10 January 2012
Jorge Posada, Wally Schang, Jason Varitek, and Chris Hoiles
Every catcher who has been eligible for the Hall of Fame and has a higher WAR than Posada has made it. Those above him fall into three basic tiers. You have the best catchers ever according to WAR (66.3-71.3; Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, and a not yet eligible Ivan Rodriguez). The second tier includes one player (Yogi Berra) at 61.3, but will soon include Mike Piazza at 59.1. The third tier (50.3-54.4) has three players: Bill Dickey, Mickey Cochrane, and Gabby Harnett. All of these players have been or will be awarded with a place in the Hall.
What is interesting to me though is that Posada comes next at 44.9 during his 17 years playing and is basically equal to the following players: Wally Schang (43.8 during 19 years), Thurmon Munson (43.4 during 11 years), and Bill Freehan (43.3 during 16 years). All four of these players share one thing in common: none are in the Hall of Fame. The BBWA elected Roy Campanella in with a 36.2 WAR and the Veteran's committee voted in Ernie Lombardi (39.0), Rick Ferrell (22.9), and Ray Schalk (22.6). Lombardi fits on the list right at 16th below Joe Mauer and Darrell Porter. Campanella comes in at 18th right after Jason Kendell. Ferrell is 36th right behind Jason Varitek and Schalk is 41st right behind Ramon Hernandez.
This leaves a question as to whether or not Jorge Posada deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. If he enters, he certainly will be a lower tier HOFer. The players after him appear to be all questionable. Why? The three Posada is basically tied to have not been admitted. There has been a bit of discussion about Munson, but I have never heard anyone make the effort for Wally Schang. For me the sizable difference between the third tier run at 50.3 and Posada at 44.9 appears great enough to make that a line in the sand. The Hall of Fame is full of arbitrary considerations though and I typically do not care one way or another what happens. However, we can certainly say Posada was not one of the greatest catchers ever and I doubt anyone was claiming that anyway.
As mentioned earlier, Jason Varitek comes in as the 35th ranked catcher with a 23.0 WAR over 15 years. At 34th with 23.4 WAR over 10 years is Oriole Chris Hoiles. I have always thought of Varitek as a very good catcher and Hoiles as a notch below. It appears that I underestimated Hoiles as he put together as valuable numbers as Varitek with 5 less years to play. That is pretty exceptional. Without his career ending injury, his bat (never failing) would have put him in Posada territory. Yes, there are many assumptions here. However, I think if he was able to catcher 20% more games during his established career his number would be around 28 WAR. His bat was good enough to pass by at first base on those awful turn of the century Os teams, so maybe he is able to play another six years with a 2 WAR average. That would put him in at 40 WAR. My point simply is that outside of the injury, Hoiles was actually heading toward performance on a Posada like level and by that I mean Hoiles was a good catcher and Posada was a good catcher with health. Neither were exceptional, but both should be remembered.