10 January 2012

Jorge Posada, Wally Schang, Jason Varitek, and Chris Hoiles

With Jorge Posada retiring, I wondered how his numbers stack up against the all-time greats.  The easiest and perhaps most effective way to do this is simply to look at the career WAR of a player. 

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.


Steve said...

There is more than stats to a HOF admission. As an example, Roy Campanella won three MVP awards. Interspersed with those awards were a couple of poor seasons full of injuries. It could be argued that any player with three MVP's is certainly excellent HOF criteria.

Anonymous said...

Well...I would say Campanella is given credit for baseball being racist. Otherwise...I think there are many guys who have three great seasons. Dale Murphy had about that many.

Anonymous said...

I doubt WAR is anything useful here. Did Posada call good games? How did he handle basreunners and pitchers? How well did he throw? How many tried to run on him? How good were his pitchers at holding runners? Who hit around him (easy to get a higher WAR when your teammates are all hiting great, hard to do when the bases are always empty)?

Campanella? Called a great game, handled lots of wildly different pitchers very well, a strong offensive and defensive catcher, game impact was huge, always a positive on and off the field to the team. Posada?

Jon Shepherd said...

I would agree that WAR does not handle catcher defense well.

With respect to offensive WAR dependent on lineup protection...we can measure performance and have never seen anything remarkable change in performance with lineup protection.

Campanella's candidacy was more about him shining bright for a few years in a career that was largely shortened because a lot of people in baseball were racist.

If one was to give him the benefit of the doubt and push up his WAR total to an elite catcher then you have a 46 rWAR player. If you assume that he lost about his first four seasons then you can push that up to about 52 rWAR.

John said...

Let's face it, Posada will get in because he was lucky enough to spend his entire career in NY during a time when the team was highly successful. For better or worse, he's considered one of the "cornerstone's" of their successful late 90's world series teams, and nothing gets a marginal candidate votes quite like world series titles.

The inverse is true as well of course.

Anonymous said...

jorge posada and jason vartiek should try to come to balitmore and help the younger catchers out and make them a winning team cus i see posada have some years left and he can be a DH cus hes got power left in his swing.