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How do you assess the chances of a catcher who has the worst patch of his career by far at age 30-31 and immediately follows it up with the best 2 year patch of his career by far? Will the real Javy Lopez please stand up?

Javy was signed by the Braves as an amateur free agent the day after his 17th birthday. Like Posada, he spent a long period in the minors- a year in rookie ball, two years in A ball, and a year each in double A and triple A. When he arrived in the majors in 1994, the Braves already had 4 consecutive division titles under their belts, and he was weaned into the lineup slowly. Posada was "blocked" by Joe Girardi; in Lopez' case, it was Damon Berryhill, another member of the League of Unmemorable Catchers. Lopez immediately hit with power, and for a good average, while flashing a fine throwing arm. His transition to the majors was undoubtedly made easier by the Braves' superb and experienced pitching staff.

Lopez followed up his career year in 2003, with a solid .316/.370/.503 campaign for Baltimore in 2004, and had over 600 plate appearances for the first time in his career. At this point, he has caught 1238 games in the majors.

What are Lopez' chances of a Hall of Fame career? Choosing comparables is difficult. He has the light-early use career pattern of Posada, Fisk and Hartnett with the performance levels of Freehan and Carter. Freehan is considered by many to be a viable Hall of Fame candidate, and I'd say that Lopez is roughly where Freehan was at this stage of his career (a little ahead on performance, a fair bit behind on playing time). If Lopez can continue at his career level for another 500 catching games, I think that he'll sneak into the Hall. I'd say that his chances are maybe 40% of doing that.

Here's the chart of comparables:

Player    G     AB     H     HR    W     BA    OBP   SLUG   G. CAUGHT(AT 33)  OPS+
Lopez 1306 4582 1331 237 318 .290 .341 .502 132 115
Fisk 1174 4198 1186 169 427 .283 .356 .471 92 125
Hartnett 1357 4420 1285 176 484 .291 .364 .491 129 124
Carter 1828 6586 1769 291 722 .269 .342 .456 135 120
Freehan 1703 5836 1527 195 614 .262 .341 .413 113 113

For the Green projection method today, we'll remove the cardamom and cinnamon, add a pinch of turmeric and a teaspoon of cumin. Inhale and pronounce:

Javy Lopez' final career statistics: .285/.337/.490, 850 runs, 290 homers, 1050 RBIs.

Other catchers in this series: Jorge Posada, Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez

We'll move on to the first basemen next. Will it be Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell or Frank Thomas? Hmm, I think I'll wait until the presidential election results are known. If Kerry wins, it'll be the Big Hurt from Chicago. If Bush wins, it'll be one of the Texas guys.
Hall Watch 2004-The Catchers-Javy Lopez | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Mick - Tuesday, November 02 2004 @ 09:35 AM EST (#19928) #
I'm going to make an idiotic, indefensible statement here (Do i really need to announce that?) because I think it's the way many BBWAA-accredited HOF voters think.

Javy Lopez has never felt like a Hall of Famer. Watching him play, probably more than most other catchers thanks to TBS, he never jumped out as That Guy. Now, there have been plenty of times I've watched someone who "felt" like a HOFer who eventually didn't make it for one reason or another (Don Gullett, Dwight Gooden) but the reverse-- a guy who never even once felt like he was Cooperstown-bound who ended up there.

I think Lopez would need to end up in Fisk/Bench territory in home runs (375 or so) to even get a sniff, so if he has a couple 40-dinger seasons left in him (which I doubt), and several 20-homer campaigns, then maybe.

Two of the catchers we didn't discuss here, the Jasons (Varitek and Kendall) have always struck me as better than Lopez, but neither of those guys is getting into the Hall of Fame without buying a ticket.
Mike Green - Tuesday, November 02 2004 @ 10:03 AM EST (#19929) #
There is no question that there is more subjectivity in evaluating catchers than say first basemen. In Lopez' case, it is difficult because he was not the consensus best defensive catcher as Pudge was.

I always felt that Lopez was overall a better defensive catcher than either of the Jasons, but who knows if my view is commonly held. He has been better objectively with the bat.
_Mark J - Tuesday, November 02 2004 @ 12:52 PM EST (#19930) #
I didn't realize Lopez's SLG in 2003 was .687! Wow.

Anyway, I see Lopez and Posada pretty similarly. They both could make it and are on track IF they stay healthy and have another several good years. They are not one or two good years away though, more like 3-5 good to great years, and betting on the health of 30-something catchers is a risky proposition. Posada's been a better hitter although Lopez has better career totals due to an extra 300 G. Lopez had some bad years thrown in, too, which Posada hasn't had.

Some more data, Top 5 season OPS+
Lopez: 174, 133, 129, 122, 121
Posada: 146, 134, 133, 123, 119

I don't think that either will make it, but I don't have a strong opinion at this point. I don't "think of them as HOFers" either.
_Chuck Van Den C - Tuesday, November 02 2004 @ 06:49 PM EST (#19931) #
I don't "think of them as HOFers" either.

Good thing for Lopez that Maddux doesn't get to vote.

I agree that both Posada and Lopez will likely fall short. Just seeing how long it took for Gary Carter to get in shows the BBWAA's feelings about catchers. Perhaps this illustrates their inability to perform positional adjustments (at either end of the defensive spectrum -- witness Tony Perez's election).

Using Lee Sinnins' baseball encyclopedia, Tony Perez had a career 804 OPS compared to a positional average of 752 (no park adjustments). Carter's career OPS was 773 compared to a positional average of 696. In addition, Carter was a plus defender for much of his career.
Hall Watch 2004-The Catchers-Javy Lopez | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.