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Sunday, December 15, 2002

Gary Carter

Mike takes a look at The Kid’s accomplishments.

You?ll note that Carlton Fisk is rated as only the third-best comp for Gary Carter on baseball-reference.com, which stuns me.  How could there be two more similar players?  The first comp is Johnny Bench, who was clearly a better player than Gary, the second is Lance Parrish, just as clearly not as good as Carter.

 

Their career value pattern is different, Carter was great as a young player, Fisk was injured a lot.  Carter?s last season was at age 38, and Fisk, who was a workout fanatic, had 5 very good years past that age.

 

Other than that, they seem as similar as the Olsen twins.  Both finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting 4 times.  Both were selected to 11 all-star teams.  Fisk career stats are little better because he did play longer, and he played in better hitting parks. 

 

It took Fisk two attempts to enter the Hall, missing out the first year when the Brett-Yount-Ryan class went in.  Carter went on the ballot in 1998 and has slowly crept up the list.

 

So why is Fisk in and Carter out? I?d hope it isn?t just because of the ball that Fisk waved fair in the 1975 World Series, but it probably is.

Using the "Keltner Test" developed by Bill James in the 1980s, here are my answers to a set of 15 subjective questions to determine whether Carter should be on the outside looking in.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Yes, in 1986 he received one 1st place vote in the NL MVP voting, while finishing third behind Mike Schmidt and Glen Davis.  In 1980 he finished 2nd in the voting, but Mike Schmidt was a unanimous selection. 

2. Was he the best player on his team?

At least a half dozen times he was the best player on his team.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

From 1979 thru 1988 Carter was on every NL All-Star team, and twice won the MVP award for that game.  Basically between Bench and Piazza he was the dominant catcher in the National League.	

 

During the 1980?s Carter led all major league catchers in Runs Created per Game, and OPS. He won 3 Gold Gloves, an important consideration for such a key defensive position.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

From 1979 to 1982 Montreal was within 6 games of winning the division every year, and all five seasons he was a Met they finished first or second in the Eastern division.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

This is a tough test for any player but especially tough on a catcher.  Carter played in over 130 games at age 33 and 34, and more than 90 games each season at ages 36 thru 38.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Among the eligible players (not counting the first time players on the ballot), who played in the 20th century, Carter may be the best.  Carter, Dick Allen, Bert Blyleven, Ron Santo, the Evans brothers -  Darrell and Dwight, are the best.  Carter might be the best of that group.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Of the ten players listed as the most similar on baseball-reference.com, 4 are in the Hall, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra and Gabby Hartnet and two more are likely are likely to eventually get in, Joe Torre and Ron Santo. The others are Lance Parrish, Ted Simmons, Ron Cey, and Brian Downing. 

8. Do the player?s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

The Hall of Fame Standards test shows Carter with 41.3 points, and the average HOFer with 50.

 

The Hall of Fame Monitor shows Carter with 135 points, and the likely HOFer has more than 100.

 

Carter has 337 Career Win Shares.  The only catchers with more than 250 win Shares who are not in are Ted Simmons with 315, Joe Torre 315, Bill Freehan with 267 and Mike Piazza with 255.  Only 3 catchers have more career win shares than Carter and all three are HOFers.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Isn?t that a silly question for a Primer audience?  Carter?s career Park Factor per the stats handbook is 98, he hit exactly the same number of homers at home and on the road. 

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Yes ? Joe Torre and Ted Simmons are probably also deserving, but he is the best of the trio.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

He finished in the top 10 four times, finishing 2nd, 3rd, and 6th twice and received votes in 7 different seasons.  He had 4 seasons in his career in which he earned 30 or more win shares. Seasons with more than 30 win shares denote an MVP level of performance.

 

His biggest mistake was having his best years when Mike Schmidt was at his peak.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Carter was selected to the All-Star team 11 times, but didn?t play in 1985 due to an injury.  In ten of those seasons his production confirmed the selection.

 

Others who played in 10 All-Star Games, Mike Schmidt, Enos Slaughter, Kirby Puckett, Johnny Mize, Ryne Sandberg, Eddie Mathews, Joe Medwick, Steve Garvey, Carton Fisk, George Brett, Ken Boyer, and Luis Aparicio. 

 

9 of 11 are in the Hall, removing Sandberg as an unknown.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

Yes, but it never actually happened.  In the three seasons his teams made the post season Carter was not the best player on the team, and they never did in any of the half dozen seasons that he was the top player.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Not that I am aware of.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Yes.

Conclusion

Of the 15 questions above, there the lone question that works against him is number 14, or what I think of as the Candy Cummings question.  A few questions don?t promote his candidacy, 5,9, and 13.  The rest all come down on his side of the ledger, including the big one, number 6, "Is he the best player in baseball history not currently in the Hall of Fame?"

 

Should he be in the Hall is a ridiculous question to me.  Of course he should!

 

The better question is where he ranks all-time among the catchers.

 

I see the catchers this way.  The first-tier guys, Berra, Bench, Campanella, and Piazza. 

 

The second-tier guys who are all clearly Hall of Famers, Cocharne, Hartnett, Dickey, Fisk who are already in, and Gary Carter, Joe Torre, and Ted Simmons who aren?t.  Ivan Rodriguez probably finishes into this group if he can put together a couple more solid if not spectacular seasons.

 

After that there are probably thirty guys who are hard to rank, but definitely aren?t in the first or second group.  Some are in the Hall, and some are out.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason why a player is in or out.  Those that are include, Ernie Lombardi, Rick Ferrell, Ray Schalk and Roger Bresnahan.  Those that are out include Thurman Munson, Bill Freehan, Wally Schang, and Bob Boone.  I wouldn?t vote for any player in this group.

Mike Webber Posted: December 15, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Grammar Police Posted: December 15, 2002 at 02:10 AM (#607606)
Basically between Bench and Piazza he was the dominate catcher in the National League.

"dominate" should be "dominant."
   2. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: December 16, 2002 at 02:10 AM (#607622)
One thing that's always bugged me about Carter is that I've never seen anyone make the argument why he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. I understand why the sportswriters don't vote for Blyleven; they look back and say he was never considered one of the best pitchers at the time, didn't get a lot of Cy Young votes or make enough All-Star teams, and so on. They're wrong, but I can understand their reasoning. But I've never seen a writer explain why he wasn't voting for Gary Carter. If anyone sees a voter say why he isn't voting for Carter, could you let me know? Thanks.
   3. Ephus Posted: December 16, 2002 at 02:10 AM (#607625)
One of the reasons that Carter is not considered a lock for the Hall of Fame is his relationship with the New York media. IIRC, he was constantly the source of the Bull Durham cliches. He had a reputation for being as "real" as Steve Garvey. Of course, Carter has never had the fall from grace that Garvey did. The New York media did not consider Carter the leader on the 1986 Mets - Hernandez, Strawberry, Dykstra and Backman among the everyday players were the annointed. Carter also got dinged for not having a great arm when he was with the Mets (although Gooden, Fernandez, et al. were VERY slow to the plate). Finally, there was a great deal of ugliness as Carter pursued his 300th home run as catcher. As I remember, Carter's power fell off quick dramatically that year, and every time he came to bat, the failure to hit #300 was a topic of conversation.

Having said that, Carter clearly belongs in the HOF. He was a truly great catcher while an Expo. If Rick (Bleepin') Monday does not hit that home run, then Carter gets a chance to shine in the 1981 World Series, when he was at the crest of his powers. IMHO, the 1986 Mets do not win either the LCS or WS without Carter.
   4. Scott Fischthal Posted: December 16, 2002 at 02:10 AM (#607627)
Sal,

I think you underestimate Carter; Bill James had him rated in his Abstracts as the best catcher in baseball (not just the NL) for 7 years running (1980-86 Abstracts). He decided to split the rankings by league in the 1987, and had Carter ranked #1 in the NL that year. Usually he noted that #2 wasn't close (e.g., 1984: "Has been the #1 catcher since I started the player ratings and comments section five years ago. And to my mind, it's still an easy choice."). 1988 was the only Abstract in which James didn't rate Carter #1 (he was #3 in baseball that year).

FWIW, by Win Shares, Carter was in the top 20 in the NL many times, and top 20 in MLB several times:

Year WS MLBRank NLRank
1986: 23 28t 13t
1985: 33 5t 3t
1984: 30 8 6
1983: 24 21t 10t
1982: 31 4t 3
1981: 17 23t 10t
1980: 30 8 2
1979: 27 13t 6t
1978: 22 43t 20t
1977: 25 25t 14t

Before 1977, his top WS season was 1975 (18 WS). In 1987, he had only 13 WS, and declined from there. Still, that's 5 seasons in the top 20 in baseball, plus another 2 or 3 seasons where he could have been in the top 20 (missing by < 3 WS, which even James concedes is not a significant difference). He was one of the 10 best players in the league 7 times by this method, as well.


   5. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: December 17, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607656)
Well done Mike.

The one area I have an issue with is #9.

"Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Isn?t that a silly question for a Primer audience? Carter?s career Park Factor per the stats handbook is 98, he hit exactly the same number of homers at home and on the road."

I think we still want to look at things that may not show up in the stats, we want knowledge (at least I do) and stats are just the main part of that picture, not the whole picture. Other things would be areas like, whether or not his park was suited or not suited to his talents, did he miss time for military service or a strike, etc.. These are important too. I think that's what the intent was when the question was formulated, and I think it's relevant to people on this site, and if it isn't, it should be.
   6. bob mong Posted: December 17, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607660)
I see the catchers this way. The first-tier guys, Berra, Bench, Campanella, and Piazza.

The second-tier guys who are all clearly Hall of Famers, Cocharne, Hartnett, Dickey, Fisk who are already in, and Gary Carter, Joe Torre, and Ted Simmons who aren?t. Ivan Rodriguez probably finishes into this group if he can put together a couple more solid if not spectacular seasons.

After that there are probably thirty guys who are hard to rank, but definitely aren?t in the first or second group. Some are in the Hall, and some are out. There seems to be no rhyme or reason why a player is in or out. Those that are include, Ernie Lombardi, Rick Ferrell, Ray Schalk and Roger Bresnahan. Those that are out include Thurman Munson, Bill Freehan, Wally Schang, and Bob Boone. I wouldn?t vote for any player in this group.


I think you are severely underrating Ivan Rodriguez here, I assume because he is playing simultaneously with Mike Piazza, the greatest-hitting catcher of all time.

For a different view, check out the following chart:
I got, from baseballprospectus, the Fielding Runs Above Replacement (FRAR), the Batting Runs Above Replacement at Position (BRARP) for each catcher listed in the quoted selection above, as well as a couple of current catchers (denoted with an asterisk) and Darren Daulton (on this year's HOF ballot). I then prorated each catcher's career production to a 162-game season for comparison purposes. Here are the results:
Name           FRAR BRARP G RARP RARP/162 FRAR/162 BRARP/162
M. Piazza* 234 604 1393 838 97.46      27.21      70.24     
I. Rodriguez* 494 390 1479 884 96.83      54.11      42.72     
B. Dickey 457 515 1789 972 88.02      41.38      46.63     
R. Campanella 319 338 1215 657 87.60      42.53      45.07     
M. Cochrane 298 453 1482 751 82.09      32.57      49.52     
G. Carter 649 514 2296 1163 82.06      45.79      36.27     
J. Bench 495 597 2158 1092 81.98      37.16      44.82     
J. Posada* 163 200 724 363 81.22      36.47      44.75     
G. Hartnett 487 504 1990 991 80.67      39.65      41.03     
Y. Berra 501 542 2120 1043 79.70      38.28      41.42     
C. Johnson* 297 144 952 441 75.04      50.54      24.50     
C. Fisk    527 622 2499 1149 74.48      34.16      40.32     
T. Munson 297 344 1423 641 72.97      33.81      39.16     
B. Freehan 437 359 1774 796 72.69      39.91      32.78     
J. Kendall* 209 213 955 422 71.59      35.45      36.13     
J. Torre 330 575 2209 905 66.37      24.20      42.17     
D. Daulton 210 260 1161 470 65.58      29.30      36.28     
J. Lopez* 203 179 1027 382 60.26      32.02      28.24     
M. Lieberthal* 148 119 727 267 59.50      32.98      26.52     
B. Ausmus* 337 91 1171 428 59.21      46.62      12.59     
R. Bresnahan 182 333 1446 515 57.70      20.39      37.31     
E. Lombardi 203 456 1853 659 57.61      17.75      39.87     
R. Schalk 496 128 1762 624 57.37      45.60      11.77     
D. Wilson* 280 105 1089 385 57.27      41.65      15.62     
T. Simmons 328 537 2456 865 57.06      21.64      35.42     
R. Ferrell 397 252 1884 649 55.81      34.14      21.67     
B. Santiago* 407 218 1815 625 55.79      36.33      19.46     
W. Schang 240 369 1842 609 53.56      21.11      32.45     
B. Boone 553 180 2264 733 52.45      39.57      12.88     
J. Girardi* 326 46 1261 372 47.79      41.88      05.91     
M. Matheny* 205 -26 861 179 33.68      38.57      -04.89     
T. Lampkin* 110 50 777 160 33.36      22.93      10.42     


Now, obviously, fielding evaluations are subjective - but by all accounts I have ever read or heard, Ivan Rodriguez is truly a superlative fielder - and by Baseball Prospectus' accounting, this pretty much makes up the difference between Piazza and Rodriguez (on a per-game basis - obviously his greater durability gives him an edge). Anybody have any comments. I guess I would add, as a final caveat, that catchers' fielding is most likely the hardest to quantify, of all the positions. So this must be taken with a grain of salt.
   7. bob mong Posted: December 18, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607663)
As an additional aside, I used the "Adjusted for All-Time" numbers in the chart above. Anybody have any thoughts? Did I make any glaring errors in putting together that chart?
   8. bob mong Posted: December 18, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607673)
I don't know why it doesn't print right (well, it could be cuz I added some spaces on the end of some of the values to make the headers line up right) - try copying/pasting into notepad and printing from their? or pasting into a spreadsheet? Anyway, I am not going to repost, in the interest of not taking up an enormous amount of space, but here are the additional catchers you requested, plus a bunch of others:
Name           FRAR BRARP G RARP RARP/162 FRAR/162 BRARP/162
L. Parrish 507 371 1988 878 71.55      41.31      30.23     
M. Scioscia 424 212 1441 636 71.50      47.67      23.83     
S. Lollar 434 285 1752 719 66.48      40.13      26.35     
T. Steinbach 342 284 1546 626 65.60      35.84      29.76     
D. Porter 327 382 1782 709 64.45      29.73      34.73     
J. Roseboro 370 220 1585 590 60.30      37.82      22.49     
E. Howard 345 246 1605 591 59.65      34.82      24.83     
A. Lopez 537 159 1950 696 57.82      44.61      13.21     
S. Alomar* 261 137 1152 398 55.97      36.70      19.27     
J. Kling 270 131 1260 401 51.56      34.71      16.84     
R. Dempsey 394 167 1766 561 51.46      36.14      15.32     
S. O'Neill 340 124 1590 464 47.28      34.64      12.63     
T. McCarver 257 273 1909 530 44.98      21.81      23.17     
R. Fosse 167 81 924 248 43.48      29.28      14.20     
J. Hegan 405 38 1666 443 43.08      39.38      03.70     
D. McGuire 238 167 1781 405 36.84      21.65      15.19     
L. Sewell 356 0 1630 356 35.38      35.38      00.00     
B. Sullivan 107 58 962 165 27.79      18.02      09.77     
W. Robinson 232 3 1371 235 27.77      27.41      00.35     


Note that all figures (G, FRAR, BRARP, RARP, etc.) are totals for the player's entire career - including games not played at catcher.
   9. bob mong Posted: December 18, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607674)
And here are some rankings. All rankings on a per 162-game basis.

Top 21 (to include Johnny Bench) Fielding Catchers (by Baseball Prospectus' figures):
Name           FRAR G FRAR/162
I. Rodriguez* 494 1479 54.11     
C. Johnson* 297 952 50.54     
M. Scioscia 424 1441 47.67     
B. Ausmus* 337 1171 46.62     
G. Carter 649 2296 45.79     
R. Schalk 496 1762 45.60     
A. Lopez 537 1950 44.61     
R. Campanella 319 1215 42.53     
J. Girardi* 326 1261 41.88     
D. Wilson* 280 1089 41.65     
B. Dickey 457 1789 41.38     
L. Parrish 507 1988 41.31     
S. Lollar 434 1752 40.13     
B. Freehan 437 1774 39.91     
G. Hartnett 487 1990 39.65     
B. Boone 553 2264 39.57     
J. Hegan 405 1666 39.38     
M. Matheny* 205 861 38.57     
Y. Berra 501 2120 38.28     
J. Roseboro 370 1585 37.82     
J. Bench 495 2158 37.16     


Top 21 Hitting Catchers:
Name           BRARP G BRARP/162
M. Piazza* 604 1393 70.24     
M. Cochrane 453 1482 49.52     
B. Dickey 515 1789 46.63     
R. Campanella 338 1215 45.07     
J. Bench 597 2158 44.82     
J. Posada* 200 724 44.75     
I. Rodriguez* 390 1479 42.72     
J. Torre 575 2209 42.17     
Y. Berra 542 2120 41.42     
G. Hartnett 504 1990 41.03     
C. Fisk    622 2499 40.32     
E. Lombardi 456 1853 39.87     
T. Munson 344 1423 39.16     
R. Bresnahan 333 1446 37.31     
D. Daulton 260 1161 36.28     
G. Carter 514 2296 36.27     
J. Kendall* 213 955 36.13     
T. Simmons 537 2456 35.42     
D. Porter 382 1782 34.73     
B. Freehan 359 1774 32.78     
W. Schang 369 1842 32.45     


Top 21 Catchers, Overall:
Name           G RARP RARP/162
M. Piazza* 1393 838 97.46     
I. Rodriguez* 1479 884 96.83     
B. Dickey 1789 972 88.02     
R. Campanella 1215 657 87.60     
M. Cochrane 1482 751 82.09     
G. Carter 2296 1163 82.06     
J. Bench 2158 1092 81.98     
J. Posada* 724 363 81.22     
G. Hartnett 1990 991 80.67     
Y. Berra 2120 1043 79.70     
C. Johnson* 952 441 75.04     
C. Fisk    2499 1149 74.48     
T. Munson 1423 641 72.97     
B. Freehan 1774 796 72.69     
J. Kendall* 955 422 71.59     
L. Parrish 1988 878 71.55     
M. Scioscia 1441 636 71.50     
S. Lollar 1752 719 66.48     
J. Torre 2209 905 66.37     
T. Steinbach 1546 626 65.60     
D. Daulton 1161 470 65.58     


Interesting, to say the least?
   10. Paul Wendt Posted: December 19, 2002 at 02:11 AM (#607711)
Mike Webber's answer to #1 is soft on Carter, as others have said.

His answer to #5 is hard on Carter. To play regularly long after ones prime does not mean to play every day; anything more than half time is still regular play for a catcher. Carter played long after his prime just as Mike Kelly did in the 1890s, each because he could fill the catcher position adequately. (Maybe I should say "far below" rather than "long after" prime.)

Concerning #14, I don't think Candy Cummings is the right reference; he isn't classified as a Player at all, in the Hall. Think Jackie Robinson, a clear case. Think Larry Doby (AL integration), Luis Aparicio (revival of running game), Lew Alcindor (oops, a basketball player).

By the way, if Ichiro Suzuki plays five good years and retires without playing ten years here, will he be elected to the Hall of Fame as a Pioneer?

--
I infer that Buck Ewing and Deacon White are in another discussion, not to mention Mike Kelly and others who played less than half their career games at catcher. I wonder how many 19th century players, 1000+ games, qualify as catchers by the majority and by the plurality criteria.

Paul Wendt, Watertown MA

   11. eric Posted: December 20, 2002 at 02:12 AM (#607724)
"By the way, if Ichiro Suzuki plays five good years and retires without playing ten years here, will he be elected to the Hall of Fame as a Pioneer?"

I don't really want to hijack this thread, but that is a question I hope that somebody on Baseball Primer will write an article about, because I've been wondering about that myself.

The closest parallel I can think of is Monte Irvin, who played 8 years in the majors after a successful Negro League career. Granted, there has never been a "color line" against the Japanese, but there has been the "geography line." I would say that, since Ichiro is considered (from what I've read) to be the greatest player in Japanese history, and he has clearly proven that he can play on a superstar level against the big boys here, that the answer is yes, he should be elected (assuming he keeps it up another few years) not as a pioneer, but as a player.

I don't know, but my gut feeling is that the level of play Japanese baseball is probably close to the level Negro League baseball was, maybe not quite Major League, but definitely above AAA. So my question is, (and again, I'd rather see this in a separate article than to hijack this thread, the catcher discussion is very interesting), if we elect Ichiro, can Saduharu Oh be far behind?
   12. fracas' hope springs eternal Posted: December 21, 2002 at 02:12 AM (#607741)
[Ichiro Suzuki] has clearly proven that he can play on a superstar level [in the U.S.]

I don't mean to hijack the thread either, but this statement is, in a word, false. Ichiro's fame is superstar level, but his playing ability is merely well above average. Compare Ichiro's 2001 "MVP" stats to Gwynn's 1987 stats, both raw and adjusted, and rankings. Both were gold glove RFs who led their league in average and hits and stole exactly 56 bases. Gwynn also was 2nd in OBP, 5th in OPS, 3rd in OPS+ (158) and drew 82 walks. For this he finished 7th in MVP voting. Ichiro finished out of the top ten in OBP, OPS, OPS+ (127) and drew 30 walks. But they gave him the MVP.

Ichiro is a terrific player, but he has superstar celebrity, not superstar ability.
   13. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 22, 2002 at 02:12 AM (#607755)
Let the Kid go in.

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