Table of Contents

Monday, July 27, 2009

@BtB: Historical WAR Review: Catchers

COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 27:  Hall of Famers Joh...Johnny Bench is thrilled to top the list of most valuable catchers ever according to WAR. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Today, I began a series that I started work on two months ago: a position-by-position WAR review. It's a great opportunity to learn some baseball history, while at the same time exploring Rally's WAR database.

I posted the first in this series at BtB. I'm going to do a simultaneous series here that is specific to Reds players, though I'll probably do top-10 lists instead of top-14 lists...simply because the talent bottoms out faster. Look for that hopefully over the next few days.

Today's review is on catchers, and a familiar name shows up at #1:
As a Reds fan I'm biased, but I think if you were to ask a large number of fans the name of the best catcher ever, Johnny Bench's name would be at the top of the poll. It's not a slam dunk, but Bench comes out four wins above Fisk--and Bench had 1200 fewer PA's and a much higher peak. Bench was a brilliant defender, but probably not the best defensive catcher of all time. And he was a superb hitter, but is probably not the best hitting catcher of all time. What sets him apart is that he was extremely good at both offense and defense: with game-changing defense and prodigious power, he redefined his position. No other catcher has ever hit 45 home runs in a season, and only one other (Mike Piazza) has topped the 40-mark twice. He was Rookie of the Year, a two-time MVP (second only to Berra), a 14-time All Star (13 consecutive), and the winner of 10 consecutive gold gloves. He was the best of the best, and I'm proud that he played for my's nice to be proud of something these days.