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The Top 10 Hitting Catchers

(Runs Generated Over Their Careers)

by Jim McMartin

Member Allen Roth Chapter (Los Angeles) SABR

Please send any comments and/or criticisms to Jim McMartin

 

Runs Generated estimates how many runs above or below the league average a hitter contributes to his team, where 0 = the league average. Runs Generated (RG) is useful for cross-era comparisons, 1920 to the present. RG is easy to compute:

RG = .35(Total Bases + Bases on Balls) - .25(At Bats - Hits)

In terms of their total Career Runs Generated (RG), the top ten hitting catchers are:

Rank Player Years Gm Caught RG
1 Mickey Cochrane 1925-37 1451 285
2 Bill Dickey 1928-46 1708 226
3 Mike Piazza 1992-98  803 223
4 Gabby Hartnett 1922-41 1793 216
5 Johnny Bench 1967-83 1742 185
6 Yogi Berra 1946-65 1699 170
7 Roy Campanella 1948-57 1183 161
8 Carlton Fisk 1969-93 2226 97
9 Ted Simmons 1969-88 1771 75
10 Gary Carter 1974-92 2056 51

Please note that the above list of Runs Generated is based on the players' entire hitting careers, not how well they hit in only those games that they caught. What is immediately striking about the above list is how highly Mike Piazza ranks even though he has played for only seven seasons. Although he has caught less than half the games of such excellent hitting catchers as Gabby Hartnett, Johnny Bench, and Yogi Berra, Piazza has already exceeded their career Runs Generated! Truly amazing!

Because the above catchers played in the Major Leagues for varying lengths of time due to reasons beyond their control (Campy’s ML career, for example, was delayed by baseball’s racist policy and was tragically cut short by an automobile accident; Mickey Cochrane’s career ended prematurely after a beaning), it is informative to see how many Runs Generated these catchers amassed per 500 Plate Appearances (PA = AB + BB).

Rank Player RG/500
1 Mike Piazza 32.3
2 Mickey Cochrane 23.7
3 Roy Campanella 17.0
4 Bill Dickey 16.2
5 Gabby Hartnett 15.2
6 Johnny Bench 10.8
7 Yogi Berra 10.3
8 Carlton Fisk 5.0
9 Ted Simmons 3.9
10 Gary Carter 2.9

It is no surprise that Mike Piazza tops this list of RG/500 Plate Appearances. What is surprising is by how much he tops it, by nearly 10 RG/500 PA higher than his nearest competitor, Mickey Cochrane! Roy Campanella jumps from 7th place to 3rd place when we adjust his Runs Generated to take account of the abbreviated length of his career.

While no one would expect Piazza to continue hitting at this remarkable level for the remainder of his career, it is nevertheless instructive to put Piazza’s current RG/500 PAs in historical context. I end this report by showing how Mike’s career-to-date compares to the careers of four (non-catcher) hitters in the Hall of Fame and letting readers draw their own conclusions about just how outstanding Mike Piazza’s hitting perfomance has been in the 1990s:

Player RG/500
Stan Musial 34.6
Joe DiMaggio 33.3
Mike Piazza 32.3
Mel Ott 32.1
Johnny Mize 31.4




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