 1978, he wasn't outstanding at any one thing. He was just really well-rounded. Good average, nice OPB, solid power, knocked in runs, scored runs, hit a lot of doubles, played many games. But for that season, Fisk was second in the AL in offensive WAR, behind only Jim Rice, who had his campaign for the ages.


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