10 Best Offensive Seasons By A Catcher
Catcher has been a position where defense is valued over offense. Even during stretches where offense ruled the game the primary goal of most teams was to employ a top-notch defensive catcher. Any offensive value is considered extra. Over the years though, there have been catchers who could hit with the best of them. Still, these types of catchers are the exception, not the rule. Below is my list of the 10 greatest offensive seasons by catchers.
- Johnny Bench, Cincinnati Reds, 1972
- Darren Daulton, Philadelphia Phillies, 1992
- Mickey Cochrane, Oakland Athletics, 1933
- Ernie Lombardi, Cincinnati Reds, 1938
- Roy Campanella, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1953
10. Jorge Posada, New York Yankees, 2007
9. Joe Torre, Atlanta Braves, 1966
8. Roy Campanella, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1951
7. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants, 2012
6. Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox, 1972
5. Mike Piazza, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1996
4. Chris Hoiles, Baltimore Orioles, 1993
3. Mike Piazza, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1995
2. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins, 2009
1. Mike Piazza, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1997
Posada caught 136 of the 144 games he played in during the 2007 season. He led all catchers in runs, hits, doubles, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS. His domination wasn’t just positional. He was third in the AL in on-base percentage, fourth in batting average, sixth in OPS, eighth in doubles and slugging percentage. Posada also made the AL all-star team, won a Silver Slugger and finished sixth in AL MVP voting. Not bad for a 35-year old.
Torre was by far the best catcher in 1966. He led all catchers in runs, hits, home runs, rbi, slugging, and OPS. He also stacked up quite well against the rest of the majors. He was fifth in slugging, sixth in home runs and OPS, eighth in batting average, ninth in on-base percentage, and tenth in rbi and WAR. In addition, he made the NL all-star team and finished 16 in NL MVP voting. Not a bad year for a 25-year old catcher playing in the shadows of two hall of famers to be Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews.
Campanella and Yogi Berra were the only two catchers who played enough to qualify for the batting title in 1951. To say he was the best catcher in 1951 is underselling what he accomplished. He was third in all of baseball in home runs and slugging, fourth in OPS, sixth in WAR, seventh in rbi, tenth in doubles, and sixteenth in on-base percentage. He was also selected to the NL all-star team and won the NL MVP by a safe margin over Stan Musial.
In his first full season back from a broken leg sustained in a collision with a base runner at home plate Posey took the majors by storm. The 25-year old backstop led the majors in batting average, finished third in WAR and on-base percentage, fourth in OPS, and ninth in slugging. Posey was selected to the NL all-star team, won a Silver Slugger, and was voted NL MVP.
The 1972 AL Rookie of the Year Carlton Fisk announced his presence with a splash. The 24-year old rookie tied for third in the majors in triples, fifth in slugging, and sixth in OPS and WAR. He was named to the AL all-star team and finished fourth in the AL MVP race. Fisk remains the only catcher to ever lead the American League in triples.
Piazza’s first appearance on this list is right in the middle of the offensive explosion following the 1994-1995 strike. The 27-year old backstop finished third in the majors in intentional walks, sixth in batting average, and ninth in OBP. He was also selected to the NL all-star team, won a Silver Slugger Award, and was runner-up to Ken Caminiti in the NL MVP voting.
Every list has one. Someone who you didn’t see coming and Chris Hoiles has the honor of being that guy on this list. While he only played in 126 games he produced at an extremely high level for a backstop. He finished sixth in the majors in OPS, seventh in slugging and WAR, and eighth in on-base percentage. Despite his performance he did bot get selected to the all-star team nor did he take home any hardware.
Piazza’s second appearances here is his strike shortened campaign. He finished third in the bigs in batting average, tied with Frank Thomas for fifth in slugging, sixth in OPS, tenth in WAR, and tied with teammate Eric Karros for thirteenth in home runs. Piazza also won a Silver Slugger, was named to the NL all-star team and finished fourth in NL MVP voting
Despite not playing a game until May 1st due to a month long DL stint Mauer lands at the number two spot. He led the majors in batting average and on-base percentage, finished second in OPS, third in slugging, fourth in WAR, tied with Lance Berkman, Miguel Cabrera, and Hanley Ramirez for seventh in intentional walks, and ninth in hits. Mauer was named to the AL all-star team, won a Silver Slugger, and was the AL MVP. What if he would have played in Aptil?
Mike Piazza’s 1997 is the offensive standard by which all catchers are measured. Piazza finished second in the majors in OPS, third in batting average, fourth in hits, slugging, and WAR, fifth in on-base percentage, tied with Barry Bonds, Vinny Castilla, Jay Buhner, and Jim Thome for eighth, and ninth in rbi. Again, Piazza was named to the NL all-star team, won a Silver Slugger and finished second in NL MVP voting to Larry Walker.
javy lopez – 2003
Pretty big oversight as are Benches two MVP seasons.
Hey…how about Rick Wilkins?
.300 and 30 HR’s?
Bench only getting honorable mention seems off. I would also say say Dick Dietz 1970 36 Doubles, 22 Home runs, 107 RBI, 109 walks, 941 ops never gets mentioned.
Bench in 1970….. 45 homers ….148 RBIs……….. hmmmm…… The scholar blew it.
Put an asterisk next to Posey’s 2012 season and Mauer’s 2009 season where both played 1/4th the season at 1st base. Also, the ‘best season’ means A SEASON, not great production through limited ABs. So regardless of his 1.001 OPS, leave Hoiles’ lack luster totals in the honorable mentions (or include Pudge’s shortened 2000 season where he has nearly identical totals through just 91 games). Lastly, if you give one player multiple spots then you have to be fair give players as many spots as they deserve, so unless you want a 5 person top 10 list just keep it to 1 spot per player.
Javy Lopez, 2003- 29 2Bs, 43 HRs, 109 RBIs, .328 BA, 1.065 OPS
Johnny Bench, 1970- 34 2Bs, 45 HRs, 148 RBIs, .291 BA, 932 OPS
Johnny Bench, 1972- 22 2Bs, 40 HRs, 125 RBIs, .270 BA, .920 OPS
Roy Campanella, 1953- 26 2Bs, 41 HRs, 142 RBIs, .312 BA, 1.006 OPS
Mike Piazza, 1993- 24 2Bs, 35 HRs, 112 RBIs, .318 BA, .932 OPS
Mike Piazza, 1996- 16 2Bs, 36 HRs, 105 RBIs, .336 BA, .985 OPS
Mike Piazza, 1998- 38 2Bs, 32 HRs, 111 RBIs, .328 BA, .960 OPS
Mike Piazza, 1999- 25 2Bs, 40 HRs, 124 RBIs, .303 BA, .936 OPS
Mike Piazza, 2000- 26 2Bs, 38 HRs, 113 RBIs, .324 BA, 1.012 OPS
Ivan Rodriguez, 1999- 29 2Bs, 35 HRs, 113 RBIs, 25 SBs BY A CATCHER!!!, .332 BA, .914 OPS
Ivan Rodriguez, 2000 *Potential hands-down best offensive season by a catcher cut short due to injury* Stats through 91 games- 27 2Bs, 27 HRs, 83 RBIs, .347 BA, 1.042 OPS
Brian McCann, 2003- 34 2Bs, 24 HRs, 93 RBIs, .333 BA, .961 OPS
Yogi Berra, 1950- 30 2Bs, 28 HRs, 128 RBIs, .322 BA, .915 OPS
Very surprised to not see Javy Lopez’s 2003 season listed here, even as an honorable mention.
Hoiles over Bench is a terrible oversight.
After adjusting for eras and ballparks, in addition to Bench in 70,72, 74, we have Carter in 82, Porter in 79, Munson in 73 (not his MVP year in 76) and Freehan in 68 to consider using offensive WAR to guide us
No Johnny Bench, no credibility whatsoever.
Really? 1970 Bench .293 avg 45Hr 148 RBI’s