Best Hitting Catcher - Career
(Ranking Using Career RC/27 divided by League RC/27 )
One of the most useful ways to assess a player's career is to measure how he performed relative to the other players of his era. When we produced the first of our landmark baseball encyclopedias, the STATS All-Time Major League Handbook, early 1998, we not only listed the runs created per 27 outs (RC/27) year-by-year for each player in history, but the league averages in those stat categories as well. That made it a lot easier to evaluate a player in the context of his career.
It was a short step from that to the relativity index, a stat we introduced in the second of our encyclopedias, the STATS All-Time Baseball Source Book. To determine a hitter's relativity index, we divide his career RC/27 by the league RC/27 over the same period, then multiply by 100. A league-average performer would have a relativity index of 100. The higher the index, the more the player dominated his era.
Now for the fun part. Let's look at the catcher position in depth with the same minimums of 750 games caught. Here are the top 50:
Mike Piazza and Mickey Cochrane are no surprise, but the rest might be. Roger Bresnahan and Buck Ewing are in the Hall of Fame, so they're not total surprises. The shocker is Gene Tenace, a low-average hitter (.241 lifetime) with good power and a great batting eye who played in the relatively low-scoring 1970s. Tenace played almost 40 percent of his games at a position other than catcher; by necessity, we had to base these lists on a player's entire career, so he gets a bit of an edge there. Catching greats who missed the top five include Bill Dickey, Roy Campanella, Yogi Berra, Gabby Hartnett and Johnny Bench. Apart from Piazza, the only active players in the career top 50 are Mike Stanley and Chris Hoiles, both well down the list.