Friday, February 17, 2012

Gary Carter and Catchers

Hello again, everyone.

There are a whole lot of tributes out there to Gary Carter today, and justifiably so. These tributes range from the purely statistical to the sappy and emotional; career highlights to personal remembrances; there are those who want to take this time to think only on the happy memories, and those who want to put the full man together in order to gain perspective. Grief is a complicated thing, and it makes sense that people would have so many different responses to Carter's passing.

It seems that much of the main-line baseball blogosphere is filled with people in their 40s and 50s (with some in their 30s), which makes sense, because they have had time to establish themselves. These are also the people on whom Gary Carter had the biggest impact, as they saw him as a young phenom in Montreal, and they saw him win a World Championship as a Met - and he was one of the major players in the famous game-6 rally.

But the 1986 World Series ended 11 days before I was born. Rob Neyer (click on "Gary" above to read the piece) wrote this morning that, in 1999, only 33% of the BBWAA voted for Carter for the Hall of Fame. I remember that same year worrying that this guy who was gaining momentum, Gary Carter, may prevent Robin Yount from entering the Hall on the first ballot, and that would just be stupid, because, you know - he was Robin Yount. He had to be a first ballot guy, because he was one of the greatest players of all-time (full disclosure: I do agree with that statement, but growing up in Milwaukee may give one an overly optimistic view of Yount). I didn't want this Carter - whoever he was - taking that away from Robin.

But, of course, hindsight is 20/20.

As it turns out, it was Yount who took votes away from Carter, and Robin was elected while Gary had to wait. Both were great players, and both were deserving of first-ballot induction, if you ask me. And that's where we come to. Because my greatest memory of Carter is somewhat antagonistic, I think I'll stick to the stats. Last month, I revealed my new statistical measure for Hall of Fame worthiness: WARSCOR. If you want more details, read the post. Needless to say, perhaps, what I want to discuss is Gary Carter, and his WARSCOR. Here are the top 9 catchers of all-time, and their WARSCORs (if you're wondering why nine, it's because those are the legit full-time catchers who have an argument for being the best ever, in my opinion):

Bench - 56.7
Carter - 52.5
Berra - 52.3
Piazza - 48.3
Dickey - 48.1
Cochrane - 46.2
Fisk - 44.8
Hartnett - 43.8
Rodriguez - 43.4

Keeping in mind that I only used gWAR (or The Baseball Gauge's WAR system), I thought that maybe I should try the other WAR systems out there. So that's what I did. Here they are, by rWAR, fWAR, and WARP, respectively:

- 52.9
Carter - 50.5
Piazza - 48.0
Rodriguez - 46.0
Fisk - 45.0
Berra - 44.6
Cochrane - 40.5
Dickey - 39.8
Hartnett - 34.5

Bench - 60.1
Carter - 53.6
Piazza - 52.4
Berra - 50.3
Rodriguez - 48.7
Fisk - 48.6
Dickey - 46.1
Cochrane - 43.6
Hartnett - 38.1

Bench - 56.5
Piazza - 52.9
Carter - 49.0
Berra* - 46.8
Fisk - 46.0
Rodriguez - 38.3
Dickey - N/A
Cochrane - N/A
Hartnett - N/A

*WARP data is only from 1950 on, so does not include Dickey, Cochrane, nor Hartnett; nor does it include Yogi Berra's first four seasons (1946-1949).

So, if you buy into my method (which, let's face it, you should, as I think it's an improvement on JAWS, CAWS, or wWAR), by 3 of the 4 WAR systems, Carter ranks as the #2 backstop of all-time, the only exception being WARP, which has him at #3. For reference, JAWS has him at #4, wWAR has him at #2, and CAWS has him at #4. The fact that Carter was on the ballot before Fisk, but got in after is pretty inexplicable in light of this information - especially when all of these systems rank him above Fisk. I'm not trying to denigrate Fisk - just point out that it's very, very reasonable to conjecture that Gary Carter is the 2nd greatest catcher ever. Rest in Peace, Gary. Your fans will miss you. And baseball will miss you - the second greatest catcher of all-time!