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WAR Data: Best Catcher Seasons Since 2000

Posted by Neil Paine on May 24, 2010

Wanna know why Joe Mauer makes the big bucks? Here's a big hint:

Rk Player WAR/pos Year Age Tm Lg G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Joe Mauer 8.7 2008 25 MIN AL 146 536 98 176 31 4 9 85 84 1 1 .328 .413 .451 .864
2 Joe Mauer 7.9 2009 26 MIN AL 138 523 94 191 30 1 28 96 76 4 1 .365 .444 .587 1.031
3 Joe Mauer 7.0 2006 23 MIN AL 140 521 86 181 36 4 13 84 79 8 3 .347 .429 .507 .936
4 Javy Lopez 6.6 2003 32 ATL NL 129 457 89 150 29 3 43 109 33 0 1 .328 .378 .687 1.065
5 Jorge Posada 6.1 2003 31 NYY AL 142 481 83 135 24 0 30 101 93 2 4 .281 .405 .518 .922
6 Jorge Posada 5.8 2007 35 NYY AL 144 506 91 171 42 1 20 90 74 2 0 .338 .426 .543 .970
7 Jorge Posada 5.7 2000 28 NYY AL 151 505 92 145 35 1 28 86 107 2 2 .287 .417 .527 .943
8 Charles Johnson 5.4 2000 28 TOT AL 128 421 76 128 24 0 31 91 52 2 0 .304 .379 .582 .961
9 Mike Piazza 5.2 2000 31 NYM NL 136 482 90 156 26 0 38 113 58 4 2 .324 .398 .614 1.012
10 Victor Martinez 5.1 2007 28 CLE AL 147 562 78 169 40 0 25 114 62 0 0 .301 .374 .505 .879
11 Paul Lo Duca 5.0 2001 29 LAD NL 125 460 71 147 28 0 25 90 39 2 4 .320 .374 .543 .917
12 Jason Kendall 4.9 2004 30 PIT NL 147 574 86 183 32 0 3 51 60 11 8 .319 .399 .390 .789
13 Ivan Rodriguez 4.9 2000 28 TEX AL 91 363 66 126 27 4 27 83 19 5 5 .347 .375 .667 1.042
14 Ivan Rodriguez 4.8 2004 32 DET AL 135 527 72 176 32 2 19 86 41 7 4 .334 .383 .510 .893
15 Jason Kendall 4.7 2000 26 PIT NL 152 579 112 185 33 6 14 58 79 22 12 .320 .412 .470 .882
16 Joe Mauer 4.6 2007 24 MIN AL 109 406 62 119 27 3 7 60 57 7 1 .293 .382 .426 .808
17 Jorge Posada 4.6 2006 34 NYY AL 143 465 65 129 27 2 23 93 64 3 0 .277 .374 .492 .867
18 Victor Martinez 4.6 2005 26 CLE AL 147 547 73 167 33 0 20 80 63 0 1 .305 .378 .475 .853
19 Ivan Rodriguez 4.6 2001 29 TEX AL 111 442 70 136 24 2 25 65 23 10 3 .308 .347 .541 .888
20 Brian McCann 4.5 2006 22 ATL NL 130 442 61 147 34 0 24 93 41 2 0 .333 .388 .572 .961
21 Javy Lopez 4.5 2004 33 BAL AL 150 579 83 183 33 3 23 86 47 0 0 .316 .370 .503 .872
22 Jorge Posada 4.4 2004 32 NYY AL 137 449 72 122 31 0 21 81 88 1 3 .272 .400 .481 .881
23 Russell Martin 4.2 2007 24 LAD NL 151 540 87 158 32 3 19 87 67 21 9 .293 .374 .469 .843
24 Mike Piazza 4.2 2001 32 NYM NL 141 503 81 151 29 0 36 94 67 0 2 .300 .384 .573 .957
25 Victor Martinez 4.1 2009 30 TOT AL 155 588 88 178 33 1 23 108 75 1 0 .303 .381 .480 .861
26 Geovany Soto 4.1 2008 25 CHC NL 141 494 66 141 35 2 23 86 62 0 1 .285 .364 .504 .868
27 Victor Martinez 4.1 2004 25 CLE AL 141 520 77 147 38 1 23 108 60 0 1 .283 .359 .492 .851
28 Jason Varitek 4.1 2004 32 BOS AL 137 463 67 137 30 1 18 73 62 10 3 .296 .390 .482 .872
29 Jorge Posada 4.1 2002 30 NYY AL 143 511 79 137 40 1 20 99 81 1 0 .268 .370 .468 .837
30 Brian McCann 4.0 2008 24 ATL NL 145 509 68 153 42 1 23 87 57 5 0 .301 .373 .523 .896
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/24/2010.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 24th, 2010 at 3:00 pm and is filed under Play Index, Sabermetrics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

14 Responses to “WAR Data: Best Catcher Seasons Since 2000”

  1. Very surprising that Mauer had a better season by WAR in 2008 than 2009. I guess the injuries/missed games explains that.

  2. Yes, it's a combination of playing time and the fact that AL catchers OPSed .715 in 2008 and .724 in '09, so his production was being measured against a higher standard of performance (a replacement level catcher was better in 2009 than in '08).

  3. It's not so much that replacement catchers were better in 2009--I'm guessing the spike can be almost entirely attributable to Posada being healthy (Yankee catchers OPSed 142 points higher in 09 than 08) and Mauer himself jumping up 167 points

  4. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Actually, the difference appears to be mostly in the defense and baserunning. They appear to add up to about 1.5 WAR difference. Obviously catcher defense is very hard to quantify. I think TotalZone only accounts for base stealers for catchers.

  5. WAR is supposed to be so great because it trys to only show a number that represents things a player has control over (not runs or RBI), yet Mauer gets penalized because Posada is better and "replacement" catchers are better in '09. He lost 7 Runs above average due to these factors which is the entire difference between the 2 seasons. The problem with the whole definition of "replacement level" is why I cannot buy into WAR. For example, in 2009 the Yankees had 54.3 wins - WAR, but the Twins had 52.3 wins - WAR, so I guess a team of replacement players for the Yankees are better than a team of replacement players for the Twins, yet they are supposed to be the players.

  6. I am really surprised that Pudge Rodriguez' 2006 season didn't rate.

  7. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Mike, where are you getting the 7 runs lost?

    Neil, I don't believe that WAR's positional replacement levels are based on single-season performance. (Even if they were, a 9-point change in OPS wouldn't make that much difference.) I think WAR sets the "Rpos" (positional scarcity) on a decade-by-decade basis. The other major thing is that Mauer played more than 30 games at DH last year.

  8. Mauer should have been the MVP in 2006 & 2008.

  9. Here's the all-time list. Only 16 player seasons top 7.0:

    1. 9.3 MPiazza-1997
    2. 9.1 JBench-1972
    3. 8.7 JMauer-2008
    4. 8.4 DPorter-1979
    5. 7.9 JMauer-2009
    6. 7.8 GCarter-1982
    7. 7.6 JBench-1974
    8. 7.4 DDaulton-1992
    9. 7.3 YBerra-1956
    10. 7.2 CHoiles-1993
    11. 7.2 RCampanella-1953
    12. 7.1 CFisk-1972
    13. 7.0 JMauer-2006
    14. 7.0 MPiazza-1993
    15. 7.0 BFreehan-1968
    16. 7.0 RCampanella-1951

    Pretty good company for Mauer... and a couple of surprises on the list as well.

  10. Does WAR account for defense or is it purely based on offense?

  11. @10
    WAR has components for fielding. I'm not sure how its done... and from what little I know catcher-fielding is especially hard to quantify.

    Its in there though. You can check the old Piazza vs. Rodriguez debate as a sanity check. It says that Piazza cost his teams 70 runs over his career while Rodriguez saved 154. That's about a 22 WAR swing between the two players. The two Piazza seasons above didn't quantify that badly somehow. I can't explain why just looking at the SB/CS data. There must be other stuff in the mix as well. And of course, Piazza could really hit.

  12. It's worth noting that FanGraphs has Mauer's 2008 WAR at 5.7, and his 2009 WAR at 8.0. This goes to show that there is not always agreement between different calculations of WAR. Where does the BBref WAR data come from?

  13. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    "Here's the all-time list. Only 16 player seasons top 7.0:"

    DavidRF, is there some sort of bias against pre-WWII catchers?? I do not see Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey or Gabby Hartnett listed (I looked them up to check). I just find it hard to believe that ALL the greatest seasons by a catcher happened after 1950...

  14. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Lawrence, my guess is that it's partly because those guys caught a few less games each season than more recent guys do. And also their "Rpos," which is the number of runs added for playing a tough position, appears to be less than in recent times. I'm not sure why that is; maybe because there were a lot of good catchers at the time so the position was seen as stronger overall?

    Nat, it comes from baseballprojection.com. I gotta say, I don't understand his rating of Mauer's '08. If Mauer's '08 hitting was 45 runs above average, how can his '09 be only 57 runs above average? B-R shows adjusted batting runs, which also agrees that Mauer 09 was 57 runs above average, but Mauer 08 at 32. That difference makes more sense, considering he was more than 30 points of OBP and more than 130 pts of SLG better in 09.