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The best catcher in Twins history




blog-0965015001550117590.jpgI have been following ESPN’s look at positions and comparing the position’s historically by statistics and currently by ranking the players and putting them in tiers. So of course, since I have been watching the Twins since their Minnesota debut I thought we should do the same things. Like ESPN I will start with the Catchers.



Earl Battey was our first catcher and in many ways was under rated. He was our catcher for 8 of his 13 years in the big leagues – starting with the White Sox and ending with the Twins. His slash line for those 8 years is .277/.354/.412 – OPS .766 – OPS + 109 and WAR 17.5 (an average for the 8 years of 2.2 per year). Now wouldn’t those lines be great today?


George Mitterwald was the next catcher – He started with the Twins and was in Minnesota for 7 years before playing four years for the cubs. 239/.304 /.373 OPS .676 was a come down from Battey. He had a WAR of 6 (0.85 per year). Phil Roof was his second, but George played 120 games.


In 1974 Roof stayed as the backup along with Randy Hundley and Glenn Borgmann played 128 games. Glenn played for the Twins for 8 years and then, like the previous three had a stint (1 year) in Chicago. 229/.325/.304/.630 lowered the standards again. His WAR was 5 for the 8 years (.6 average). You have to discount the WAR because he lost his starting role in 1976 so he had only two full seasons to create this WAR total.


Randy Hundley was replaced by the forgettable Tom Lundstedt as third catcher in 1975 and was gone in 1976 as Butch Wynegar (Griffiths – Love that Kid) took charge, Borgmann dropped to two and Roof to three. Butch had a good press but his .254/.340 /.342/.682 means he was somewhat overrated. He did acquire a WAR total of 15.3 for those seven years because his defense was very good. (2.2 average WAR).


In 1977 Bud Bulling replaced Roof as number three. Do you remember those days when rosters had number three catchers? Wow! After Bulling left – one year – we really just kept Wynegar and Borgmann for a few years.


In 1980 Borgmann went to the Cubs and we brought in, as backup, Sal Butera who started 32 games. Then in 1981 Butera played 59 games, Wynegar 37, Ray Smith 15 and Tim Laudner 12. Butera was with the Twins for four years and his slash line was .233/.303 /.274/.577 with a Total WAR for the four years of -0.8 or an average of -0.2.


In 1982 Tim Laudner took over, Butera was number 2, Wynegar number 3. Tim played nine years – all for the Twins and of course is a local Icon now. His line was 225/.292/.391/.682 and total WAR 3.2 an average of 0.3 per year.


In 1983 Laudner dropped to number 3 with 57 games behind Ray Smith 59 games and Dave Engle 72! Dave Engle played for Minnesota for five years with a line of .268/.316/.400/.716 and a low WAR of 3.4 which would have been okay for a catcher but in reality he played more OF/DH/3B. In 1984 he was still catcher number one, with Tim Laudner 2 and Jeff Reed as number three.


Then Engle dropped to number three in 1985 with only 17 games behind the plate, Laudner had 68, and a man I had forgotten – Mark Salas was number one with 115 games! Salas was with us three years and had a respectable line - .279/.320/.440/.760 He had a 2.7 WAR of .9 per year and he went on to play 8 years – with the Yankees, White Sox, Cleveland and Detroit.


In 1986 Salas had 69 games, Laudner 68, and Reed 64! In 1987 Laudner took over the position again with 101 games and Sal Butera was back as number 2 with Tom Nieto number 3 and Mark Salas number 4. And in 1987 Laudner kept the number one position for 109 games and Tom Nieto played in 24 and a guy by the name of Harper came in and played 48. Harper took over in 1988 and Laudner was second again. Behind Laudner for games at catcher that year were Orlando Mercado, Lenny Webster, and Greg Olson.


Harper took over for sure in 1988 and was backed up by Junior Ortiz and Lenny Webster. Harper played 16 years, 6 with Minnesota. In those six years he was .306/.342/.431/.773 with a WAR total of 13.4 or 2.3 per year. The same threesome was there in 1991 and in 1992/1993 Ortiz was replaced with Derek Parks.


In 1994 Derek Parks was the only hold over, but Matt Walbeck took over the starting position. In three years with the Twins his line was .230/.271/.300 /.571 and a WAR of (-1.5) giving him an average of -0.5 per year. He ended up playing in the majors for 11 years. In 1995 Parks was gone and Matt Merulo and Jeff Reboulet played back up.

Greg Myers took over in 1996 (and I cannot remember him at all) and Walbeck was second with Mike Durant Catching 34 games. Despite my amnesia, he played in the majors for 18 years! His two years with MN he had a line of .279/.323/.429 /.752 which looks really good and he had a WAR of 1.2 or .6 per year.


Myers became expendable when Terry Steinbach took over in 1997 and caught 116 games. Myers caught 38, Damian Miller 20 and Javier Valentin caught 4. In 1998 Valentin took over backup with 53 games, Terry caught 119 and a new guy – A J Pierzynski caught 6. Steinbach had a line of .256/.321/.399/ .719 for three years and WAR of 3.2 and average of 1.1.


In all Terry caught for 14 years in the big leagues with Oakland and Minnesota.

Steinbach was still number one in 1999 with 96 games and number two was not AJ – it was Valentin with 76 games. AJ caught 9. Then in 2000 we had a catcher mess! Marcus Jensen (who?) caught 49 games, Matt LeCroy caught 49 games, Chad Moeller (double who?) caught 48, AJ caught 32, and Danny (triple who???) Ardoin caught 15. Marcus was in the majors seven years. In his one with us he was .209/.325/.338/ .663 and WAR was 0.0.


In 2001 we cleared the field and AJ took over and caught 110 games with Tom Prince catching 64 and LeCroy catching 3. AJ has a 19 year career – amazing for a catcher. Based on rumors he has 19 friends too, but all we care about are his catching credentials. .301/.341/.447/.788 are fine numbers and his WAR 9.5 for six years needs to be factored with two of those being non-playing years so he really averaged 2.38 for the four years he was starter! Pretty damn good numbers.


In 2002 he was backed up by the same two plus Valentin. In 2003 Valentin was replaced by Rob Bowen. And in 2004 AJ was gone and we had another logjam. Henry Blanco caught the most games – 114 with a line of .206/.260/.368/ .628 and (-0.2) WAR which makes him forgettable as a Twin, but he had a 16 year career. His backup were Joe Mauer 32 games, Matt LeCroy 26, Pat Borders 19, Rob Bowen 15.


2005 began the Joe Mauer era and his back ups were Mike Redmond, Chris Heintz, Corky Miller, and Matt LeCroy for 1. LeCroy and Miller were gone in 2006. But LeCroy caught 4 again in 2007 and Jose Morales caught 1. Ryan Jorgenson caught 2 games in 2008 and the rest were Redmond and Mauer (139). 2009 Redmond and Mauer had Morales as the number 3. In 2010 Redmond was gone. Redmond was here for five years and had a line that read .297/.339/.359/.699 with a total of 1.3 WAR. Not bad for a back up.


The 2010 backups were Drew Butera – Sal’s son – and Jose Morales, plus a catcher by the name of Wilson Ramos got in 7 games. In 2011 we had a pivotal year and Mauer could catch only 52 games and Drew Butera caught 93. Mauer and Butera had Rene Rivera start 44 games and Steve Holm six. I do not have the ability to sort our all of Mauer’s Catcher stats from his 1B stats, but I did find that he hit .308/.391/.444 as a Catcher! And his legacy is affected by his .280/.359/.396 line at 1B. My best guess in 31.9 WAR as a catcher. BR has him with 11 seasons at a catcher which gives him an average WAR of 2.9.


In 2012 Mauer still caught 74 games, the famous Ryan Doumit caught 59, Drew Butera caught 41 and Chris Herrmann caught 3. This stayed about the same in 2013 with Mauer getting in 75 games, Doumit 43, Herrmann 27 and Josmil Pinto an exciting 20. But that is not all. Eric Fryer caught 5 and Drew Butera 2. It was Doumits last year with the Twins before going to Atlanta. Doumit in his two years was .261/.317/.428/.745 1.6 WAR which was really good as a part time player.


2014 We turned to Kurt Suzuki who is now with the Nationals and had a good run with Atlanta after leaving us. Josmil Pinto started 25 games, Eric Fryer 24, and Chris Herrmann 1. In 2015 Suzuki started 130 games, Pinto started 38 and Eric Fryer 15. Suzuki continued to be the number one in 2016 when he started 99 games, Juan Centeno started 53 and John Ryan Murphy was in 25. Suzuki had a three year run with .263/.316/.364/.680 and 3.3 WAR or 1.1 average.


Then we move in to Castro/Giminez/Garver/Wilson/Astudillo and even Graterol. These are not in my measures of the best. With time they may be, but lets look at what this long exercise has produced.


So how do we rate them?

Most years

1. Mauer 11

2. Battey 8

3. Borgmann 8

4. Mitterwald 7

5. Wynegar 7


Batting average

1. Mauer 308

2. Harper 306

3. Pierzynski 301

4. Redmond 297

5. Battey 277



1. Mauer 391

2. Battey 354

3. Harper 342

4. Pierzynski 341

5. Wynegar 340



1. Pierzynski 447

2. Mauer 444

3. Salas 440

4. Harper 431

5. Myers 429



1. Mauer 835

2. Pierzynski 788

3. Harper 773

4. Battey 766

5. Salas 760


Total WAR

1. Mauer 31.9

2. Battey 17.5

3. Wynegar 15.3

4. Harper 13.4

5. Pierzynski 9.5


Average WAR per Twin Season

1. Mauer 2.9

2. Harper 2.3

3. Battey 2.2

4. Wynegar 2.2

5. Pierzynski 1.6 (2.4 as starter)


Mauer is obvious number 1 – then? Harper, Battey, Pierzynski, and Wynegar seem to show up the most.



Recommended Comments

I always loved Earl Battey. Even his name was so cool.


I was always so sure that when Mauer finally got out from behind the plate, and he didn't have to squat anymore that he would morph into a more slugging hitter more like Hank Aaron..... 25-35 dingers a year... line drives that didn't go that far but cleared the fence by 10-20 feet, still high average and OBP. I sure blew that call.


Thanks for the trip down the ol memory lane. I really enjoyed it.

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I would rank Battey 2nd. He was a 5 time all star, several t8mes a gold glove winner. He was the best all around catcher next to Mauer. I think Harper and Pierzynski were pretty close, good offensive catchers, some weaknesses defensively. I like Harper a little better. He seemed pretty clutch, though he didn't walk much. Don't pay much attention to war.

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Great writeup, mikelink. That's two Matt LeCroy references this week!


MLB Network hosts recounted a story about LeCroy on the day Frank Robinson died. It was late in Matt's career and he had two bad knees and an injured elbow. The Nats already had two catchers on the DL and the starter for that day's game showed up injured too. LeCroy started and the opponents stole a bunch of bases. Robinson pulled him in the middle of an inning.


Robinson teared up during the press conference because he didn't want to show LeCroy up. When LeCroy heard about it, he said, "My daddy would've done the same thing." Seems it started a friendship between the two. LeCroy is now managing the Nationals AA club in Harrisburg.

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