Rangers WAR Lords: Catchers

I got this idea from Brew Crew Ball, as did several other blogs that did the same series. I really liked reading all the lists that came up and the resulting discussion threads, so I thought I'd do the same for the Rangers and see what interesting things came up.

This is a list of the best Rangers ever by position using the WAR database at Baseball Projection. Because the Rangers have existed entirely in the Retro Sheet era, it's pretty easy to do. Players seasons are only counted at a position if the 1) were the primary player at that position for the Rangers that year or 2) it was their primary position that season, and only a player's seasons at the position in question for the Rangers are considered (so some players may show up twice). Also, only Texas years are considered, no Senators days (though I may look at the Senators in the end).

Starting with catcher.


1. Ivan Rodriguez (1,380 Games Started @ Catcher)
           Career: 49.1
           Best Season: 6.8
           Worst Season: 0.3
           Per 600 PA: 4.9
           Best Three Seasons: 6.4
           Five Year Peak: 6.0

Catcher is one of the few positions where it seems just about impossible that anyone currently in the organization will ever be the best in franchise history. That's thanks to having had one of the greatest catchers in major league history playing the bulk of his career in Texas. His years from 96-01 were especially crazy, as he was an All-Star caliber player at worst every year, and several times on the level of an MVP player. In 2000 he put up a 4.9 WAR in just 91 games (and I'm sure we all remember that season pretty vividly; it still makes me cry). We don't need numbers to tell us Pudge was great, but looking at them paints a great picture of just how great he was.


2. Jim Sundberg (1,395 Games Started @ Catcher)
           Career: 29.2
           Best Season: 5.0
           Worst Season: 0.1
           Per 600 PA: 3.3
           Best Three Seasons: 4.5
           Five Year Peak: 3.9

Max Ram, Tea or Salty being the second greatest catcher we've ever had is a little more possible, but still a tall order. Sundberg was no Pudge, but he was still pretty damn awesome for a good period of time. The Rangers were blessed by having two of the greatest fielding catchers in MLB history playing most of the games behind the plate over their first three decades of existence, and considering the wealth we currently have at the position, it seems those blessings are going to continue. It drops off from here, but that's partly because of how much of the Rangers' history at backstop has belonged to two guys.


3. Gerald Laird (334 Games Started @ Catcher)
           Career: 4.8
           Best Season: 2.0
           Worst Season: -0.2
           Per 600 PA: 2.0
           Best Three Seasons: 1.5
           Five Year Peak: 1.0

OMFT!!! Told you it dropped off! I laughed pretty hard when I saw this. Never would have guessed Laird put up more wins above replacement than any catcher other than the big two in Texas, but he's actually fourth all-time in games caught in Texas and fifth in franchise history. His career wouldn't even be the best season from Pudge or Sunny. That said, I think many of us didn't realize how solid a catcher we had. He was nothing spectacular, but a league-average player is valuable, and Laird was capable of being that. The #3 spot on this list seems ripe for the taking, though.


4. Rod Barajas (313 Games Started @ Catcher)
           Career: 4.8
           Best Season: 2.0
           Worst Season: 1.3
           Per 600 PA: 2.4
           Best Three Seasons: 1.6
           Three Year Peak: 1.6

Considering Barajas and Laird always seemed like the same person to me, I find it fitting they had the exact same career and best season totals. Most of what said about Laird applies here. Solid catcher, nothing compared to the guy I watched most of my life as a Rangers fan, but not bad.


5. Geno Petralli (388 Games Started @ Catcher)
           Career: 3.7
           Best Season: 1.1
           Worst Season: -0.6
           Per 600 PA: 1.1
           Best Three Seasons: 1.0
           Three Year Peak: 0.9

Petralli was a career utility man with the Rangers for a good long time. He's 4th all-time in games caught (3rd in Texas), but was only the primary catcher twice. He played plenty of other positions and was really a good, solid bench option. It does highlight the drop-off from the top of the position when a career utility whose entire production in Texas was worth a border-line All-Star in most single seasons.


I would like to go to 10, but, frankly, catcher in Texas is kind of lame except for the cream of the crop. The filler players aren't even that interesting to talk about or look at, and only 11 players have been the primary catcher for the Rangers. I'll probably go deeper on later lists, but that's enough commentary and break down for this position. Marvel at Pudge and Sundberg and dream about the young guys.

The rest of the players will be listed with career WAR lines in the form of best three averaged, five year peak average and career total (in that order).


The Rest
6. Don Slaught (0.6/0.6/1.7)
7. Ken Suarez (0.4/0.4/0.8)
8. Einar Diaz (-0.1/-0.1/-0.1)
9. Donnie Scott (-0.4/-0.4/-0.8)
10. Dick Billings (-0.4/-0.4/-1.1)
11. Chad Kreuter (-0.1/-0.6/-1.9)


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