All Time Top Ten: Catchers (updated 7/21/13)

Top Ten players at Each Position

Part One: Catchers

My Rankings of the top ten baseball players of all time begins with the Catcher position.  I limit myself to only major league players, which leaves out Japanese Leaguers, Negro Leaguers, etc.  Mainly this is because I don’t have a good way to judge them.  I don’t think I’m biased… intuitively Josh Gibson seems like he would be in the top three catchers of all time at a minimum, but I can’t know enough to be sure, and that ultimately isn’t fair.  I won’t go into an in depth bio of these guys. Just quick notes about what I think of them where appropriate. Agree?  Disagree? Comment.

1.   Johnny Bench  1967-1983  2158G, 389HR, 1376RBI, .267BA, 126OPS+

Probably the top 5 catchers or so aren’t that far apart in value.  Bench is  one of the top ten fielding catchers ever, and certainly one of the ten best hitting as well.  I’m not sure any other catcher would make the top ten in both.

2.   Yogi Berra  1946-1963, 1965  2120G, 358HR, 1430 RBI, .285BA, 125OPS+

Berra has one of the best HR/SO ratios ever with only 414 strikeouts in his career.

3.   Carlton Fisk 1969-1993   2499G, 376HR, 1330RBI, .269BA, 117OPS+

An extremely long career for a catcher.

4.   Mickey Cochrane 1925-1937   1482G, 119HR, 832RBI, .320BA, 128OPS+

Short Career, but he packed a lot into it.  Two MVP awards (oddly enough in two of his worst seasons),  Five World Series Appearances with Three Championships and was the best of his generation of catchers.

5.   Mike Piazza  1993-2007    1912G,  427HR, 1335RBI, .308BA, 142OPS+

Easily the best hitting catcher of all time, except perhaps the aforementioned Gibson.  Piazza is also a good example of why catchers are as a rule not so great hitters with short careers, because if they were any better they’d be moved off of position to save on wear and tear.  Piazza stuck behind the plate until his last season however and as a result injuries forced him out of the league. Piazza wasn’t real good as a catcher, and couldn’t throw out runners to save his life.  That’s why he only ranks 5th.

6.   Ivan Rodriguez  1991-2011    2543G, 311HR, 1332RBI, .296BA, 106OPS+

Pudge Rodriguez is a modern day Carlton Fisk, he just keeps going and going. He has had Johnny Bench-level fielding abilities but isn’t as good a hitter as Bench was.  (Update: Rodriguez retired after the 2011 season so updated stats.. doesn’t really affect his ranking.)

7.   Gabby Hartnett 1922-1941   1990G, 236HR, 1179RBI, .297BA, 126OPS+

Hartnett was an all-star the first six years the game was held, won the NL MVP in 1935, and was second in 1937.  He appeared in four worlds series with the cubs.  They lost each time of course.

8.   Ted Simmons 1968-1988   2456G, 248HR, 1389RBI, .285BA, 117OPS+

Simmons was overlooked throughout his career because of Bench, Carter, Fisk, etc.  He was every bit in their class however.

9.   Roy Campanella  1948-1957    1215G, 242HR, 856RBI, .276BA, 124OPS+

I think Campanella tended to be a little overrated for many years.  He did win three MVP awards in 51, 53, and 55 with fantastic seasons.  I’m not sure he really was the best player in each of those years however, and in his other seven seasons was closer to average that one might expect.

10.   Gary Carter  1974-1992   2296G, 324HR, 1225RBI, .262BA, 115OPS+

Carter hurt himself trying to hang on just a little too long.  For a five or six year period in the late 70s/early 80s he was the best catcher in baseball.

Honorable Mention:  Jorge Posada, Bill Dickey, Bill Freehan, Elston Howard.

We’ll see where Joe Mauer is in ten years.