Bill James on Defense, Part 2

As I mentioned in Part 1, Bill James has been writing about defense lately, and his first two articles included lists of the top-fielding catchers, as measured by his new (for us) Win Shares and Loss Shares. Here are all the catchers rated the best in their leagues by Bill’s method, in at least five years:

9 – Ray Schalk

8 – Gabby Hartnett

7 – Bill Dickey, Bob Boone

6 – Brad Ausmus, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra (cont’d…)

6 – Gary Carter, Yadier Molina, Thurman Munson, I. Rodriguez

5 – Roy Campanella, Del Crandall

Notice anything (un)interesting about that list?

I don’t believe there are ANY surprises on the list. Ray Schalk is in the Hall of Fame based almost entirely on his defensive reputation, and my previous analysis similar to this have also scored him very well, so his position at the top of the list is not a Schalk. Hartnett, Berra, Bench, Dickey, Carter and Campanella are in the Hall of Fame as well. Boone, Ausmus, Molina, Munson and Ivan Rodriguez are, I think, all universally accepted as outstanding defensive catchers.

Right. And the same thing is true if you look at the guys who led their leagues four times, or three times; essentially all of them had great reputations.

I’m sure you’ve heard some old baseball man say, "I don’t need any of your statistics to tell me [X] is a great fielder."

Which does smack of ignorance, or anti-intellectualism, or whatever. But when it comes to catchers, there’s obviously some real truth to it.