The Mets have had a lot of players behind the plate, “the game’s most demanding position,” according to Jesse Yomtov, starting with Hobie Landrith who, on April 11, 1962, caught the first pitch thrown by a Mets’ starter (Roger Craig).
Five catchers have stood out.
To choose them, five statistics were primarily used: WAR, WPA, RE24, Total Bases, and Times on Base (excluding by error) with WAR and WPA the two dominant ones in that order. In addition, their selection was based solely on their time with the Mets, not on their overall career, as a player could have played for multiple teams
Among the Mets top five catchers, two are in the Hall of Fame: Mike Piazzaand Gary Carter. Piazza played eight seasons for the Mets after playing seven on the Dodgers, Carter five after playing 11 for Montreal. Filling out the list are Jerry Grote, who played 12 seasons in the Big Apple, John Stearns, who played 10, and Todd Hundley, who played nine.
Grote came closest to Piazza in Times on Base, only 91 apart; however, as a Met, Grote played four more seasons than Piazza who averaged getting on base 183.6 times a season versus 114.8 for Grote.
Based only on their Mets WAR number, the top two are Piazza and Stearns; however, when WPA and RE24 are taken into account, the difference between the two becomes quite significant. And Piazza separates himself even more from the others in Total Bases, having 607 more than the second-most — Grote’s 1278. But then, in his Mets career, Piazza amassed a .542 SLG. No one else in the group came within 100 points of that number.
- Piazza had the third-highest JAWS rating among all catchers.
I found the tweet below after I completed the above write-up and was not surprised by Piazza’s landslide victory. He was one of the Mets most popular players.
Another stat, TOB/TB, helps lengthen Piazza’s lead over the rest of the field. Written about in 2016 by Rob Mains, the TOB/TB Number is calculated using this formula:
- Multiply Times on Base by Total Bases.
- Double it.
- Divide the result by the sum of Times on Base and Total Bases.
Piazza’s TOTtb number of 1,651 was 325 points ahead of Grote’s with the average for the top five catchers 1,170.
Tim Boyle, in his catcher comparison, made this comment about Mike Piazza:
“Piazza didn’t have a reputation for playing well defensively. As the years went on, he got worse. I’m not so sure anyone holds this against him. Piazza was far too amazing at the plate for anyone to criticize him for his weaknesses behind it.”
In contrast, Jennifer Khedaroo viewed Piazza’s defensive skill differently, writing
“In terms of defense, Piazza played well year after year. He was consistently in the top five for putouts, assists, double plays turned and runners caught stealing.”
And though Harold Friend agreed that Piazza was a better hitter than Gary Carter, he still pushed Piazza into second place among the best Mets catchers, Carter’s defensive skill giving him the edge:
“Gary Carter was the most valuable Mets catcher. Piazza will always be rated as the greater player, but Carter was more valuable to the Mets. Gary Carter was (and is) a world champion.
Piazza was the greatest hitting catcher ever. Although he was a good defensive player his first few seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was a defensive liability during his tenure with the Mets.”
Overall, Friend wrote, “Carter provided great defense, handled an excellent pitching staff magnificently and was a timely clutch hitter.”
In response to Friend, in my opinion the best measure of clutch hitting is WPA. For that stat, Piazza’s score was more than 10 times higher than Carter’s.
With regard to Piazza’s ability behind the plate, in an nj.com article, its author, Brendan Kuty, wrote that Hall of Famer Tom Glavine “said Piazza’s reputation as a bad defensive catcher is undeserved.”
“He did a lot of things well behind the plate,” Glavine said. “Yeah, he wasn’t the greatest thrower. That unfortunately translated into people thinking that some of this other game wasn’t as good as it was. He called a good game. He received the ball fine. He blocked balls fine.
But so often catchers are defined defensively on how well they throw and there’s much more that goes into just being a good defensive catcher than being able to throw. That aspect of his game, for whatever reason, garnered the extra attention and overshadowed the other aspects of his game.” (from Kuty article)