This could probably be best characterized as blatant stealing, but I’ll paint a rosier picture and say that this was such a good idea that I had to do it for myself, which is true. One of the best bloggers around, Jinaz, is doing a series on his blog about the best Cincinnati Reds of all time, mirroring a similar project he is undertaking at Beyond the Boxscore. Mine won’t be nearly as advanced as his because, well quite frankly I’m not as smart as he is, but it will be fun nonetheless to see some of the best players in franchise history. I am using players throughout the franchise’s entire history, even those who played for the Washington Senators, and to make things simpler I’m going off this page for the players. So let’s kick it off with the 10 best catchers in the history of the twins, shall we? And by the way, you have to click on the tables twice to see the full thing. My apologies. When I do the other positions I’ll make them smaller so we can get the whole thing in one window, but I’m too lazy to fix them all.
10. Clint Courtney (1951-1961) (With Twins org. from 1955-1959)
|Debut||Years with org.||PA||RAR||wOBA||RF/9||WAR|
Courtney certainly didn’t get it done with the bat. His -28 batting runs is close to the worst on this list. But he did play a lot, and he did play well defensively. He was 2nd in the rookie of the year voting in 1952, although by that time he was already 25 so that is not to be unexpected. His Washington teams were terrible, finishing 7th, 8th,8th and 8th in the American League. The 1959 team did feature a 20 year old Jim Kaat, however.
9. John Warner (1895-1908; with Twins org. from 1907-1908)
Yikes. Warner sure couldn’t hit. That wOBA is atrocious. But he played a heck of a long time, and that really was the only thing that gave him any value. His best year was a 1.7 WAR season in 1903, and his .4555 WAR per season is terrible, and the lowest on the list.
8. Brian Harper (1979-1995; with Twins org. from 1988-1993)
Besides his first year with the club in 1988 when he had only 179 plate appearances, Harper’s worst year with the Twins was actually 1991, when he won the World Series with the team. Harper had a 1.7 WAR that year, even though he was a good hitter in 1991: he had a 111 OPS+, helped out by his 10 homers, which were just two off his career high. Harper wasn’t a regular until 1989, his age 29 season, so the fact that he is 8th on this list speaks to, well, something.
7. AJ Pierzynski (1998-; with Twins org. from 1998-2003)
God I hate this guy. But, he was a good player for the Twins. The Twins parlayed a career year in his age 26 season (3.7 WAR) into a trade that continues to be discussed amongst the great fleecings ever, although its star has dimmed a bit in recent years. AJ has never walked or struck out much, but lacks the natural talent of say Vlad Guerrero to make that approach work.
6. Earl Battey (1955-1967; with Twins org. from 1961-1967)
Battey put up nearly all his value in seven seasons (though not the seven with the Twins) including a 4.4 WAR season in 1963 and a 3.8 WAR season in 1965. Battey won three gold gloves (and during his best years was actually good behind the plate, not like Nate McClouth in center) and he caught Jack Kralick’s no hitter in 1962. Sadly Battey died of cancer in 2003 at the age of 68.
5. Johnny Roseboro (1957-1970; with Twins org. from 1968-1969)
Roseboro wasn’t a very good hitter, as evidenced by his career wOBA of just .306. He didn’t have a lot of power (104 HR in 14 seasons) and didn’t get on base a lot (career .326), but he had a good glove, and in fact was good enough defensively to spend some time in center field. Roseboro is probably best known for being the catcher who took over for Roy Campanella after Campanella was paralyzed in a terrible car accident. He won three World Series with the Dodgers, and 1963 was the only lefty to hit a homer off Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford.
4. Rick Ferrell (1929-1947; with Twins org. from 1937-1941 and 1944-1945)
Hopefully you pervs out there won’t get too excited at the number of Ferrell’s plate appearances. Ferrell was certainly not an amazing catcher, but had a very good bat. The best hitting catcher on the list so far had some very high OBPs (career high .406, career .378) but had just 28 career home runs. He made 7 all-star teams, and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1984. This didn’t draw high praise from all over however, as Keith Olbermann said in his book Welcome to the Big Show, “If Ferrell’s in, put em all in.”
3. Butch Wynegar (1976-1988; with Twins org. from 1976-1982)
Wynegar was another catcher who wasn’t fantastic hitting wise (below average at a 93 OPS+), but had a good glove and played a ton of seasons to rack up a 24.7 WAR. His best years were all with the Twins, which suggests he really fell off a cliff production wise. He was 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1976, when he had a .356 OBP, 10 HR and walked 16 times more than he struck out.
2. Joe Mauer (2004-; with Twins org. from 2004-)
He’s been the best offensive catcher in Twins history and among the best defensive. The only thing keeping him from the number 1 slot on the list is some playing time. In fact he will probably be there by the time 2009 ends. I’ve said everything I need to say about Mauer, but by the time he’s done he may very well be the best catcher ever.
1. Terry Steinbach (1986-1999; with Twins org. from 1997-1999)
Steinbach has a good WAR, but a lot of that is due to playing time. He was not very good with the Twins (3.1 WAR in 3 seasons), but the former Gopher won a World Series in 1989 with the A’s. Steinbach caught Dave Stewart’s no hitter in 1990 and Eric Milton’s in 1999, and was the 1988 All-Star game MVP. I have to say, Steinbach was pretty vanilla and it will be nice to see Mauer overtake him eventually.