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RETROSHEET
Analysis of Catchers Catching Thieves
1958 to 2000

 

(Minimum 40 Attempts per Season)

By David Smith, Member of the Society for American Baseball Research
and Creater and Chairman of Retrosheet

 

A few notes are in order and are included below.

1. The analysis considered the 1958-2000 seasons plus Roy Campanella's career, since Retrosheet has play by play data for all of his games.
2. Retrosheet does not have all games for all years. The record is complete from 1974-2000 for both leagues and 1963-2000 for the AL. At least 95% of all games were available for each season.
3. Only catchers who allowed 40 attempts per season were considered (except that all Campanella seasons were included). There were 1569 catcher-seasons meeting these criteria.
4. The top 10 catchers for 2000 are presented below in the first table. The team abbreviations should be self-explanatory. SB2 is the number of steals of second against this catcher, CS2 the number of runners he caught stealing; SB3 and CS3 are the corresponding numbers at third base. The first percentage (Pct) is the percentage of runners thrown out trying to steal second. The second percentage is the combination of action at second and third bases.
5. The 10 worst performances for 2000 are in the second table. The point is not to embarrass anyone, but to show the range for a single season. It should be noted that Mike Piazza's problems in 2000 are not typical for him since his career average is 21.6%.
6. The top 20 single season performances for the entire data set analyzed are presented next. The single line following that is the worst single season percentage of success, by Luis Pujols.
7. Only caught stealing initiated by the catcher were included. Since 1979 a runner can be charged with caught stealing on a pickoff from the pitcher if he tries to advance; rule 10.08(h)(2).
6. The next table contains career values, considering only those catchers allowing at least 100 attempts. There were 320 such catchers. The worst career performance follows that table.
7. The percentage of caught stealing has changed dramatically in the last 40 years. The final table gives the values for each fifth year from 1960 to 2000. The intervening years were omitted to make the table less cluttered; they are available upon request.

Conclusions:
1. Roy Campanella was extraordinary. He has the top three single season performances and five of the top six. In 1948 and 1952 he caught more than two thirds of the runners trying to steal second. The usual assumption is the "break even" point from a runner's point of view is 70% success (somewhat lower values are favored by some analysts). Campanella essentially reversed that figure. 2. The most recent single season performance better than Blanco's in 2000 was turned in by Bob Boone in 1982. All of the others are much older. When the changing league percentages are taken into account, Blanco's record last year becomes even more impressive.
3. Ivan Rodriguez is widely regarded as a great throwing catcher; he and Blanco are the only contemporary catchers on the career list below. However, Rodriguez does not have an individual season in the top 20. His best totals were marks of 53.2% and 52.8% in 1999 and 1997, respectively. 4. Benito Santiago is also frequently praised for his throwing abilities. His best single season was 165th on the list, with a value of 43.4% in 1994 and he is at position 164 on the career list with a mark of 30.2
5. The percentages presented here must be considered in the context of opportunities. For example (data not shown here), one effect of Santiago and Rodriguez has been that opposing runners attempt to steal much less often when they are behind the plate. It is necessary to balance the frequency of attempt with the percentage of success. That analysis is much more complicated and will not be presented here.



Analysis by David W Smith, January 27, 2001, from Retrosheet data.

Top 10 catchers for the 2000 season for percentage of runners thrown out by catcher while trying to steal second or third.


Rank
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Catcher
Henry Blanco
Mike Matheny
Brad Ausmus
Alberto Castillo
Mike Lieberthal
Mark Johnson
Wiki Gonzalez
Ben Molina
Mike Redmond
Einar Diaz

Team
MIL
SLN
DET
TOR
PHI
CHA
SDN
ANA
FLO
CLE
SB2
24
44
37
18
36
34
39
61
40
30
CS2
33
43
26
14
24
15
22
29
16
10
SB3
4
0
5
6
8
4
6
8
4
4
CS3
3
3
4
2
0
4
0
4
5
6
Pct
56.3
51.1
41.7
40.0
35.3
33.3
32.8
32.4
32.3
32.0


Bottom 10 catchers for the 2000 season for percentage of runners thrown out by catcher while trying to steal second or third.

Rank
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1

Catcher
Javy Lopez
Todd Hundley
Raul Casanova
Jason Varitek
Ed Taubensee
Tony Eusebio
Greg Zaun
Brook Fordyce
Scott Hatteberg
Mike Piazza

Team
ATL
LAN
MIL
BOS
CIN
HOU
KCA
BAL
BOS
NYM
SB2
61
67
31
80
42
32
53
48
42
91
CS2
17
16
7
23
10
7
9
10
8
14
SB3
8
7
8
24
8
5
4
7
12
19
CS3
0
2
2
0
1
1
3
1
0
1
Pct
19.8
19.6
18.8
18.1
18.0
17.8
17.4
16.7
12.9
12.0


Top 20 single seasons for percentage of runners thrown out by catcher while trying to steal second or third, based on total data set analyzed.

Rank
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20

Catcher
Roy Campanella
Roy Campanella
Roy Campanella
Joe Azcue
Roy Campanella
Roy Campanella
Ed Bailey
Thurman Munson
Dick Bertell
John Roseboro
John Roseboro
Sammy White
Roy Campanella
Mike Ryan
Bob Boone
Henry Blanco
Earl Battey
Ellie Rodriguez
Paul Casanova
Yogi Berra

Year
1951
1948
1952
1966
1950
1949
1959
1971
1963
1964
1959
1958
1953
1968
1982
2000
1960
1971
1970
1958
Team
BRO
BRO
BRO
CLE
BRO
BRO
CIN
NYA
CHN
LAN
LAN
BOS
BRO
PHI
CAL
MIL
WAS
MIL
WAS
NYA
SB2
15
9
13
17
19
14
17
20
24
19
15
15
16
25
43
24
25
26
18
20
CS2
29
21
27
25
29
23
28
31
36
27
22
23
20
29
56
33
33
35
23
24
SB3
0
2
4
0
2
1
2
2
3
0
2
2
1
0
2
4
4
4
2
0
CS3
3
2
3
3
5
1
1
2
1
1
2
1
4
4
3
3
4
3
2
1
Pct
68.1
67.6
63.8
62.2
61.8
61.5
60.4
60.0
59.7
59.6
58.5
58.5
58.5
56.9
56.7
56.3
56.1
55.9
55.6
55.6

Worst single season for a catcher in the set analyzed

Catcher
Luis Pujols

Year
1983
Team
HOU
SB2
41
CS2
2
SB3
2
CS3
0
Pct
4.4


Career best for percentage of runners thrown out by catcher while trying to steal second or third. Seasons analyzed same as above. Minimum 100 attempts.

Rank
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Catcher
Roy Campanella
Lou Berberet
Clay Dalrymple
Sammy White
Joe Azcue
Ivan Rodriguez
Jim French
Henry Blanco
Del Crandall
Dick Bertell

SB2
158
50
269
61
240
352
82
75
152
152
CS2
217
53
253
52
201
305
77
66
124
123
SB3
21
4
37
5
23
46
11
11
15
13
CS3
24
5
24
6
25
35
2
7
13
12
Pct
57.4
51.8
47.5
46.8
46.2
46.1
45.9
45.9
45.1
45.0

Worst career percentage.

Catcher
Ned Yost

SB2
137
CS2
19
SB3
23
CS3
3
Pct
12.1


Overall percentage of runners thrown out by catchers while trying to steal second or third. Every fifth year presented.

Year
1960
1965
1970
1975
1980
1985
1990
1995
2000

MLB Pct
38.3
36.5
33.4
31.4
28.6
26.7
26.2
25.5
26.4



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