Hall Watch 2004-The Catchers- Mike Piazza

Friday, October 29 2004 @ 10:18 AM EDT

Contributed by: Mike Green

The series continues with Mike Piazza. This year he had his second straight off-season hitting .262/.366/.442, while splitting his time between catching and playing first base. Still, at age 35, he has an impressive resume.

Mike Piazza was a 62nd round draft choice, who advanced slowly through the Dodger minor league system spending 3 years in A ball. In 1992, he rushed ahead, passing through double A, triple A and getting a cup of coffee in the bigs. He came up for good in 1993 at age 25, and was immediately one of the best hitters in the league and remained so for 10 years. His defence was another matter. He threw out runners at a below average rate, and was not thought to be a great handler of pitchers. But, it can be overstated. While he was a below average defensive catcher, he was by no means the worst in the league.

So, where does he stand? Finding comparables for Piazza is very difficult. There has never been a catcher who hit as well as he has. Not even close. On the other hand, most of the great hitting catchers, Bench, Berra, Carter, Cochrane, Campanella, were fine or better defensive catchers. On the other hand, finding comparable hitters at other positions is much easier. I have chosen to give a mix, with an emphasis on comparable hitters:

Player    G     AB     H     HR    W     BA    OBP   SLUG   GAMES CAUGHT(AT 35)    OPS+
Piazza 1590 5805 1829 378 666 .315 .385 .562 50 150
Yogi 1847 6772 1946 318 630 .287 .351 .486 63 126
Stargell 1753 6164 1750 368 718 .284 .361 .533 0 150
Greenberg 1269 4791 1528 306 748 .319 .412 .616 0 161
Reggie 2018 7197 1953 425 980 .271 .362 .510 0 149

Piazza has been as good a hitter as Reggie Jackson or Willie Stargell, but over a shorter period due to his late start. He is relatively close to Hank Greenberg, who had a shorter career than Piazza. Giving him some credit for his defensive position, he looks like a fairly easy Hall of Famer now, and another good year or two will seal the deal.

What his teams have not had is a tremendous amount of success. Most of the great catchers have been on very successful teams. It will help Piazza’s standing if, like Carter, he plays a key role on a championship team in New York in late-career.

Piazza’s final statistics, according to the Green projection method (a hint of salt, a dash of cinnamon and three tablespoons of curry powder, some minced onion, all sautéed in butter, inhale deeply and then pronounce):
.309/.375/.550, 435 homers, 1100 runs scored, 1350 RBIs.

Next up: Jorge Posada

Other catchers in the series: Ivan Rodriguez