Dominating Catchers

By Richard Kendall (from SABR's The Research Journal)

Who was the Most Dominate Catcher ever? Dominating is a vague term, much like most valuable as in MVP. My approach is to consider who were the best or most dominating fielding catchers.

My definition of dominating is standing out from and above one's contemporaries. For example, if a catcher led all other catchers in the league in batting homeruns, RBI's, fielding percentage, putouts, assists, etc., most people would agree that he dominated the other catchers in his league that year. By taking fielding as the Measure of Dominance, what percentage of fielding stats did each catcher lead in during their time as a regular player? The fielding categories include: putouts, assists, fielding percentage, and fielding runs saved.

For this study I counted the number of times a catcher led his league in the categories and divided that number by the number of total chances the catcher had to lead in those categories. Since we're considering dominance, I counted only the years from the beginning of full-time status till the end of his full-time catching. To compute total chances I took the number of years as a full-time catcher times the number of categories (four). I then took the number of times a player led his league in each of the four categories. For example. If John Doe played 10 years then he had 40 chances to lead the league. If he led the league (amongst catchers) in the four categories a total of five times, his percentage would be 5/40 (12.5 percent) -- not very good, as you shall see.

One advantage of using this method to compare players is that it eliminates the problem of dealing with the different playing conditions of different eras. With this method you can compare the fielding prowess of players from eras when the equipment was rather primitive with players of today who use much superior equipment. The real question is, "Was he the best of his time with the glove he used?" The top ten finishers are:

Rnk Player Pct
1 Bill Killefer 44
2 Johnny Edwards 42
3 Jim Sundberg 40
4 Del Crandall 39
5 Muddy Ruel 39
6 Ray Schalk 38
7 Earl Battey 36
8 Gary Carter 35
9 Frank Snyder 35
10 Yogi Berra 34

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