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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:
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 (Campys ML career, for example, was delayed by baseballs racist policy and was tragically cut short by an automobile accident; Mickey Cochranes 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).
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 Piazzas current RG/500 PAs in historical context. I end this report by showing how Mikes 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 Piazzas hitting perfomance has been in the 1990s:
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