Thurman Munson's Place Among Yankees' Catchers

32 years ago today, Thurman Munson died tragically when the plane he was piloting crashed during an attempted landing at an Ohio airport. Let’s take a look at his place in the Yankees catching annals, ranked using bWAR (Note: this portion of the post initially ran in May 2010):

1. Yogi Berra (61.8 WAR as Yankee)
Yogi compiled 61.8 WAR over his 18 seasons with the Yankees, good enough to put him at #97 among all position players in terms of career value. His best season was likely 1956, in which he finished with 7.3 WAR, and had a batting line of .298/.378/.534 with 30 homers and 105 RBI. He also caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of that season’s World Series, and added a whopping 1.248 OPS (3HR, 10 RBI) in that series as well. Interestingly enough, Yogi did not win the MVP in 1956, although he did finish second to teammate Mickey Mantle (1.169 OPS!). He had won the MVP in 1951, 1954 and 1955, and finished no lower than 4th between 1950 and 1956.… Click here to read the rest

The Development Dilemma Posed By Jesus Montero

Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus ran an interesting post this week regarding the promotion of prospects. I strongly encourage that you click through and read it, as it provides some interesting data on how many innings or at-bats teams give to prospects before calling them up, and begins to examine whether prospect advancement strategies impact prospect performance. For the purposes of my post, I want to highlight one graph that I found to be very interesting:

As you can see, catchers take the longest to become ready for Major League action. A lot of this likely has to do with the fact that a catcher has to learn more skills than any other player, needing to learn how to use the bat, field a complicated position, and run a pitching staff by calling games. As such, you end up with catchers who can hit but are held back to learn the nuances of their position, or players who are natural backstops but take years to develop enough proficiency with the stick to survive in the majors.… Click here to read the rest

Callis On The Yankee Catching Depth

Jim Callis answered a number of questions regarding Yankee catching prospects in his ESPN chat today, and made some interesting points. Let’s break them down by player:

Jesus Montero:

I like the Piazza comp. That’s a lot to put on Montero, but he has that potential impact bat and that lackluster defense behind the plate. But the bat may be enough to not worry about his defensive inadequacies.

Callis gets more specific on this point later in the chat:

First base (Teixeira) and DH (a slew of older players) are locked up for a while, so catcher is still going to be the best fit. I think the Yankees are going to try to make that work, and if they have to sacrifice defense for offense, they may just do that.

This course of action makes the most sense for the Yankees, as it allows them to extract the most value possible from Montero. What I found interesting was that Callis did not dismiss this course of action as entirely ridiculous or unworkable.… Click here to read the rest

The Premium Position?

In this inaugural year of the new Yankee Stadium, I can’t help but have my thoughts run in a more historical direction than usual.  With Jorge coming back strong from his injury, it made me analyze how important he is to what the Yankees do and, more abstractedly, how important catchers have been to the Yankees, historically.  Everyone knows that the most hallowed spot in all of baseball, perhaps all of sports, is the Centerfielder for the New York Yankees, but is it possible that the catcher has been even more important for the Yanks throughout their gloried past?

Look at all the great catchers the Yanks have been fortunate enough to have, and how they’ve reflected the overall success of the team.   If you begin with the ’27 Yankees dynasty, certainly the CF position dominates.  Earl Combs is a hall of famer who hit .356 in 1927 as a prototypical leadoff hitter.  Pat Collins was the catcher of that team and nothing to write home about.… Click here to read the rest