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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Can’t Catch a Break: Hall of Fame Catchers | The Hardball Times

Assessing catcher defense is still, ah, problematic. Historically it’s a mess.

Simmons should be in. Munson’s supporters have been making a solid case. I got to see a lot of him in his prime and, at the time, I thought he was comparable to Fisk. I’m still on the border with him, but I’m leaning more toward a yes. The rest of the guys are short for me.

Your thoughts?

Jim Furtado Posted: August 08, 2018 at 11:11 AM | 107 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: catchers, hall of fame

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   1. Carl Goetz Posted: August 08, 2018 at 11:31 AM (#5723095)
I'm definitely in on Bennett, Simmons, Munson as well as the unmentioned in the article, Wally Schang. I'm a solid maybe on Freehan, Tenace, and Posada (I lean yes on Freehan and no on the other 2, but all very close). I'm out on Howard. Only 2 Hall of Famers rate worse than Howard and they're the 2 who shouldn't be in the Hall in the first place. In the Hall of Merit voting, I'm a strong supporter of both Munson and Schang (Bennett, Simmons, and Freehan are already in that Hall).
   2. salvomania Posted: August 08, 2018 at 12:13 PM (#5723144)
I'm a "no" on Tenace if the assumption is that his offense merits inclusion given that he played catcher, because he only started 759 games at C in his career (and 538 elsewhere, mostly at 1b), and only had one season in his career in which he started as many as 100 games at C.

He also had only 8 seasons in which he had as many as 300 PA, although to his credit he put up and OPS+ of at least 130 in all 8.
   3. DanG Posted: August 08, 2018 at 12:36 PM (#5723162)
Regarding Elston Howard, there are a number of What-Ifs to keep in mind.

Howard was born in 1929 and came up at a time when the market for Black talent was very restricted. In a more open market, say twenty years later, he would not have begun his career with three years in the Negro Leagues; he likely would not have had to wait until age 28 to play 100 games in a MLB season. Plus, Howard lost his age 22-23 seasons to military service.

There is little question that his career was stunted compared to what it would have been if he were born white. As Eric Chalek writes:

"He caught in the minors, moved to the outfield for several years in deference to Yogi, then put the tools of ignorance back on in the late 1950s. In addition, the Yankees were late to the integration ball and very slow to really introduce African-American talent in earnest. At the age of 26, Howard became the first black Yankee in 1955. He didn’t play a full season until 1959. Which means that the Yanks burned up much of his prime during their integration experiment."
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 08, 2018 at 12:43 PM (#5723171)
"Which means that the Yanks burned up much of his prime during their integration experiment."

You can blame late integration for his late start, but in 1955-59 he was blocked by one of the two or three greatest Cs of all time.

A hypothetical white Elston Howard was sitting behind Yogi also.
   5. bookbook Posted: August 08, 2018 at 12:44 PM (#5723172)
In on Bennett and Simmons. Out on Munson. I'd rather see Posada in the HOF than Munson.
   6. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 08, 2018 at 01:15 PM (#5723206)
I'm a "no" on Munson too. 5900 PA is far too few for a "peak" candidate who doesn't have much of a peak. The only HoFers with fewer PA are pretty much some combination of pitchers, managers, Deadballers, Negro Leaguers, and Veterans Committee mistakes. Among contemporary hitters who debuted after 1950 -- to pick a random starting point -- the next fewest PA is Mike Piazza at 7745.

His peak was a 5-year run of OPS+'s of 142, 101, 126, 126, and 121 (whose next and final 2 seasons were 101 and 95, indicating there wasn't going to be a lot of compiling going on either at that trajectory).
   7. TomH Posted: August 08, 2018 at 01:17 PM (#5723208)
This question is more of a meta-question than it is about particular catchers, methinks. It happens in other areas, such as
- can a pitcher win the MVP award if he only starts 30 of the team's 162 games?
- how many punters & kickers should be in the NFL Hall of Fame?

Catching is hard. Johnny Bench, at 47th, is the only C in the top 70 of WAR position players. Does that mean if you had a top-half HOF with 70 non-pitchers, there should only be one backstop? And if no, you wish to "adjust", HOW DO you adjust? Should C be 1/8th or 1/9th of all pos players?

I make my own decision, but YMMV!
   8. Rally Posted: August 08, 2018 at 01:42 PM (#5723235)
From age 29 on, when Howard got a chance to catch regularly, he had 27 WAR, which is 11th among catchers (at least half their games at catcher). There's not much difference between him and #3 Posada (33). Fisk of course is far and away #1.

It seems indisputable that without the color line, WW2, and being on the same team as Yogi he would have had a chance to catch much earlier. But that doesn't mean he would have added several great years to the ones we know he had. More likely his late career production would be less because catching will wear you down. Johnny Bench was done as a catcher at 32 and retired at 35, he likely would have had a better late career if he wasn't catching 140-150 games a year in his early 20s.

Posada is somewhat similar case without the obvious reasons. He didn't catch regularly in the bigs until he was 26, partly due to being a converted infielder.
   9. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 08, 2018 at 01:51 PM (#5723241)
I'd enshrine Freehan (11 All-Star selections), Simmons & Munson (making some allowance for the tragic shortening of his career). Posada is a closer call, but with proper positional adjustment, he might be in. The Hall is overdue for re-evaluating the criteria for catchers, although I'm a bit concerned that the beneficiaries may be the marginal candidates of the near future rather the better qualified, but slighted players of the past. The Veterans Committees should make a concerted effort to look at the position.
   10. Rally Posted: August 08, 2018 at 01:54 PM (#5723247)
Catching is hard. Johnny Bench, at 47th, is the only C in the top 70 of WAR position players. Does that mean if you had a top-half HOF with 70 non-pitchers, there should only be one backstop? And if no, you wish to "adjust", HOW DO you adjust? Should C be 1/8th or 1/9th of all pos players?


Take the top 40 HOFers, divide them into 4 teams, and you would have a lot of passed balls.

How would I adjust? I'd try to keep the number of HOF catchers at least comparable to the other positions. Looking at non-HOF retired catchers here are the best by WAR:

Simmons 50
Tenace 47
Munson 46
Schang 45
Freehan 45
Posada 43
Kendall 42

Among actives you've got Mauer and then Posey. Mauer is above Simmons in WAR but has the same problem as Tenace, not a lot of actual games catching. Simmons should definitely be in. I'm partial to Schang because of where he ranks among catchers of his time period. I'd vote yes on Munson. Maybe on Freehan, probably no on Posada because of what has been discovered about his pitch framing abilities. When I get to Kendall then I see "this guy is definitely not a HOFer".

My rule of thumb is a catcher over 50 WAR should be in unless there is some extraordinary reason to say no. And catchers in the 40 WAR range should at least get consideration - that's where I start looking at peak play, defensive reputation, contribution to pennant winners, etc.

   11. Rally Posted: August 08, 2018 at 02:01 PM (#5723254)
Of the 255 men in the Hall of Fame, 18 are catchers. The only position with worse absolute representation is third base, with 17 having been inducted. Pitchers, of course, represent the abundance of the inductees at 79.


Does the 255 include just players or are managers and executives in that figure? If just players, then 176 non-pitchers, or 22 per position. I don't expect it to be exactly equal, and some position therefore is going to have less than others. Having 18 catchers does not seem to be the level that screams injustice, like if only the top 5 catchers were in.

I'm all for adding a few deserving catchers but if we can't agree on the candidates we have, fine with me if we only have 18 instead of 22.
   12. winnipegwhip Posted: August 08, 2018 at 02:12 PM (#5723275)
Before anyone considers voting on catchers they should be required to read the book by Peter Morris, "Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero". I am one third of the way through the book and I have found it very enlightening and I am certainly above average when it comes to baseball history.

Bennett is definitely a yes after reading about the position in the 1800's. Having a premium catcher was more important than having an ace and more rare. Look at the 1876 and 1877 NL pennant race and you can see positive correlations between the standings and who had the more dependable defensive catcher.
   13. Moeball Posted: August 08, 2018 at 02:12 PM (#5723276)
I'm definitely a yes on Simmons. Like Piazza he had a poor defensive reputation, but I really don't think his actual stats warrant this.

I remember watching Freehan play and he certainly seemed top of the class BITD. I'm probably more inclined to say yes for him than for Munson.
   14. Moeball Posted: August 08, 2018 at 02:12 PM (#5723277)
I'm probably leaning towards yes on Schang.
   15. Ziggy's screen name Posted: August 08, 2018 at 02:14 PM (#5723278)
Lots of passed balls don't trouble me. Catcher have the same problems as relief pitchers (just to not nearly the same extreme): they just don't play enough. Besides the stuff about character, the hall of fame instructions tell voters to evaluate players on two standards: their skill, and their contributions to their teams. Catchers can be as skillful as anybody, but they miss so much time that they'll often just not measure up to that second requirement.

As for Munson, if you thought he was comparable to Fisk, do you think that Fisk was a HOFer after 1983? (That gives him about the same number of PA as Munson.) 1454 hits, 209 HR, 124 OPS+ in 5800 PA. Is that enough? It was really the fact that he was an excellent old player that put Fisk over the line, and Munson (obviously) didn't have a chance to be an old player.
   16. Karl from NY Posted: August 08, 2018 at 02:35 PM (#5723301)
- can a pitcher win the MVP award if he only starts 30 of the team's 162 games?

Yes. The quantity that matters to accrue value isn't games, it's plate appearances. If he pitches 30 PA in each of those 30 starts, that's 900 PA which is more participation and more opportunity to accrue value than any hitter will see. WAR and WPA both reflect this and can rank a pitcher above each hitter.

The converse: a PH playing 162 games for 162 PA isn't winning any MVP.

In reality, what usually prevents a top pitcher with a greater PA count from accumulating the most value is that some value from each PA accrues to the defense instead.
   17. DanG Posted: August 08, 2018 at 03:10 PM (#5723343)
Catchers leading in WAR thru age-32 season:

Player          WARWAAOPSRfield   PA From   To
Johnny Bench    72.9 47.8  129   88.0 7705 1967 1980 H
Gary Carter     66.2 43.1  124  123.8 6900 1974 1986 H
Ivan Rodriguez  59.4 34.5  115  132.0 7215 1991 2004 H
Joe Torre       53.1 26.7  132  
-33.6 7397 1960 1973 H
Mike Piazza     51.2 35.4  155  
-25.1 5193 1992 2001 H
Mickey Cochrane 49.7 28.1  129   
-2.0 5906 1925 1935 H
Ted Simmons     48.6 24.6  124  
-14.8 7444 1968 1982
Joe Mauer       48.4 26.6  129    3.0 6244 2004 2015
Yogi Berra      46.7 28.3  128   18.3 6086 1946 1957 H
Thurman Munson  46.1 25.5  116   31.5 5905 1969 1979
Bill Dickey     45.8 26.3  131   10.0 5509 1928 1939 H
Bill Freehan    42.5 21.4  114   35.0 6177 1961 1974
Buck Ewing      41.3 27.1  139   63.0 4229 1880 1892 H
Buster Posey    40.9 26.3  133   46.0 4658 2009 2018
Carlton Fisk    39.5 24.4  126   24.5 4353 1969 1980 H 

   18. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: August 08, 2018 at 05:15 PM (#5723470)
The converse: a PH playing 162 games for 162 PA isn't winning any MVP.


The closest anyone has come to that, I see, is Ichiro with 109 PH appearances last year (translating to 100 ABs).
   19. Perry Posted: August 08, 2018 at 06:37 PM (#5723523)
Before anyone considers voting on catchers they should be required to read the book by Peter Morris, "Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero". I am one third of the way through the book and I have found it very enlightening and I am certainly above average when it comes to baseball history.


As am I, but what strikes me about this is that I'd literally never heard of Peter Morris before today and now I've seen glowing references here to two of his books. Time to visit Amazon....
   20. Walt Davis Posted: August 08, 2018 at 06:42 PM (#5723526)
The table in #17 shows that the notion that Munson's peak doesn't measure up doesn't really hold water. He's right there with the 2nd tier. He's more reliant on defense and he obviously never got to have a later career but that's a solid performance. (Note, I wish b-r made it easy to add games started at a position to its P-I.)

Adjusting for catcher (or position generally) is a bit easier from the "greatness" perspective. We know there are very good reasons why Cs have fewer PA in-season and why they age less well. It's simply more difficult to play. And given the detrimental effects of catching are well-known, it's common for good hitters to be moved off of C -- before they get to the majors, soon after arriving or when they turn 30 or so. We also know its defensive contribution is considered so key that good hitters who can't cut it defensively are shifted pretty quickly.

The solution/adjustment ends up being basically the same of course -- induct the best ones. If there's a difference, it's in the rationale -- induct them because the greatest Cs were, give or take, as great as the other great position players. Sure, there probably weren't any Babe Ruths or Ted Williams in this bunch, mainly because they'd have almost certainly have been moved off to get their bat in the lineup everyday even if they could have handled the position. Still, it's amazing what Piazza could do with the bat given the pounding his body took. As is, he was basically Edgar Martinez only about as far away on the defensive spectrum as you can get. Edgar supposedly wins the "value" comparison easily but he's way behind in terms of "greatness."
   21. AndrewJ Posted: August 08, 2018 at 06:54 PM (#5723535)
I'd put in Simmons and possibly Freehan.
   22. QLE Posted: August 08, 2018 at 07:30 PM (#5723555)
Due to computer issues, I can't write the full commentary I wish to- however, of the seven included in this article, five strike me as meriting induction (Bennett, Munson, Simmons, Freehan, and Posada, in roughly that order), one needs more data (without MLEs for his Negro League years, I can't conclusively resolve Elston Howard's case one way or another), and one no (Tenace- he spent too much time in his peak at first base to merit full catcher credit and wasn't good enough in his peak to merit induction on partial catcher credit).
   23. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2018 at 07:52 PM (#5723568)
Just got home and am reading the article for the first time, and will comment on the article as I read it and haven't yet read the comments, so will then read them. If I repeat something that has been said, I apologize in advance, but this is an issue I do care about slightly so I want to make sure that I'm reacting in order as I move through the article.


First thing is just a pet peeve.

Of the 255 men in the Hall of Fame, 18 are catchers. The only position with worse absolute representation is third base, with 17 having been inducted.


I don't get why this has to be mentioned, is there any particular reason to assume that positions are equally balanced as hofers? That just doesn't really make any logical sense to me. Especially in regards to catchers. They play shorter seasons, and they frequently have shorter careers as plus players. So if you are thinking of a hofer as a guy who had a combo peak/career, catchers are going to automatically suffer in this regards, and there is no reason to think that you have to equal representation of positions. I will get a host of other arguments about WHY catchers are underrepresented, but the mere fact of them being under represented doesn't really have any bearing on whether someone should be considered, just to equal out a quota.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2018 at 08:08 PM (#5723576)
Early in the article and the writer immediately goes to the lowest common denominator argument and doubles down by listing just hofers... I have no problem with the Freehan argument, but the first argument for Freehan should not be "if Schalk and Ferrell are in, then so should Freehan." And that is what the first few paragraphs of the article boil down to.


At least he quickly acknowledges that others should be included after making that argument. But still it's a crappy argument to lead off your reasoning.. That argument boils down to "Freehan is better than Buck Ewing, Roger Bresnahan, Roy Campanella, and widely ridiculed hof choices Rick Ferrell and Ray Schalk.... so his first argument is basically there are 6 players inferior by this one metric(apparently he can't count, as there are five inferior--unless Lombardi's 39.9 is somehow below Freehan's 39.3) of those five, one is pretty much exactly equal(Ewing) one is Campanella--who nobody thinks is inferior to Freehan, two are widely considered some of the worst picks ever made by the hof... so basically by this metric there is really just one guy in the hof who wasn't a clear mistake and is properly inferior to Freehan.... and that is Roger Bresnahan. Not what you call a strong argument, especially when you then make the argument immediately following that there are a few other catchers who should be also in the hof.
   25. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2018 at 08:19 PM (#5723579)
After that dubious start, the writer bounces back and basically just list players by jaws and if they are better than Breshanan he argues they belong. Throws in an anecdote or two and moves on to the next guy. Fine part of the article, but really doesn't attack why catchers are underrepresented or why they should have more representation. Just a list of guys who are better than the third worst catcher in the hof.
   26. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2018 at 08:21 PM (#5723580)
And apparently that was the end of the article. I was fully expecting from Fangraphs an argument to be made "why catchers are underrepresented and why that shouldn't be the case." instead we get a Tiger fan writing an article because he thinks Freehan should be in the hof and he realized that in order to make that argument he must argue for a bunch of other catchers so that Freehan doesn't look like the weak child.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2018 at 08:31 PM (#5723591)
I'm definitely in on Bennett, Simmons, Munson as well as the unmentioned in the article, Wally Schang. I'm a solid maybe on Freehan, Tenace, and Posada (I lean yes on Freehan and no on the other 2, but all very close). I'm out on Howard. Only 2 Hall of Famers rate worse than Howard and they're the 2 who shouldn't be in the Hall in the first place. In the Hall of Merit voting, I'm a strong supporter of both Munson and Schang (Bennett, Simmons, and Freehan are already in that Hall).


For some reason I'm more of a Freehan supporter than a Munson supporter but I wouldn't complain about both going in. I don't know enough about Schang to make an informed opinion to be honest. The guys who crossed over from the teens to the 20's are a group of people that I am dubious on how I evaluate them. I have to look at them much more in depth individually than I have for this particular case. There was a host of changes in the game that changed a lot of ways to evaluate players that it makes it tough to just quickly look at bb-ref and feel with any confidence on any guy in the range that Schang covers... and I've never evaluated him beyond that. So I can't say yea, nea or even borderline on him.



   28. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2018 at 09:12 PM (#5723635)
I'm definitely a yes on Simmons. Like Piazza he had a poor defensive reputation, but I really don't think his actual stats warrant this.


The issue on Simmons, like on Piazza is that he didn't have a good arm, but in his era, where people ran more than they do nowadays, he was above the break even point so the poor arm didn't actually hurt him, and in some arguments, helped him overall. (there are plenty of flaws with this argument but I think Bill James was the first to make it, and others have also made it.)

And like Piazza, Simmons didn't have a bad reputation with handling pitching staffs, (Piazza never in a full season caught a pitching staff that didn't finish in the top 5 in their league in fewest runs allowed per game and most seasons they finished top three, say what you will about the quality of staffs he had, it's pretty clear he didn't hurt them with his pitch handling)

   29. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2018 at 09:16 PM (#5723641)
Lots of passed balls don't trouble me. Catcher have the same problems as relief pitchers (just to not nearly the same extreme): they just don't play enough. Besides the stuff about character, the hall of fame instructions tell voters to evaluate players on two standards: their skill, and their contributions to their teams. Catchers can be as skillful as anybody, but they miss so much time that they'll often just not measure up to that second requirement.


Pitchers miss even more time and nobody is saying that they shouldn't go in the hof.


The thing about catchers is that there is a belief out there that all positions players are worth the same on a per game basis on average, while a pitcher is more valuable on a per game basis because of the number of times they touch the ball and the control they have when they have the ball, but there is absolutely a good argument to be made that catchers are also worth more than other positions players on a per inning basis. If an average second baseman or shortstop is worth 2 war a year, maybe we need to start thinking that an average catcher is worth maybe 3 or even 4 war over the course of 150 games a season.
   30. Walt Davis Posted: August 08, 2018 at 09:20 PM (#5723651)
the first argument for Freehan should not be "if Schalk and Ferrell are in, then so should Freehan."

Agreed. Even setting aside the LCD argument, HoF catcher standards changed after WW2 and they should have. Catcher careers last much longer than they did then (one could put the divide at around 1960 if you want, suggesting expansion playing a role). Anyway, 6 of the top 25 in games caught were pre-WW2. Also, almost no pre-war catchers made it to post-war ... Lombardi and Al Lopez barely did, Jim Hegan had 80 games before the war but he just lasted a long time without much value (nearly 1700 games, 4 career WAR). Lombardi, Ewing, Schang and their mid-40s WAR and contemporaneous positional ranking have a much better case than Munson, Freehan, Posada, etc. do with their mid-40s WAR and contemporaneous positional rankings.

Possibly C is a position where WAA would be a better guide for cross-era comparisons to control for the PT differences?? The modern WAR borderline:

Dickey 32 WAA
Cochrane 30
Hartnett 30
Simmons 27 (ages 20-33, the C years)
Munson 26
Posey 26 (probably will begin to decline soon ... or move off C)
Lombardi 24
Schang 21
Freehan 21
Posada 17 (still only 23 even if you zero out Rfield)
Kendall 15 (or 17 if we ignore the last few years)
Porter 18

The differences are often small but that seems a pretty sensible ordering to me based on rep and where they ranked in their eras. It certainly suggests that Freehan and Posada (and Schang) may be a bit of a stretch.

Huh, b-r doesn't have a standard WAA leaderboard (amd my P-I is unsubbed at the moment).
   31. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2018 at 09:28 PM (#5723662)
Lots of passed balls don't trouble me.


If I'm honestly evaluating catchers and passed balls for some reason hit my radar, I'm going to look at combo passed balls/wild pitches combined, it's a subjective call but good defensive catchers will get the benefit of the doubt. (of course you do have to also look at how many knuckleballers they had, and adjust for that a bit too)
   32. SoSH U at work Posted: August 08, 2018 at 09:29 PM (#5723663)
Possibly C is a position where WAA would be a better guide for cross-era comparisons to control for the PT differences?? The modern WAR borderline:

Dickey 32 WAA
Cochrane 30
Hartnett 30
Simmons 27 (ages 20-33, the C years)
Munson 26
Posey 26 (probably will begin to decline soon ... or move off C)
Lombardi 24
Schang 21
Freehan 21
Posada 17 (still only 23 even if you zero out Rfield)
Kendall 15 (or 17 if we ignore the last few years)
Porter 18


Mauer is at 27.0 for his catching years.
   33. SoSH U at work Posted: August 08, 2018 at 09:32 PM (#5723668)
Lots of passed balls don't trouble me.



If I'm honestly evaluating catchers and passed balls for some reason hit my radar, I'm going to look at combo passed balls/wild pitches combined, it's a subjective call but good defensive catchers will get the benefit of the doubt. (of course you do have to also look at how many knuckleballers they had, and adjust for that a bit too)

You guys missed the point there. AROM said that if you took the Top 40 in position player WAR and divided them into four teams, the fact there is only one catcher on the list would lead to a lot of passed balls for the other three teams (since catcher isn't really a position you can move someone to).
   34. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2018 at 09:34 PM (#5723671)

Yes. The quantity that matters to accrue value isn't games, it's plate appearances. If he pitches 30 PA in each of those 30 starts, that's 900 PA which is more participation and more opportunity to accrue value than any hitter will see. WAR and WPA both reflect this and can rank a pitcher above each hitter.


So the pitcher is getting credit for those pa, but the catcher get's zero? He's the one making the calls, he's the one setting up the pitch, he's the one doing a good amount of legwork. Sure it's the pitcher doing the majority of the work, but the catcher does have some impact on every pitch. Even if you give the catcher just 10 percent of the credit, it still makes a huge difference in the potential value of the catcher. Even 5% of each plate appearance is huge over the course of the season.


   35. The Duke Posted: August 08, 2018 at 10:35 PM (#5723733)
I agree with number 9. Well said

I thought Freehan was outstanding from what little I saw him but in my day he was considered a big star.

I saw Simmons in his glory years in St. Louis. He hit line drives nearly every time he made contact. Had swagger, played every game, but was on some bad teams. You couldn’t hit a home run in old Busch except right down the foul lines so he adjusted his strokes from both sides of the plate ( yes he was a switch hitter!) to be a dead pull hitter and would hit screaming line drives right down the line and over the 330 marks on either side.

During his peak he was great. He hung on and lost about 3-4 WAR at the end but his prime was spectacular. His defense was fine.

   36. John Northey Posted: August 09, 2018 at 12:02 AM (#5723771)
I suspect if Munson played for anyone but the Yankees he'd have been forgotten by now by most fans.

For comparison....
Catchers with an MVP in the last 50 years... via FanGraphs
Joe Mauer (2009)
Ivan Rodriguez (1999)
Thurmon Munson (1976)
Johnny Bench (twice)

Not a lot there. Bench and IRod were easy HOF'ers. Mauer (3 gold gloves) and Munson (3 gold gloves) will probably never get in - if Mauer can play into his 40's maybe. Pre-injuries Mauer had a shot but if he had a tragic accident would anyone here have put him in?

For times at the All-Star game, he made it 7 times. Other non-HOF'ers with that many as a catcher are...
Del Crandall (8 times, 28.6 WAR, 4 gold gloves)
Bill Freehan (11 times, 44.8 WAR, 5 gold gloves)
Walker Cooper (8 times, 28.9 WAR)

I see Munson as a lot like Mattingly. If they played anywhere but New York odds are they'd have been forgotten when HOF talks occur now outside of 'oh yeah, he looked good at one time'.

   37. Tubbs is Bobby Grich when he flys off the handle Posted: August 09, 2018 at 12:03 AM (#5723773)

As am I, but what strikes me about this is that I'd literally never heard of Peter Morris before today and now I've seen glowing references here to two of his books. Time to visit Amazon..


Peter Morris was on the Era Committee panel that 19th century catching pioneer Deacon White was voted in on. Morris likely played a huge role in White's overdue election
   38. Tubbs is Bobby Grich when he flys off the handle Posted: August 09, 2018 at 12:29 AM (#5723779)
I'm not really passionate about any of the overlooked catcher's for the HOF but I wouldn't have a problem seeing any of these overlooked candidates make it in

Bennett--I lean toward yes but what has always given me pause with Bennett is his offense tanked after moving from the Detroit Wolverines to the Boston Beaneaters. Pioneer credit probably puts him over the top for me

Schang--was part of 3 World Series winners, OBP machine. Very borderline, definitely a candidate who I'd like to study and belongs on an Era Committee ballot

Freehan--I'm a no on Freehan but I wouldn't mind seeing him elected and like pretty much everyone in the article, he at least deserves more recognition and to be on the Era Committee ballot

Simmons--yes and after missing by 1 vote on the Modern Baseball Era ballot, I hope to see him get voted in

Munson--intriguing candidate, certainly behind Simmons though. Probably a yes

Howard--I feel he's short of HOF but pioneer credit puts him closer than I thought

Tenace--I love me some Swingin A's & Gene Tenace but he just didn't catch nearly enough plus where his OBP/power game did a lot in Oakland's solid batting order, I feel like the lowly Padres and their even-more-cavernous-than-the-Coliseum, Padres Stadium minimized the impact that Tenace's high OBP and power with low batting average hitting style

Posada--wow the Yanks had a lot of catchers with borderline HOF cases (Schang, Munson, Howard, Posada). His HOF case and defense are butchered by WAR. He's probably a no for me but I've said before that the Yanks couldnt have possibly been that bad up the middle (Posada, Jeter, Bernie ) & won all those games. He deserves a longer look

I enjoyed the article and the discussion it has brought up
   39. tshipman Posted: August 09, 2018 at 12:30 AM (#5723781)
Catchers with an MVP in the last 50 years... via FanGraphs


You missed Posey.

***

Catchers are undervalued by WAR because it does a bad job of accounting for defense, particularly framing.

That's a good reason to bump up some catchers, but not all catchers. Bumping up Posada, for instance, because WAR underrated Bench, Piazza and Posey is not exactly the answer. Posada's getting horribly overrated in this thread.
   40. QLE Posted: August 09, 2018 at 02:02 AM (#5723793)
In addition to what's already been pointed out, Peter Morris also have a strong reputation as being the leading hunter of biographical data for baseball players- rather significant, given all the gaps in our knowledge of 19th century (and even some early 20th century) players.
   41. Walt Davis Posted: August 09, 2018 at 03:54 AM (#5723795)
adjust for that a bit too)

More than a bit. Guys who catch knuckleballers are a near cinch to lead the league in PB, often by a lot. See the infamous Josh Thole thread (wherever that is). Not sure many of the HoF-plausible Cs have much time with knucklers though so it may not matter in practice.

Mauer is at 27.0 for his catching years.

I'm a little surprised it's that high. Note even in those years he was too close to "catcher" than catcher for my tastes with just 856 starts in 9 seasons. Four of those "seasons" combine for just 280 starts and most of the other 5 seasons were more like 2 out of every 3 starts. If he'd gone on to be a very good 1B/DH, I'd be more supportive. In his 4+ years since, he's basically been dead average.

It does separate him more than I'd have guessed from Torre who had just 22 WAA in his catching years. Torre was better post-catching with 16 WAR, 5 WAA. (which doesn't surprise me given the big MVP year)

   42. John DiFool2 Posted: August 09, 2018 at 07:39 AM (#5723804)
For comparison....
Catchers with an MVP in the last 50 years... via FanGraphs
Joe Mauer (2009)
Ivan Rodriguez (1999)
Thurmon Munson (1976)
Johnny Bench (twice)
Posey (2012)


Previous 50 gives us 11.
   43. Rally Posted: August 09, 2018 at 08:40 AM (#5723827)
You guys missed the point there. AROM said that if you took the Top 40 in position player WAR and divided them into four teams, the fact there is only one catcher on the list would lead to a lot of passed balls for the other three teams (since catcher isn't really a position you can move someone to).


Close, but you'd have zero catchers - Bench doesn't come up on the list until you get to #47. I suppose Jimmie Foxx could put on the tools of ignorance.

Catchers are undervalued by WAR because it does a bad job of accounting for defense, particularly framing.

That's a good reason to bump up some catchers, but not all catchers. Bumping up Posada, for instance, because WAR underrated Bench, Piazza and Posey is not exactly the answer. Posada's getting horribly overrated in this thread.


I did look at strikeout and walk rates with and without catchers, kind of a proxy for framing for the years we have PBP data but not pitch location.

Bench was above average but not by a lot. Most of the top catchers were good at this, Fisk was a deity. It doesn't help Munson's case or hurt it. Freehan does not look so good by this.

If an average second baseman or shortstop is worth 2 war a year, maybe we need to start thinking that an average catcher is worth maybe 3 or even 4 war over the course of 150 games a season.


I challenge you to actually work through that idea and decide if it could possibly work. For example, how much WAR would be assigned to the worst catchers, the ones who get released? Can you really call it replacement level if it's set in such a way that a catcher who hits .170 with average defense is going to be above replacement? How much money would it suggest you pay an ordinary catcher on the free agent market, the Kurt Suzukis and Chris Iannettas. Do you really think teams are vastly underpaying these guys?
   44. Dennis Eclairskey, closer Posted: August 09, 2018 at 08:42 AM (#5723829)
FWIW, Bill James recently put Munson's HOF case down on Twitter but honestly I couldn't tell if maybe he was trolling

Munson's very borderline for me. I get what #36 about Yankees borderline HOF candidates and agree to a certain degree but it's what happened and in Munson's case he was a big part of 3 Yankee Pennants. I believe James said something to the effect that Munson's HOF case is waaaay overrated and his Bomber teammates Graig Nettles' & Willie Randolph's are underrated
   45. Rally Posted: August 09, 2018 at 09:20 AM (#5723854)
At the time he retired, Wally Schang was the #1 catcher (defined as 50% or more of his games catching) by WAR

45 Schang
41 Bresnahan
39 Bennett

If I walk that back to 30% since star catchers in the early days did not catch exclusively I get:

48 Buck Ewing
44 King Kelly

   46. Karl from NY Posted: August 09, 2018 at 10:20 AM (#5723916)
I don't get why this has to be mentioned, is there any particular reason to assume that positions are equally balanced as hofers?

There is no reason they would be equal -- but people intuitively want them to be. The American sense of equality and fairness is so strong that people want to think the 18th best C or 3B is just as deserving as the 18th best 1B. More of a certain position feels like favoritism and against the idea that a team needs everyone, even if it's entirely supported by the statistics.
   47. Rally Posted: August 09, 2018 at 10:44 AM (#5723950)
If it's 2B vs. SS, or LF vs. CF, then I see no reason to assume positions should be represented equally. If a second baseman was as good a defender as a shortstop he would have stuck there (almost all of them were SS before MLB). If a left fielder was faster or threw better, he'd play center. Catcher is the one spot where some relaxation of the standards is needed just because the demands of the position are so different.

Out of curiosity, here's what the Hall of WAR would have, top 176 position players retired at least as long as Chipper, with no consideration for peak, military service, color line, season length, roids, or anything that would take more than 5 minutes work to post. Position is the spot where he played the plurality of his games. This is not the best way to classify players, just a quick one.

1B 29
RF 28
CF 23
LF 22
3B 20
2B 20
SS 19
C 11
DH 4

Besides Frank and Edgar, Brian Downing and Paul Molitor played DH more than anywhere else, but they played less than half of their games at DH.
   48. Rally Posted: August 09, 2018 at 10:52 AM (#5723961)
The cutoff line of the Hall of WAR is 50 - Ellis Burks and Brett Butler are the last 2 and they round up to 50. I was a bit surprised it was that low considering we have plenty of guys 50+ and some in the 60s who get little consideration for HOF. Not just guys like Nettles and Keith Hernandez, who get some support along the lines of "they should be in too", but guys nobody mentions like Toby Harrah and Brian Giles.

HOF can exclude so many above that line and still get to 176 for many reasons. Some legit like season length in the 1800s, or players with little or no reliable stats from the Negro Leagues. Some are flat out mistakes. Some have legit claim to the fame part (3000 hits, SB record, WS performance) like Lou Brock despite unimpressive value stats.
   49. Carl Goetz Posted: August 09, 2018 at 10:58 AM (#5723967)
"There is no reason they would be equal -- but people intuitively want them to be. The American sense of equality and fairness is so strong that people want to think the 18th best C or 3B is just as deserving as the 18th best 1B."

There's no reason they should be exactly equal, but I'd definitely re-examine my evaluation system if the 25th best 1B ranked higher than 18th best catcher. Keep in mind that you need 9 men on the field and 9 men in your lineup. The reason the average 1B is so much better at the plate than the average catcher is that the catcher is roughly that much more valuable on defense. The main issues with catcher are 1) measuring that defensive component (particularly for historical catchers) and 2) adjusting for the wear and tear of the position on the overall stats of the catcher. The fact is, the overall position of Catcher is just as valuable as the overall position of 1B. That the 1B generates more of that value on offense and the Catcher on defense doesn't change the overall value of the position.
   50. Karl from NY Posted: August 09, 2018 at 12:26 PM (#5724064)
The fact is, the overall position of Catcher is just as valuable as the overall position of 1B.

This is not fact, this is opinion.

There is no inherent reason that the value of a baseball team would divide evenly between the 9 men in the field and lineup. We create that illusion for ourselves, because the 9 positions seem to be close in value so that we intuitively assume they are equal and invent adjustments to make the statistics seem so, but there is no inherent reason that it must be true. Obviously the pitcher contributes more run-prevention value than the rest of the defense, but we do not pick pitchers so that the sum of their pitching+hitting skill matches the defense+hitting skill of someone at another position.

Put identical players in RF and LF. The one in LF will catch more balls and contribute more value, because more balls are hit that way from RH batters.
   51. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2018 at 01:01 PM (#5724104)
It should be remembered that Munson's career was terminated suddenly and tragically. He essentially has the same WAR (46) as Freehan and Simmons (yeah, Simmons has 50 WAR, but that's in a much longer career), and would have undoubtedly added to that had he lived. Considering that, along with those intangibles, he should be as viable a candidate as almost anyone from that era not already in.
   52. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 09, 2018 at 01:17 PM (#5724117)
It should be remembered that Munson's career was terminated suddenly and tragically. He essentially has the same WAR (46) as Freehan and Simmons (yeah, Simmons has 50 WAR, but that's in a much longer career), and would have undoubtedly added to that had he lived. Considering that, along with those intangibles, he should be as viable a candidate as almost anyone from that era not already in.

yeah--he would have added, but I'm not sure how much, especially as a catcher. He was slowing down visibly the last couple years. Bad shoulder, couldn't throw, couldn't catch up to fastballs. In his last few years he actually hit breaking pitches better than fastballs. One oddity I've noticed when people make the case for him is that they never mention what a stellar postseason performer he was--like they do for Ortiz and Bloody Sock. 357/378/496 in 135 PAs (and 2 ringzzz)
   53. Carl Goetz Posted: August 09, 2018 at 01:23 PM (#5724122)
"This is not fact, this is opinion.

There is no inherent reason that the value of a baseball team would divide evenly between the 9 men in the field and lineup. "

Fair, but there is a limit to how different those values can be. All are necessary to play a game (at least at the major league level). And the more value a player brings on defense, the less is required of him on offense. But you are correct; there is no built in reason the positions need to be equally valuable.

   54. BDC Posted: August 09, 2018 at 01:29 PM (#5724134)
Put identical players in RF and LF. The one in LF will catch more balls


RFs make slightly more putouts than LFs, not that that changes your overall (and valid) point about different value by position.
   55. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2018 at 01:37 PM (#5724141)
52

Yeah, I remember Bill James in the abstract that came out a year later saying Munson was sliding. But until his death, he had still started 88 games. It would not have taken many seasons of diminished play to bring him over the borderline. Of course, this is merely a reasoning conjecture, but I can't see making cases for Simmons or whomever and blowing Munson off lightly as some seem to be doing.
   56. DanG Posted: August 09, 2018 at 01:41 PM (#5724143)
It should be remembered that Munson's career was terminated suddenly and tragically. He essentially has the same WAR (46) as Freehan and Simmons (yeah, Simmons has 50 WAR, but that's in a much longer career), and would have undoubtedly added to that had he lived.
How much value might Munson have added? He had a total of 1277 games at catcher, so it's quite conceivable he would have added another 500 games at the position had he lived.

Here are the WAR leaders with 500+ games at catcher from age 33+, retired by 2008 (a generation-plus after Munson):

Player         WARWAA/  OPSRfld   PA From   To   Age
Carlton Fisk   28.9  10.9  109  2.7 5500 1981 1993 33
-45 H
Gabby Hartnett 23.3  14.0  131  9.0 2763 1934 1941 33
-40 H
Elston Howard  15.9   5.9  105 23.4 3119 1962 1968 33
-39
Ernie Lombardi 15.3   7.5  121 
-8.0 2302 1941 1947 33-39 H
Deacon McGuire 14.0   2.4   92  8.0 3174 1897 1912 33
-48
Chief Zimmer   13.4   3.9   95 34.0 2758 1894 1903 33
-42
Bob Boone      13.3  
-0.5   73 78.0 4249 1981 1990 33-42
Walker Cooper  13.0   2.9  111 
-9.0 2601 1948 1957 33-42
Wally Schang   13.0   3.9  103 
-2.0 2436 1923 1931 33-41
Ernie Whitt    12.0   3.8  103 12.0 2574 1985 1991 33
-39
Sherm Lollar   11.6   4.6  106 23.4 2274 1958 1963 33
-38 

If Munson lives and adds another ten WAR, isn't he a slam dunk for the HOF with 56 WAR?
   57. Carl Goetz Posted: August 09, 2018 at 01:54 PM (#5724154)
"If Munson lives and adds another ten WAR, is't he a slam dunk for the HOF with 56 WAR?"

Yes. He's borderline with his actual accomplishments so any Early Death credit someone wants to give him just make him that much easier of a choice. Though 10 more WAR seems like a stretch. He was clearly in decline for a few years prior to his death.
1975 6.6 WAR
1976 5.3
1977 4.9
1978 3.3
1979 3.5 (2.4 prorated for a full 1979 season)

Maybe he had 3 more 3 WAR seasons or 4 more 2.0-2.5 WAR seasons in him but that does feel like a conservative guess. I'd put my guess at more like 5-7 WAR, though I don't give Early Death credit in my HOM rankings.
   58. Carl Goetz Posted: August 09, 2018 at 01:57 PM (#5724158)
"Of course, this is merely a reasoning conjecture, but I can't see making cases for Simmons or whomever and blowing Munson off lightly as some seem to be doing."

I'd agree with this. If Simmons had died at 32, he'd be right around Munson in total WAR. Simmons had a longer career to be sure, but didn't add much to his Hall case in those extra years.
   59. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2018 at 02:07 PM (#5724168)
Munson was an all-star 7 out of his nine full seasons, and in his rookie season when he wasn't chosen he was ROY. He was a good hard-nosed catcher (and, yes, an #######), a very good hitter for a catcher, and a team leader. The only reason he didn't get much respect in the voting, I think, is he was universally disliked as a person by the press.
   60. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2018 at 02:08 PM (#5724170)
And I'm a Red Sox fan.
   61. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 09, 2018 at 02:12 PM (#5724174)
The only reason he didn't get much respect in the voting, I think, is he was universally disliked as a person by the press.

until the moment he was killed--then it was nothing but encomiums. Bouton got fired from the local CBS station for pointing out (in so many words) what an a-hole Thurman was
   62. Rally Posted: August 09, 2018 at 02:45 PM (#5724214)
Fair, but there is a limit to how different those values can be. All are necessary to play a game (at least at the major league level). And the more value a player brings on defense, the less is required of him on offense. But you are correct; there is no built in reason the positions need to be equally valuable.


Yeah, no reason they have to be equal, but there is a limit to how much they can diverge. If you have a glut at one position and weak players at another, you make somebody switch positions to get the best players on the field. Some players are limited in what spots they can play but there is enough player movement to move at least somewhat towards equality.
   63. oscar madisox Posted: August 09, 2018 at 02:53 PM (#5724223)
How much value might Munson have added? He had a total of 1277 games at catcher, so it's quite conceivable he would have added another 500 games at the position had he lived.


I don't believe there's any way Munson would have played 500 more games at catcher. His knees were shot in mid 1979 and the Yankees were actively looking to play him at other positions. In fact he played first base for most of the last week of his life (Chambliss was injured).

The Aug. 18, 1979 issue of the Sporting News quoted a conversation between Munson and Yanks trainer Gene Monanan, with Munson lamenting his knee pain and asking if he was ever going to feel better. Monahan responded by saying they would get his knee "cleaned out and give him an arthroscope." It seems certain he was going to have surgery either in August-September or after the season. Though it is possible he comes back to catch in 1980 he would have been 33 in June. At the same age Johnny Bench was moved to first base and then third base and as someone said earlier Ted Simmons was basically done catching. It seems more likely that the Yanks would have made the Cerone for Chambliss trade after the season anyway and would have tried to move a healthier Munson to first base in 1980.
   64. Rally Posted: August 09, 2018 at 02:54 PM (#5724224)
He was slowing down visibly the last couple years. Bad shoulder, couldn't throw, couldn't catch up to fastballs. In his last few years he actually hit breaking pitches better than fastballs.


Looks like his bat was seriously slowing down. After being a reasonable 15-20 HR power threat he hit only 6 in a full 1978 season, and 3 in 97 games for 1979. He could still put the bat on the ball, but my guess for what his future held probably looked something like Jason Kendall's final years.

As for not being able to throw, he gunned down 46% of base stealers his last year. Over 40% each of his last 3 years, and in the late 70s stolen base attempts were kind of in. He may not have looked great doing it, but he sure got the job done.
   65. Walt Davis Posted: August 09, 2018 at 04:35 PM (#5724319)
Kendall from 33-36 was still 5 WAR, including a 3-WAR season.

It's true that Bench stopped catching after 32 but he also had over 1600 starts by then, having begun at 19. So was Simmons. Munson was still 350-400 games short of that. And his decline is vastly overstated here -- he was possibly about to be completely derailed by the knee but the guy was still a 1 WAA player in those last 97 games, there's still plenty of decline phase left there barring major injury. Of course Simmons was just such a guy, having one final excellent season at 33 then completely falling off a cliff.

Obviously we'll never know. We know he was having knee problems. But he barely spent any time in the minors, I don't imagine Kent State's seasons were all that long so he would have had less daily wear and tear than most old Cs. Despite the knees he's still credited as an average runner, he's still not hitting into many DPs, the power is gone but the BA is still there ... but that's not good enough for 1B/DH so he's gonna have to hang in as at least a half-time C. In th end, he was still a very good player in that last season so, although possible, we don't have good reason to think he was gonna sink to replacement-level immediately.

Simmons is really a guy you have to decide if you are going to ding him for hanging on way too long. He was at 53 WAR, 27 WAA after age 33 and finished at 50/19.
   66. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 09, 2018 at 05:09 PM (#5724345)

Fair, but there is a limit to how different those values can be. All are necessary to play a game (at least at the major league level). And the more value a player brings on defense, the less is required of him on offense. But you are correct; there is no built in reason the positions need to be equally valuable.

A few thoughts on this:

When we talk about player value, we are talking about it versus a baseline -- a replacement-level player at the position (or the average player at the position). Last I looked, both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference basically assumed that the offensive difference between average and replacement level at every position was the same. This is an assumption, though, and not an empirical observation. Perhaps the universe of guys who can play behind the plate at a competent MLB level is so small that there is a bigger gap between average and replacement level. Or perhaps catchers get so beaten up during the season that the average is actually closer to replacement level than at other positions. If our replacement level is off, we may be undervaluing or overvaluing catchers.

And then when we talk about HOF-caliber players, we are talking about the very best players of all time at each position. So we are really looking at how good the very best players are (relative to replacement level). If the best-hitting catchers are often moved off the position at an early age then you might find you have fewer HOF-worthy players there than at other positions.

I do think there's a practical limit to the amount of value that the best catchers can accrue, given the physical demands of the position, and that we should have a lower WAR bar for HOF catchers than for other positions -- once we have the right replacement level. This is not like relief pitchers who aren't good enough or durable enough to start -- this is about what appears to be a fundamental limitation caused by a position that needs to be filled.

I also do wonder whether WAR misses some of the strategic value of a great catcher in terms of roster construction. Teams have to devote two full roster spots to the catcher position, more than any other non-pitcher position. A consistent, durable catcher enables you to spend less money on your backup, maybe it enables you to use that backup as a PH more often, etc. And that won't show up in WAR. But I am just thinking out loud here.
   67. Karl from NY Posted: August 09, 2018 at 05:45 PM (#5724355)
Catcher is unique as the only defensive position that *makes you worse at offense*, thanks to the physical toll. That's the accurate description of what we're seeing here.

This isn't the same thing as positional scarcity. It really is missing value. Put a good hitter at C and he will become worse than if he hadn't; unlike moving a SS to 2B where the only value lost is relative to positional scarcity.

How should we account for that missing value? That's where there's grounds to apply a lower WAR bar for HOF catchers. Someone has to take that physical toll for the team. I was against that adjustment earlier in the thread but now it feels like I talked myself into it.
   68. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 09, 2018 at 06:04 PM (#5724362)

This isn't the same thing as positional scarcity. It really is missing value. Put a good hitter at C and he will become worse than if he hadn't; unlike moving a SS to 2B where the only value lost is relative to positional scarcity.

I would think that this effect should be captured with a lower replacement level than other positions. Or is the idea that playing C has more of an effect on hitters who play the position for a long time, but the replacement level doesn't change because there's always fresh fodder you can put behind the plate? I can understand both arguments.
   69. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 09, 2018 at 06:08 PM (#5724364)
Simmons turns 69 today.

Simba in Winter: Celebrating Ted Simmons' career, birthday https://bronxtobushville.com/simba-winter-celebrating-ted-simmons/
   70. The Duke Posted: August 09, 2018 at 06:13 PM (#5724365)
I don’t know why anyone should get dinged for negative WAR at end of career. To me, hanging on, trying to eke out every last bit is true love of the game
. I always had an issue with Rickey Henderson’s oddball antics but he won me over by continuing to play minor league and independent ball Long after his useful career was over

In Simmons case, he had to be providing some other value to be allowed to hang on with such bad numbers.
   71. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 09, 2018 at 06:24 PM (#5724371)
In Simmons case, he had to be providing some other value to be allowed to hang on with such bad numbers.
Because teams never kept playing veterans long after they were useful just because they were veterans?
   72. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2018 at 06:36 PM (#5724376)
Catcher is unique as the only defensive position that *makes you worse at offense*, thanks to the physical toll. That's the accurate description of what we're seeing here.

Not just the physical toll, although that is definite. Mentally, the catcher's mind is diverted away from obsessing about hitting as an outfielder or first baseman's mind isn't.
   73. DanG Posted: August 09, 2018 at 09:38 PM (#5724482)
Retired players not in the HOF with 6 WAR in a season playing catcher:

Player        WARWAAOPSRfld  PA Year Age  Tm
Darrell Porter 7.6  5.4  142  9.0 679 1979  27 KCR
Thurman Munson 7.2  5.2  142  9.0 576 1973  26 NYY
Bill Freehan   7.0  4.7  145  4.9 635 1968  26 DET
Darren Daulton 6.9  5.1  156  3.0 585 1992  30 PHI
Javy Lopez     6.8  5.3  169  4.0 495 2003  32 ATL
Chris Hoiles   6.8  5.0  162  6.0 503 1993  28 BAL
Rick Wilkins   6.6  5.1  151 14.0 500 1993  26 CHC
Thurman Munson 6.6  4.3  126  7.8 661 1975  28 NYY
Bill Freehan   6.1  4.0  144 
-1.6 618 1967  25 DET
Tim McCarver   6.0  4.0  136 10.0 540 1967  25 STL 

Interesting that the two guys on here twice are Munson and Freehan.
   74. cardsfanboy Posted: August 09, 2018 at 10:06 PM (#5724494)
Catchers are undervalued by WAR because it does a bad job of accounting for defense, particularly framing.


I would have left that last part out(particularly framing.) as it doesn't account for pitch calling either (and we are at least a couple of years away from that for a real ability to analying pitch calling)

   75. DanG Posted: August 09, 2018 at 10:10 PM (#5724498)
One more. Most WAR, catchers not in the HOF at prime ages 25-30:

Player           WARWAAOPSRfield   PA From   To
Buster Posey     33.2 21.8  137   33.0 3615 2012 2017
Joe Mauer        30.8 19.3  141    2.0 3305 2008 2013
Thurman Munson   30.5 17.6  122    8.5 3679 1972 1977
Ted Simmons      27.8 16.3  138  
-13.2 3562 1975 1980
Bill Freehan     26.7 15.1  125   10.9 3282 1967 1972
Gene Tenace      24.4 13.3  136  
-19.0 3218 1972 1977
Jim Sundberg     24.2 13.6  101   59.6 3159 1976 1981
Yadier Molina    23.8 14.1  112   64.0 3172 2008 2013
Charlie Bennett  23.2 15.7  143   60.0 2052 1880 1885
Manny Sanguillen 21.8 10.8  105   42.5 3348 1969 1974 
   76. Rally Posted: August 09, 2018 at 10:19 PM (#5724503)
I did not realize McCarver ever had a year that good.

I checked Matt Nokes 1987 but he’s only about halfway there, 3.4. Bad defense, poor baserunning, and of course it being 1987 everybody was hitting.
   77. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 09, 2018 at 10:28 PM (#5724504)
I'm glad I waited long enough to see that Oscar and Rally correctly noted that Munson was visibly slowing down in his last two years, mostly because of the wear and tear on his knees. He had a great peak, but if he hadn't flown that plane I think his career would've petered out within another year or two. Much as I loved him as a player and for his solid postseason performances, I never thought of him as a Hall of Famer once his career was over, though given a pair of healthy knees and a better command of his plane he might have wound up as one.
   78. cardsfanboy Posted: August 09, 2018 at 10:29 PM (#5724505)
I challenge you to actually work through that idea and decide if it could possibly work. For example, how much WAR would be assigned to the worst catchers, the ones who get released? Can you really call it replacement level if it's set in such a way that a catcher who hits .170 with average defense is going to be above replacement? How much money would it suggest you pay an ordinary catcher on the free agent market, the Kurt Suzukis and Chris Iannettas. Do you really think teams are vastly underpaying these guys?


Teams routinely keep .170 hitting catchers as backups and let better hitters (.250) go because of a perceived lack of ability to call the game. I'm not sure the argument you are making is backed up with stats other than for a few years a few teams thought they could punt catchers defense because they were stat based analysis saying catchers defense was unimportant, and you do not see that being said any more by anyone.
   79. Howie Menckel Posted: August 09, 2018 at 10:41 PM (#5724510)
yes, I was a teenager when Munson died and I recall how broken down he was at that point.
no chance he could have continued as a C much longer, and I'm not sure he could even have played much longer anywhere.

the guy was a beast who would do anything to win - including completely break down his body at a young age.

I turned 18 around the time of the crash, and when the Yankees announced the attendance for their next home game at 51,151 - his number was 15 - I actually fell for it as some sort of kismet.

that said, no complaints. there WAS a huge crowd, and during the national anthem the catcher's slot was empty in homage. was a pretty nice, though terribly somber moment.
   80. SoSH U at work Posted: August 09, 2018 at 11:04 PM (#5724517)
I did not realize McCarver ever had a year that good.


And it wasn't even the year he led the NL in triples.
   81. winnipegwhip Posted: August 09, 2018 at 11:29 PM (#5724520)
To me, hanging on, trying to eke out every last bit is true love of the game
. I always had an issue with Rickey Henderson’s oddball antics but he won me over by continuing to play minor league and independent ball Long after his useful career was over


I saw Rafael Palmeiro go 3 for 5 last night with a walk on top of it in Winnipeg. It raised his average to .301 for the season. I agree with admiration for the guys who play because they love the game.
   82. BDC Posted: August 09, 2018 at 11:44 PM (#5724521)
Teams routinely keep .170 hitting catchers as backups and let better hitters (.250) go


That's a bit of an exaggeration. The only guy who gets kept on rosters hitting that low is Jeff Mathis, and even he has a .198 lifetime average.

.220 is more like it. There are quite a few backup catchers who have careers at that level. But if they drop much below, there's always somebody else who can hit like that. Heck, Mathis is hitting an even .220 over the past three years :)

Conversely, it's hard to think of a recent catcher who simply got let go when he (a) reached the majors as a catcher and (b) could hit .250. Ronny Paulino might be an example, but he hit a mighty empty .250 and also had PED issues.
   83. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 10, 2018 at 12:06 AM (#5724525)
Teams routinely keep .170 hitting catchers as backups

That's a bit of an exaggeration. The only guy who gets kept on rosters hitting that low is Jeff Mathis, and even he has a .198 lifetime average.


It is an exaggeration for MLB. but not in NPB. Backup catchers can play forever there if they get a defensive reputation - the best example is Kazunari Sanematsu, who has had an 18 year career while hitting .166.

Sanematsu has played at least one NPB game every season since 2000, with the exception of 2009. Over those 18 seasons, he has played 511 games, and amassed 950 PA. His career high in PA is 170, back in 2002 (he hit .129 that season). He hasn't broken 100 PA in a season since 2005. His lifetime line in NPB is .166/.238/.271. He does have 20 home runs, so he has a slight amount of power. But I still find it hard to believe that a catcher can have a 18-year career while hitting .166. He's still active, as a player/coach, but has appeared in only one game this season.
   84. Howie Menckel Posted: August 10, 2018 at 12:29 AM (#5724526)
Corky Miller says hi
in parts of 11 years, slashed .277/.306/.583 for a career OPS+ of 53 (.193 AVG from 2001-13)

finally seemed to figure it out at age 37, 112 OPS+ in 41 PA. the Reds were so impressed that they figured they'd let him leave on top

MLB AB for 4 teams. 1 for 55 in 2004-06 for 3 MLB teams, but the spike in the heart didn't happen.

5 for 60 in 2008? let's continue this experiment!

   85. tshipman Posted: August 10, 2018 at 01:23 AM (#5724530)
You also have to figure if replacement level is being set too high because it uses backup performance.

Catchers wear down when playing every day, so even if a guy hits .250 as a backup, there's no guarantee that he'd hit as well as the full time starter (in fact, we should doubt it).
   86. Walt Davis Posted: August 10, 2018 at 02:02 AM (#5724531)
A guy like Corky Miller is not a backup C (other than a season or two), he's the guy you stash at AAA for when one of your 2 MLB guys gets hurt. Koyie Hill is closer with his 207/266/287, 46 OPS+ line in over 1000 PA although about half those PAs came in 2009-10 for the "oh c'mon, we might have had a shot at being good" Cubs.

But yeah, backup Cs tend to be pretty freely available ... I wonder if any (intended!) backups have ever topped $2 M (Mathis never has it seems). Why the Red Sox have two of them I can't say but I guess they didn't want to embarrass everybody by playing 750 ball. But I digress ... in its way, the crappiness of the backup C speaks to positional scarcity. Teams know going in that they've gotta plan for at least 150 PA from the guy plus the extra injury risk a starting C carries yet they seem to put little effort into finding anybody who can hit back there (EDIT: That is, if there were lots of guys who could catch and hit decently, they'd find them ... instead they know they're lucky if there are 20 such beasties and no point getting worked up about your #2 guy). It also speaks to the emphasis on defensive value.

I don’t know why anyone should get dinged for negative WAR at end of career.

Well, the obvious argument is that they are hurting the team. And of course it's one thing when the final year is bad but the next-to-last one wasn't -- that's a case where he stuck around thinking there might be another season or two. But in some cases, it goes way too far and unfortunately Simmons is one of those. Of course it's really on the team for employing them but still ... in Simmons case, it's 1600 PA over 5 seasons with -3 WAR, -8 WAA as a DH/1B/PH with an 84 OPS+.

And of course we don't have much clue why players stick around. Was Biggio sticking around for the love of the game or for 3,000 hits? Simmons finished just short of 2500 hits and 250 HR -- was he thinking those milestones might get him into the HoF? (I'm guessing that must have been close to the record for hits by a C at the time.) We don't really know.

Certainly if we're going to indulge arguments like dinging Larry Walker because missing 30 games a year hurt his teams despite putting up 5 WAR in those seasons, we have to at least entertain the notion that hanging on for 500 games too long is detrimental to the team. If we want to consider both arguments unworthy, that's fine with me.
   87. The Duke Posted: August 10, 2018 at 06:17 AM (#5724536)
I’ve rarely seen teams be sentimental. If Simmons was kept on the roster despite really bad objectives stats for a number of years then there must have been some value there that doesn’t show up in the numbers. A player can’t stay just because he wants to. The team has to oblige.

At any rate, Simmons hall Case is based on his prime. If you zero out the last few years, his border line case becomes much stronger.
   88. Rally Posted: August 10, 2018 at 08:31 AM (#5724559)
Not just the physical toll, although that is definite. Mentally, the catcher's mind is diverted away from obsessing about hitting as an outfielder or first baseman's mind isn't.


I read an article about Angels prospect Taylor Ward recently. He was moved from catcher to third base this year. Before 2018 his batting line looked like he might be another Mathis. This year he started in AA, made it to AAA, and has hit .350 with some power, walks, and even 17 steals.

He talked about how as a catcher all the pre-game preparation time was focused on how to get out the opposing team's hitters. As a non-catcher, he can focus on studying video of the opposing pitchers.
   89. Rally Posted: August 10, 2018 at 08:51 AM (#5724567)
Teams routinely keep .170 hitting catchers as backups and let better hitters (.250) go because of a perceived lack of ability to call the game. I'm not sure the argument you are making is backed up with stats other than for a few years a few teams thought they could punt catchers defense because they were stat based analysis saying catchers defense was unimportant, and you do not see that being said any more by anyone.


The way replacement level is set, along with the position adjustment, these backups are generally showing as above replacement. Mathis is 1.3 WAR over what is now a 14 year career. So about 1 run above replacement per year. That doesn't include framing, he has been an OK framer but not a Molina type, so maybe teams see him as slightly more valuable than that. But we are in the right ballpark, since no team has ever paid him more than 2 million dollars, which indicates 0.25 wins over replacement.

Some other super weak hitting backups are Bobby Wilson (.208, 0.6 WAR), Jose Lobaton (.216, -.1 WAR), Chris Gimenez (.216, 0.6 WAR), and Drew Butera (.201, -2.5 WAR). These guys move around a lot, often on the waiver wire, and don't get much in the way of contracts.

Butera is an exception as he rates as below replacement and actually got a 2 year, 3.8 million dollar contract for 2017-18. It's the Royals, the team that also thinks giving playing time to Alcides Escobar is a good idea.
   90. BDC Posted: August 10, 2018 at 10:12 AM (#5724603)
The Rangers have been trying something unusual this year with a rookie named Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Kiner-Falefa was drafted out of high school; I don't know if he caught in HS, but for his first three years in the minors he played SS-3B-2B as so many young guys do. Then the next two seasons (2016-17) he caught 30 games each year, while still mostly playing infield.

This year they brought Kiner-Falefa up as a utility infielder. Meanwhile, their backup catchers were hitting in the .160s. (Their starter, Robinson Chirinos, doesn't remind anybody of Gabby Hartnett, either.)

In mid-June, Kiner-Falefa was hitting .255, and the Rangers made him the #2 catcher overnight, though he hadn't caught an inning in the majors to that point. He's started 15 of their last 42 games behind the plate. I don't know if the experiment will take, but at least one team prefers an unknown quantity batting .250 (actually .277 right now) to freely available .160 veteran catchers.

A bad team, mind you. But still.
   91. dlf Posted: August 10, 2018 at 10:25 AM (#5724612)
I’ve rarely seen teams be sentimental. If Simmons was kept on the roster despite really bad objectives stats for a number of years then there must have been some value there that doesn’t show up in the numbers. A player can’t stay just because he wants to. The team has to oblige.


The Braves management in the mid 80s was objectively bad. That they made the horrendous decision to sign a 35 year old ex-catcher isn't an indicia that there was some value there that doesn't show up in the number; it is evidence that Ted Turner should have stuck to television and his ranch.
   92. Rally Posted: August 10, 2018 at 10:47 AM (#5724626)
I don't see signing Ted Simmons at that point as horrendous or anything like it. It would be horrendous if they expected him to start in the middle of their lineup and paid him accordingly. He was signed as a backup to pinch hit and fill in every now and then at first, third, or behind the plate. For his first 2 years in ATL it looks like he did a cromulent job in that role. When he stopped being able to do that job, they stopped giving him contracts.

His million dollar salary in 1986 seems high given the role and the salary levels of the time (4th highest on team, superstar Dale Murphy made 1.825 mil), but giving him a bench job was nothing out of the ordinary.
   93. Karl from NY Posted: August 10, 2018 at 10:59 AM (#5724638)
Catcher is unique as the only defensive position that *makes you worse at offense*, thanks to the physical toll.

I would think that this effect should be captured with a lower replacement level than other positions. Or is the idea that playing C has more of an effect on hitters who play the position for a long time, but the replacement level doesn't change because there's always fresh fodder you can put behind the plate? I can understand both arguments.

The way replacement level is set, along with the position adjustment, these backups are generally showing as above replacement.

That last is actually correct, I think. Being a replacement C automatically bumps you above replacement value, because you're taking that physical toll so somebody else doesn't have to. Just squatting in the catcher's box for every pitch has value; it is a necessary task that consumes a finite resource. But that is not a skill and doesn't show up in any statistics. It should not show up as a lower replacement level, since yes there's always fresh fodder. The replacement level for a C should be higher since every one gets that "squat value" automatically.

Should this "squat value" contribute to HOF candidacy? I think it has to. The argument against is that squatting is something anyone can do, thus not a component of WAR or Fame. However, it is value, and thus should contribute to MVP and HOM candidacy... and it seems silly to argue that something should count towards those and not the HOF.

So yes, the HOF should apply a positional adjustment for catchers. It's unclear whether it is already doing so sufficiently; the number of catchers in the hall is not evidence either way.
   94. DanG Posted: August 10, 2018 at 11:21 AM (#5724653)
That's a bit of an exaggeration. The only guy who gets kept on rosters hitting that low is Jeff Mathis, and even he has a .198 lifetime average.

.220 is more like it. There are quite a few backup catchers who have careers at that level. But if they drop much below, there's always somebody else who can hit like that. Heck, Mathis is hitting an even .220 over the past three years
Catchers debuting since 1999 with career OPS+ under 70, minimum 1000 PA:

Player          OPSWAR/  BA   PA  From  To   G   OBP  SLG
Koyie Hill        46 
-2.6 .207 1049 2003 2014 341 .266 .287
Jeff Mathis       52  1.3 .199 2629 2005 2018 811 .259 .308
Drew Butera       53 
-2.5 .201 1315 2010 2018 482 .258 .297
Humberto Quintero 61  1.8 .234 1423 2003 2014 471 .267 .327
Wil Nieves        61 
-2.2 .241 1260 2002 2015 427 .280 .317
Chad Moeller      63 
-3.6 .226 1539 2000 2010 501 .288 .352
Chris Stewart     63  1.5 .230 1333 2006 2018 454 .297 .292
Jose Molina       64  3.2 .233 2795 1999 2014 947 .282 .327
Matt Treanor      66  1.3 .221 1482 2004 2012 468 .313 .305
Jose Lobaton      69 
-0.1 .216 1274 2009 2018 410 .294 .320 
   95. dlf Posted: August 10, 2018 at 11:28 AM (#5724659)
I don't see signing Ted Simmons at that point as horrendous or anything like it. ...

His million dollar salary in 1986 seems high given the role and the salary levels of the time (4th highest on team, superstar Dale Murphy made 1.825 mil), but giving him a bench job was nothing out of the ordinary.


I misstated one thing: he wasn't signed as a FA, the Braves traded for him. They gave up a cromulent catcher who has been referenced earlier in the thread, Rick Cerone (plus two MiLB warm bodies). They paid more for Simba than Cerone and the latter put up about 1 WAR per season during the remainder of Simmons career (plus a little more in the years after) while Simmons was basically a replacement player.

One other guy ahead of him on the salary chart was another player tied somewhat directly to Simmons - Bruce Sutter. It was Sutter's acquisition by the Cards that enabled Fingers to be included in the package with Simmons and others that sent Ted off to be a part-time catcher / DH for Harvey's Wallbangers (not to be confused with our dearly departed Harveys Wallbangers or, for that matter, the Galliano enhanced screwdriver from the shag carpet era years.) Sutter's acquisition, and the salary that he is *still* drawing is one more datum towards the conclusion about the early Turner era Braves (mis)management.
   96. Whoppers97 Posted: August 10, 2018 at 11:48 AM (#5724675)
At the risk of being a jerk, I think I'd give Munson a slighter boost if he had been a passenger, rather than the pilot... More of a passive vs. active role in his own passing.
   97. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: August 10, 2018 at 11:52 AM (#5724679)
It was Sutter's acquisition by the Cards that enabled Fingers to be included in the package with Simmons and others that sent Ted off to be a part-time catcher


Giving me an opportunity to lament anew that Barry Foote never caught Rollie Fingers. Or for that matter Bill Hands.
   98. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 10, 2018 at 11:54 AM (#5724682)

But that is not a skill and doesn't show up in any statistics. It should not show up as a lower replacement level, since yes there's always fresh fodder. The replacement level for a C should be higher since every one gets that "squat value" automatically.

I'm not sure there's always fodder, at least not at an offensive level that's 17 runs below average per 600 PA while being able to handle an MLB staff and the other physical and defensive aspects of catcher at the Major League level.

For example, I know it's the Mets, but when Plawecki and d'Arnaud both got hurt and before they traded for Mesoraco, they were starting Tomas Nido, who was 6 runs below the average catcher in 48 PA. But the fact that they were able to get Mesoraco, who has been about average, for the shell of Matt Harvey, maybe indicates the opposite of what I'm trying to say. This is probably something that can be measured empirically, but I don't have time to do it right now.
   99. Rally Posted: August 10, 2018 at 12:00 PM (#5724685)
I'm not sure there's always fodder, at least not at an offensive level that's 17 runs below average per 600 PA while being able to handle an MLB staff and the other physical and defensive aspects of catcher at the Major League level.


I think there is plenty of fodder 27 runs below average. That is where replacement level is for a catcher since they get the biggest position adjustment.
   100. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 10, 2018 at 12:02 PM (#5724687)
In mid-June, Kiner-Falefa was hitting .255, and the Rangers made him the #2 catcher overnight, though he hadn't caught an inning in the majors to that point. He's started 15 of their last 42 games behind the plate.
Couldn't resist the possibility of having a Bibens-Dirkx-Kiner-Falefa battery.
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