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Greatest Catchers of All Time

The Ten Greatest Major League Baseball Catchers of All-Time

By Loot, MLB Handicapper,

1. Johnny Bench: Simply put--the greatest catcher to ever play in the bigs. Bench revolutionized the position, as one of the premier power hitters in the National League during his helm as Cincinnati’s esteemed backstop. He won the Gold Glove every single season from 1968 to 1977. Bench led the league in homers twice and RBI three times. For the era in which he competed, his rate of 43% for throwing out runners was stupendous. The 13-time all-star was one of the better players of his time and a key part of those great Reds teams in the 70’s.

2. Ivan Rodriguez: Perhaps his legacy needs a little more time to ruminate, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers. The fact that he won 13 Gold Gloves speaks volumes about his standing as perhaps the greatest defensive catcher of all-time. Year in and year out, he would provide production at the plate--hitting .300 with good power to boot. During his absolute peak, he was contending for batting titles, while providing great run production and expertly handling pitching staffs. He threw out 46% of runners lifetime and in his prime, would throw out 50%-60% and shut down opposing team’s speed on the base-paths.

3. Yogi Berra: Some may think his star as a celebrity outshone his actual merit as a player, but even if that’s true, it’s not by much. Berra was a champion, as evidenced by his incredible 13 World Series championships. He threw out nearly half of the runners who tried to steal on him during his career and was a capable steward of the Yankees’ pitching staff for almost two decades. Year after year, Berra provided numbers in the .300/30 HR/100 RBI neighborhood. There weren’t many who did it better than Yogi.

4. Roy Campanella: His career was tragically cut down by an automobile accident he suffered just as the Dodgers were making their move to Los Angeles. If not for that, Campanella’s stats would be even glossier. As it stands, he still managed to accomplish a tremendous amount in his short career, including three MVP awards. He had some of the biggest-hitting seasons of any catcher in history and was absolute murder on opposing base-runners, throwing out almost 70% of them in some seasons.


5. Mike Piazza: If Piazza had been even a slightly above-average defensive catcher, he would be in the running for the top spot. Despite his defensive liabilities, Piazza stands out as the most prolific offensive player in the history of the position. A feared batsman with prodigious power, Piazza contended for batting crowns in his prime, with several seasons looking like a triple crown winner’s stat-line. Despite being past his best for the last 6 years of his career, Piazza still hit 427 homers lifetime and batted .308.

6. Mickey Cochrane: The passage of time may have blurred some people’s vision on how incredible Cochrane really was. A good fielding catcher, Cochrane really made his presence felt as a batter, where he hit a career .320 and had an on-base percentage of .419. Along with Piazza, he was probably the best pure-hitting catcher of all-time. In 13 seasons with Philadelphia and Detroit from 1925-1937, he hit over .330 five times and won a pair of MVP awards.

7. Carlton Fisk: One of the hardest men to ever play the game, Fisk outlasted most of his contemporaries while playing the game’s most demanding position. Not many catchers can say they played in the bigs in four different decades, but Fisk can. The 11-time all-star hit 376 home runs and his 24 seasons on the field were a joy to watch. “Pudge” was one of the best.

8. Gary Carter: From the late-70’s and well into the 80’s, Carter was the top dog at his position, with many of those great seasons obscured by playing with the perennially-suffering Expos. Season after season, Carter provided Gold Glove-quality fielding, while being one of the more consistent power hitters in the game. He was an all-star for 10 straight seasons.

9. Bill Dickey: The greatness of Yogi Berra may have served to detract some attention from this predecessor of his. Dickey was a career .313 hitter who put up gigantic offensive numbers for his position. Dickey hit over .350 twice and consistently posted good power numbers. He also threw out 47% of runners who attempted to steal off him during his 17-year career, making him one of the best all-around catchers in history.

10. Gabby Hartnett: In 5 different seasons, Hartnett threw out over 60% of the runners who tried to steal bases against him. Opposing runners were only successful 43% of the time against Hartnett during his 20-year big league career. As a batter, he was also a beast, routinely hitting over .300 with good pop. One of the great all-time Cubs who played from 1922-40, Hartnett had his best season in 1930--batting .339 with 37 homers and 122 RBI.

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