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Best Offensive Catcher - Career

(Ranking Using Runs Created, Batting Runs & Runs Generated per 500 At Bats)

By Charles Rosciam

Who is the Best Hitting Catcher Ever? Given the career performances of such masked men as Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey and new comers like Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez, the answer is not easy to discern. Bill James, the father of sabermetrics developed a system to answer that question, as did Pete Palmer & John Thorn. Recently Jim McMartin proposed a simpler, more accessible system.

Bill James has given us Runs Created as a way to measure hitting. His original formula for Runs Created is [(hits + walks)(total bases)] divided by [AB + BB] has been replaced by increasingly elaborate ones that take into account more than hitting skills (stolen bases, for example). For example, James’s "technical version" of RC involves this formula:

Runs Created = (H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) (TB +.26[BB - IBB + HBP] + .52[SH + SF + SB])

Pete Palmer and John Thorn, based on their linear-weights solution, have proposed a measure of hitting they call Batting Runs. Batting Runs (see page 571 of the 5th ed. of Total Baseball) requires knowledge of 11 variables and 9 constants:

Batting Runs = (.47)1B + (.78)2B + (1.09)3B + (1.4)HR + (.33)(BB + HB) + (.30)SB - (.60)CS - (.25)(AB-H) - .50 (OOB)

Because both Runs Created and Batting Runs are not easily computable by the interested fan, Jim McMartin wanted to find an adequate measure of hitting that the average fan could use during the season. He was willing to sacrifice some degree of accuracy to gain a more user-friendly measure. Runs Generated is his solution to this problem. [For a complete presentation of McMartin's Runs Generated methodology See McMartin's Paper ]. Runs Generated is easy to compute. It involves only 4 variables (total bases, walks, at bats, hits) and 2 constants:

Runs Generated = (.35)(Total Bases + Walks) - (.25)(At Bats - Hits)

To satisfy all proponents of the three aforementioned systems, I have presented the career batting (hitting) rankings using all three systems, standardized to per 500 At Bats. I selected the 12 Hall Of Fame catchers, added 18 Notable (Not HOF) catchers, and threw in 8 current active catchers for a total of 38 catchers.

These cream of the catching crop guys were all ranked from 1 (best) to 38 (worst) for each individual methodology (Runs Created, Batting Runs, and Runs Generated). The following table lists the results of these rankings, shown in order of McMartin's formula.

Catcher RC/AB BR/AB RG/AB RC-r BR-r RG-r
Mike Piazza (Thru 1999) 101.56 38.19 34.96 2 1 1
Mickey Cochrane 104.86 26.21 27.59 1 2 2
Roy Campanella 90.13 19.02 19.13 6 4 3
Mickey Tettleton 88.87 16.92 19.03 7 8 4
Bill Dickey 94.44 16.90 17.96 4 9 5
Gabby Hartnett 91.11 18.66 16.83 5 5 6
Johnny Bench 80.90 17.17 14.35 11 7 7
Yogi Berra 85.11 13.90 11.26 9 11 8
Javy Lopez (Thru 1999) 76.97 6.58 10.69 14 21 9
Jason Kendall (Thru 1999) 88.34 11.95 10.52 8 13 10
Scott Hatteberg (Thru 1999) 67.96 3.74 7.64 28 23 11
Ernie Lombardi 77.46 15.63 6.60 13 10 12
Darrell Porter 76.82 10.83 6.08 15 15 14
Jorge Posada (Thru 1999) 74.01 3.19 5.51 17 24 15
Buck Ewing 95.28 18.65 5.42 3 6 16
Ted Simmons 73.91 11.58 4.31 18 14 17
Roger Bresnahan 84.80 20.64 3.81 10 3 18
Walker Cooper 73.80 9.04 3.29 19 18 19
Ivan Rodriguez (Thru 1999) 71.80 0.90 3.21 23 29 20
Gary Carter 74.27 9.16 3.20 16 17 21
Eddie Taubensee (Thru 1999) 73.23 -1.00 1.73 22 32 22
Todd Hundley (Thru 1999) 69.23 2.05 1.59 26 27 23
Earl Battey 70.69 7.11 0.82 25 20 24
Rick Ferrell 73.57 -0.75 0.69 20 30 25
Sherm Lollar 73.26 4.49 0.05 21 22 26
Lance Parrish 66.58 2.62 -1.24 31 26 27
Bill Freehan 71.30 9.96 -2.12 24 16 28
Thurman Munson 68.68 8.89 -2.50 27 19 29
Elston Howard 67.03 2.98 -3.82 29 25 30
Harry Danning 66.64 1.85 -5.78 30 28 31
Mike Scioscia 63.57 -0.91 -7.67 33 31 32
Del Crandall 60.39 -6.96 -7.89 36 35 33
Muddy Ruel 64.80 -10.30 -9.00 32 38 34
Johnny Roseboro 62.41 -3.71 -9.30 35 33 35
Carlton Fisk 78.69 13.53 -9.89 12 12 36
Jimmie Wilson 62.58 -9.52 -11.61 34 36 37
Jim Sundberg 57.88 -6.89 -12.86 38 34 38
Ray Schalk 59.27 -10.27 -17.03 37 37 39
Hall of Famer
Notable (Not HOF)
Active Catcher


Mike Piazza tops the list in two of the three ranking systems and probably will be on top in RC/AB after the 2000 season.. But, who is the second best, third, etc? One approach is to take all three systems and join them together into one overall ranking. The best method is to use a z-score that will "standardize" all three completely different scales into one nice score. The following table is the result of this "merger"

Catcher RC/AB BR/AB RG/AB z-score z
Mike Piazza (Thru 1999) 101.56 38.19 34.96 48.27219 1
Mickey Cochrane 104.86 26.21 27.59 39.01842 2
Bill Dickey 94.44 16.90 17.96 22.92105 3
Roy Campanella 90.13 19.02 19.13 22.54125 4
Gabby Hartnett 91.11 18.66 16.83 21.57584 5
Mickey Tettleton 88.87 16.92 19.03 20.60730 6
Buck Ewing 95.28 18.65 5.42 17.50744 7
Johnny Bench 80.90 17.17 14.35 14.02979 8
Jason Kendall (Thru 1999) 88.34 11.95 10.52 12.79921 9
Yogi Berra 85.11 13.90 11.26 12.64515 10
Roger Bresnahan 84.80 20.64 3.81 12.31554 11
Ernie Lombardi 77.46 15.63 6.60 7.10139 12
Javy Lopez (Thru 1999) 76.97 6.58 10.69 3.84420 13
Darrell Porter 76.82 10.83 6.08 3.70531 14
Ted Simmons 73.91 11.58 4.31 1.64818 15
Gary Carter 74.27 9.16 3.20 -0.17139 16
Walker Cooper 73.80 9.04 3.29 -0.43893 17
Carlton Fisk 78.69 13.53 -9.89 -2.49022 19
Jorge Posada (Thru 1999) 74.01 3.19 5.51 -2.49464 18
Bill Freehan 71.30 9.96 -2.12 -4.16349 21
Scott Hatteberg (Thru 1999) 67.96 3.74 7.64 -4.17823 20
Earl Battey 70.69 7.11 0.82 -4.52890 22
Sherm Lollar 73.26 4.49 0.05 -5.12935 23
Ivan Rodriguez (Thru 1999) 71.80 0.90 3.21 -6.23849 24
Thurman Munson 68.68 8.89 -2.50 -6.36432 25
Eddie Taubensee (Thru 1999) 73.23 -1.00 1.73 -7.40565 26
Rick Ferrell 73.57 -0.75 0.69 -7.64507 27
Todd Hundley (Thru 1999) 69.23 2.05 1.59 -7.79969 28
Lance Parrish 66.58 2.62 -1.24 -10.40360 29
Elston Howard 67.03 2.98 -3.82 -11.36486 30
Harry Danning 66.64 1.85 -5.78 -13.29795 31
Mike Scioscia 63.57 -0.91 -7.67 -17.53886 32
Johnny Roseboro 62.41 -3.71 -9.30 -20.66046 33
Del Crandall 60.39 -6.96 -7.89 -22.82550 34
Muddy Ruel 64.80 -10.30 -9.00 -23.06404 35
Jimmie Wilson 62.58 -9.52 -11.61 -25.19705 36
Jim Sundberg 57.88 -6.89 -12.86 -26.80863 37
Ray Schalk 59.27 -10.27 -17.03 -30.32293 38
Hall of Famer
Notable (Not HOF)
Active Catcher


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