C-WAR Hall of Fame Project: Catcher

Yogi Berra
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 C-WAR is a Hall of Fame monitoring system using career and peak WAR. C-WAR is the career WAR(P) totals from Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus added up and averaged out, plus an eight year peak (five best years in a row, plus 3 best additional years) from Baseball-Reference. Click herefor more information on C-WAR.

Hall of Fame standards vary by position, but a C-WAR score of 100 is usually the minimum of being Hall worthy. Ideally a player’s peak is 40+ (averaging 5 or more wins a year during their peak) and his career average is 60+.  However those standards are dramatically lower at catcher. The average C-WAR line for a Hall of Fame catcher is: 51.2 career average/34.0 peak/85.4 C-WAR. Even though the production standards are by far the lowest for entry at any position, the admission standards are very high. Only 16 catchers are enshrined in the Hall, 3 played exclusively in the Negro Leagues.

How to read the chart below:

The player’s name is followed by their career WAR from Baseball-Reference (BR), FanGraphs (FG), and Baseball Prospectus (BP). Those three numbers (or two, BP doesn’t publish historical WAR data prior to 1950) are averaged out (AVG). The AVG is the first half of C-WAR. Next you will find the player’s five best years in a row (BR-5), followed by the player’s three best additional seasons (BR-3), both according to Baseball- Reference’s WAR. Next to that is the total peak value (PK) of the five best years, and three best additional years added together. PK is the second half of C-WAR. Adding AVG+PK=C-WAR. The seasons next to PK are the five best years in a row (5 YEARS), followed by the three best additional years (3 YEARS +). The last number is C-WAR. Players highlighted in gold are members of the Hall of Fame. Players in blue are still active. You can zoom in and out of the chart with the magnifying glass symbols on the right, and download the entire PDF.

Please note that Baseball Prospectus’ WARP system is very unstable and produces frequent changes to a player’s value. The numbers below are up to date as of 11/24/12

Below is the chart for catchers:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Some notes on the chart:

1. Johnny Bench 74.4 AVG/49.2 PK/123.6 C-WAR

Johnny Bench is widely considered the best catcher of all-time and the numbers support this. Bench averaged 6.1 wins a year during his eight year peak, a peak that ranks second all-time for catchers just slightly behind Gary Carter. Among batters who played 50% or more of their games at catcher, Bench ranks 1st in career WAR on both Baseball-Reference (72.3) and FanGraphs (81.6). He also ranks 7th in OPS+ (126), 2nd in home runs (389), 3rd in RBI (1,376), 4th in runs (1,091), and is one of only eight catchers to reach the 2,000 hit plateau finishing with 2,048. Bench was also very solid defensively, FanGraphs rates him 10th among catchers. Using  the WAR calculations at Baseball-Reference, Bench has three of the top eight seasons a catcher has ever had. Mike Piazza surpassed Bench’s offensive production but was not the complete player bench was.

2. Gary Carter 67.0 AVG/50.1 PK/117.1 C-WAR

Carter averaged 6.2 wins a year during his peak, the highest peak average for a catcher. Among batters who played 50% or more of their games at catcher, Carter ranks in the top ten in home runs (324), RBI (1,225), runs (1,025),and hits finishing with 2,092. Carter was elite defensively, his defensive WAR of 25.4 ranks 2nd at catcher, and 14th overall.

3. Ivan Rodriguez 66.5 AVG/42 PK/108.5 C-WAR

Ivan Rodriguez caught the most games in history, with 2,377 games spent behind the plate. Rodriguez averaged 5.2 wins a year during his peak.  Among batters who played 50% or more of their games at catcher, Rodriguez ranks 1st in hits (2,844), doubles (572), and runs (1,354). Rodriguez is widely considered the best defensive catcher ever to play, both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference rate him as such. Rodriguez  should be an obvious Hall of Famer, but like Piazza his enshrinement is unfairly in jeopardy due to suspicions of steroid use. Rodriguez has denied ever using steroids.

4. Mike Piazza 63.3 AVG/44.8 PK/108.1 C-WAR

Mike Piazza averaged 5.6 wins a year during his eight year peak, and is the greatest offensive catcher ever to play. Among catchers with at least 3,000 plate appearances, Piazza ranks 1st in OPS (.922), OPS+ (143), wRC+ (141), home runs (427), and slugging percentage at .545. Piazza also ranks in the top five in wOBA, RBI, and batting average. Piazza will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2013, while his numbers suggest that of an obvious Hall of Famer, he is likely to receive the Bagwell treatment and be denied entry due to suspicions of steroid use. Piazza has denied ever using steroids.

5. Carlton Fisk 68.8 AVG/37.7 PK/106.5 C-WAR

Carlton Fisk averaged 4.7 wins a year during his peak. Fisk retired having caught the most games in history, however he has since been surpassed by Ivan Rodriguez. Among batters who played 50% or more of their games at catcher, Fisk ranks 3rd in home runs (376), 6th in RBI (1,330), 2nd in runs (1,276), and 3rd in hits finishing with 2,356.

6. Yogi Berra 63.8 AVG/38.8 PK/102.6 C-WAR

Yogi Berra averaged 4.8 wins a year during his eight year peak. Among batters who played 50% or more of their games at catcher, Berra ranks 4th in home runs (358), 1st in RBI (1,430), 3rd in runs (1,175), and 5th in hits finishing with 2,150. Berra missed his age 19 and 20 seasons due to his military service in World War 2.

7. Joe Torre 59.6 AVG/38.4 PK/98.0 C-WAR

Joe Torre played more games at catcher than anywhere else, but also spent significant time at first and third, the likely reason why he isn’t enshrined in the Hall of Fame, as players without a true position tend to get underrated. Torre averaged 4.8 wins a year during his peak. Torre will eventually be enshrined in the Hall as a manager, but his WAR (54.2) and slash line of .297/.365/.452 with an OPS + of 129 suggest he is also deserving as a player.

8. Bill Dickey 58.1 AVG/35.3 PK/93.4 C-WAR

Dickey averaged 4.4 wins a year during his peak. Dickey’s percentages are all very strong, among catchers with 3,000 plate appearances or more, he ranks 2nd in wOBA (.396), third in batting average (.313), 6th in on-base percentage (.382), 5th in slugging (.486), and 4th in OPS at .868.

9. Mickey Cochrane 52.4 AVG/38.5 PK/90.9 C-WAR

Cochrane averaged 4.8 wins a year during his eight year peak. Among catchers with 3,000 plate appearances or more Cochrane’s .413 wOBA ranks 1st, and his wRC+ of 132 ties him for 4th.  His traditional percentages are also excellent, his .320 batting average ranks 2nd, his .419 on-base ranks 1st, and his OPS+ of 129 ranks 5th.

10. Ted Simmons 54.1 AVG/36.2 PK/90.3 C-WAR

During his peak Simmons averaged 4.5 wins a year. Simmons finished with a slash line of .285/.348/.437  with an OPS+ of 118. Simmons lands above the line of Hall of Fame catching standards, and new metrics show he’s at least someone who deserved more Hall of Fame consideration than he got. Simmons fell off the ballot his first year on it receiving 3.7% of the vote.

11. Gabby Hartnett 53.4 AVG/31.7 PK/85.1 C-WAR

Hartnett’s peak is low for a Hall of Famer, even by catching standards.  He averaged “only” 3.9 wins a year during his eight year peak. However Hartnett’s wOBA of .389 ranks third all-time among catchers, his wRC+ of 126 ties him for 10th, and his OPS+ of 126 ties him for 7th.

12. Gene Tenace 46.2 AVG/36.7 PK/82.9 C-WAR

Gene Tenace averaged 4.5 wins a year during his peak, and ranks 2nd all-time at catcher in both OPS+ (136), and wRC+ (140) trailing only Mike Piazza in each. Tenace falls slightly below the Hall of Fame standards at catcher but perhaps deserved more consideration than the 0.2% of the vote he received his first and only year on the ballot.

13. Thurman Munson 44.3 AVG/37.8 PK/82.1  C-WAR

Munson’s peak is very solid, ranking 8th all-time among catchers. Munson’s career and life were both cut short as he died in a plane crash at the age of 32. Munson stayed on the Hall of Fame ballot the full fifteen years he was eligible peaking at 15.5% of the vote. He is a borderline candidate but considering he likely had at least a few years of accumulating left his case is stronger than both his traditional and advanced numbers would suggest.

14. Bill Freehan 45.0 AVG/33.7 PK/78.7 C-WAR

Freehan averaged 4.2 wins a year during his peak, and was an excellent defensive catcher. His slash line numbers aren’t overly impressive .262/.340/.412 however he played in a low run scoring environment and posted a decent OPS+ of 112. Freehan retired at the age of 34.

16. Jorge Posada 44.1 AVG/33.3 PK/77.4 C-WAR

Jorge Posada averaged 4.1 wins a year during his eight year peak. Among batters who played 50% or more of their games at catcher, Posada finished his career ranked 7th in doubles (379), 8th in home runs (275), 11th in runs (900), 11th in RBI (1065), 7th in OPS (.848), and 18th in OPS+ at 121. Posada’s post season success will give him a boost with Hall voters, however he falls slightly short of the standards and several retired catchers who haven fallen off the ballot were worth more wins.

Some will argue that all four Tenace, Munson, Freehan, and Posada should be enshrined in the Hall. All four fall slightly below the current standards, however their enshrinements would certainly not dot diminish the Hall or the other catchers already recognized. I put Simmons in this group as well. Their inductions  could help balance out some of the discrepancies that exist at the position both in terms of performance and admission standards. I don’t feel strongly about any of the five, they’re borderline candidates that each bring something different to the table. They are all without question top twenty catchers, should that be enough to get them in?

Skipping around a bit:

Joe Mauer is the only active catcher that appears destined for Cooperstown. Mauer is a three time batting champion whose career batting average of .323 ranks 1st among catchers with at least 3,000 plate appearances. Mauer’s on-base percentage of .405 ranks 2nd, his OPS+ of 135 ties him for 3rd, and his wRC+ of 133 has him at 4th. He still has a ways to go, and some of those numbers are likely to drop as he ages, but when he retires Mauer will very likely be considered top ten all-time.

Roy Campenella averaged 3 wins a year during his peak, however he was robbed of several peak seasons  as he didn’t play in the majors until he was 26 years old. All of Campenella’s numbers both traditional and advanced would be significantly better if he had simply been allowed to play before 1948. Campenella’s .860 OPS ranks 5th all-time among catchers, as does his .385 wOBA, his .500 slugging percentage ranks 2nd. From 1949-1953 Campenella’s WAR (Baseball-Reference) of 24.4 ranked 1st among catchers, and 7th in all of baseball. Due to a car accident that left him paralyzed, Campenella played his last game at the age of 35.

Since Baseball Prospectus does not publish WAR data for players before 1950, this does create a bit of unfair advantage for those players. This is because of the three sites, Baseball Prospectus tends to have the lowest WAR values for a player (especially with pitchers), so it puts modern players (1950-present) at an unfair disadvantage. So to adjust for this, below is the catchers chart excluding Baseball Prospectus’ WAR altogether.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Some modest changes from list-to-list here.

Since I calculated peak using only rWAR, below is the chart using just Baseball Reference’s WAR. Another words this is a player’s career WAR plus his eight year peak using on Baseball-Reference. FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus are not factored in to the chart below at all.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Only modest changes from the previous list to this one, but all three are valuable to look at.

One other note, because C-WAR focuses only on WAR, it makes it impossible for me to include Negro League players who have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Nothing distorted stats like the exclusion of black players for over fifty years. While I can’t include them in C-WAR, I do want to mention Josh Gibson, Biz Mackey, and Louis Santop. All three were elected to the Hall of Fame as catchers. Who knows how great they could have been, especially Gibson who may have been the best ever to play, or how different the record book would look if they were all simply allowed to have played in the majors.

Many thanks to the incredibly smart people who work at Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus. Without their tireless efforts to improve and maintain their sites and information none of this research would be possible.

Any questions or comments about the Hall, or a player listed or not listed above, send them to contact@replacementlevelpodcast.com or find me on Twitter @Rosscarey

Originally posted 7/26/12

Updated 11/24/12


  1. Ross Carey says:

    Some Hall of Fame stats using Career and Peak WAR for catchers http://t.co/DJoGAcll #HOF

  2. […] addition to the numbers listed above, Piazza exceeds standards in C-WAR. C-WAR is a Hall of Fame monitoring system I created using career and peak WAR. C-WAR is the […]

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