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If You Were There: Gary Carter vs. Carlton Fisk

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  • If You Were There: Gary Carter vs. Carlton Fisk

    I'd meant to start a new one sooner, but I was busy with other things. A brief recap of the idea, copied from the original thread:

    If you saw them play, who did you think was better? It's a limited question, since many didn't have the luxury of seeing many of these players' games. The idea is that if you followed baseball when they played, who did you think was better back then? Don't vote on who you think was better now, but who you thought was better back then. There are no winners or losers, so the polls should stay open. And please, only those who followed baseball when they played should vote. I encourage anyone to participate in the discussion though.

    I was following baseball when Carter and Fisk played, but only during the last few years of their careers. Because of that sample size, I am disqualifying myself from voting. But others can make their own decisions on what sample size they feel is appropriate, as long as they followed baseball when Carter and Fisk played. Again, the honor system is in play here.
    30
    Gary Carter
    60.00%
    18
    Carlton Fisk
    40.00%
    12
    "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

    - Alvin Dark

  • #2
    --Carter was a better player, but I didn't actaully see much of him when he was having his best years in Montreal. Fisk was definately perceived as the better player most of their careers, even when that wasn't close to true. He arrived sooner and was a star out the gate in a big market. He had the signature moment with his HR in the 75 WS and that was the image he kept even though injury plagued and disappointing seasons.

    Comment


    • #3
      Fisk may have blipped higher from the start of his career in 1972 through 1978 but he was so often injured that he has about thre full seasons. On the other hand Carter was legitimately with Murphy, Dawson and Schmidt on the short list for best player in the NL from @ 1979 -1985. Like Leece says Fisk has the reputation but with MVP shares we have Carter with much better results in a more concentrated period of time.
      Carter
      1979 NL (17, 4%)
      1980 NL (2, 56%)
      1981 NL (6, 23%)
      1982 NL (12, 10%)
      1984 NL (14, 10%)
      1985 NL (6, 35%)
      1986 NL (3, 54%)

      Fisk
      1972 AL (4, 28%)
      1973 AL (18, 5%)
      1977 AL (8, 17%)
      1978 AL (9, 12%)
      1983 AL (3, 53%)
      1985 AL (13, 7%)
      1990 AL (15, 4%)

      Comment


      • #4
        I thought then, and do now, that Carter had the edge. They were both great players- that's clear- but Carter, in my opinion, had slight edges both offensively and defensively. Plus, as leecemark and PVNick said, Carter stayed in the lineup, while Fisk missed lots and lots of time in what should have been some of his peak years. Fisk had the advantages of playing in a huge media market, having a signature moment, and having an extremely interesting late career surge.

        I only saw Campanella late in his career, and Berra for that matter. Carter was the best overall catcher I ever saw except for Johnny Bench, though Fisk wasn't far behind.

        Comment


        • #5
          I probably rate Fisk higher as a player, but part of the problem with Fisk is that if a catcher goes on the DL, the team has to start a generally very low level catcher, and has to have yet another sub-replacement level guy catch at least some of the time. I like that Carter played 130+ games (or equivalent for '81) in 12 straight seasons. He had 58 WAR over a 10 year period and would have had 9 straight at 5+ if he had kept up the pace for a full '81 season. Getting 5 WAR from a catcher is one thing, but getting it for 9 straight years really gives a team a benefit. I have argued that the replacement level for a catcher should be set a little lower because if a catcher goes out a team has to use a sub-replacement level guy. Also when a catcher platoons his stats may look better because he sits against certain pitchers.
          Fisk DID average 120 games played for a stretch of 20 years, but only played 130+ in 13 of them.

          I am not sure, but I rate them both much higher than I did when they retired. Fisk was also real mean and a little anti social I thought. Carter was a pure leader.

          Comment


          • #6
            I don't know that I could have picked one over the other. At the time, they both appeared destined for Cooperstown to me. Then again, so did Ted Simmons who I had thought of as being their equal. At the time it seemed like Fisk and Munson were the premiere A.L. catchers, Carter and Simmons in the N.L. Johnny Bench was just sort of on a higher plane altogether as one of the all-time greatest.

            Comment


            • #7
              I think Carter was a slightly better player who was better at staying in the lineup during his peak, which is how I voted above.
              I do give Fisk a lot of credit for using a freakish devotion to staying in top physical condition to have such a long career. Back in the 70s, the guy made the team cart his weights around the league and would lift after games...I could barely walk to my car after catching a game as a young man.
              "If I drink whiskey, I'll never get worms!" - Hack Wilson

              Comment


              • #8
                Part of the problem is they weren't exact contemporaries, Fisk getting a 3-4 year head start. Fisk was a ROY, a multi-year all-star and a WS hero by the time Carter was just getting established. Fisk was in a media hub, Carter was in a foreign country. So of course Fisk was seen as the better player in the 1970's, which he actually was through 1978. As an AL fan I had no reason to doubt that, either.

                But then came the 1980's and those of us on the cutting edge became disciples of Bill James. Here are his yearly catcher rankings, starting with the first widely published Baseball Abstract in 1982:

                1981 season: Carter 1, Fisk 9
                1982 season: Carter 1, Fisk 6
                1983 season: Carter 1, Fisk 4
                1984 season: Carter 1 NL, Fisk 4 AL
                1985 season: Carter 1 NL, Fisk 3 AL
                1986 season: Carter 1 NL, Fisk 9 AL
                1987 season: Carter 3, Fisk 12

                Absolutely no doubt that Carter was greater than Fisk 1979-86. Lance Parrish was usually rated the AL's top catcher.

                But in the glare of the Big Apple media, we watched Carter's career wilt in the late 80's while Fisk was setting records each year for catchers his age. So Fisk compiled better career offensive stats than Carter. (Of course, most of that difference is due to the friendlier offensive context in which Fisk played.)

                So, 20+ years ago I usually thought of Fisk as greater, for the illusions I've mentioned. In fact, their career WAR is virtually the same. But now I rank Carter higher among all-time catchers, because he was catching more games per season. Over a nine year stretch 1977-85, he did more than 80% of his team's catching every year. Fisk had only two or three years in his career at that level.
                Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice.

                Comprehensive Reform for the Veterans Committee -- Fixing the Hall continued.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I always thought Carter was not as good as the press he got

                  Then he came to SF for one year (I think) with a pretty lousy pitching staff and I was VERY impressed watching him almost every day in his defensive skills
                  1. The more I learn, the more convinced I am that many players are over-rated due to inflated stats from offensive home parks (and eras)
                  2. Strat-O-Matic Baseball Player, Collector and Hobbyist since 1969, visit my strat site: http://forums.delphiforums.com/GamersParadise
                  3. My table top gaming blog: http://cary333.blogspot.com/

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                  • #10
                    Who you would pick probably depends upon what you want the guy for. Carter was a very good player, and pretty consistent from year to year, for about a 9 year stretch. After age 31 he really went downhill fast. Fisk was more inconsistent from year to year, but aged MUCH better than Carter. About half of Fisk's WAR came after age 31, while Carter managed only about 7 WAR after that age. Their peak seasons were about the same, only Fisk's were more spread out. Neither guy was putting up all time great seasons, but they were solid all stars, and borderline MVP candidates a couple of times. If you want a guy who will give you all star play for a 9 or 10 season stretch, but little else, Carter is your man. if you want a guy who will mix poor years with good ones, but who will play forever and give you value well into his 40s, then pick Fisk.
                    Last edited by willshad; 03-29-2012, 10:45 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by willshad View Post
                      Who you would pick probably depends upon what you want the guy for. Carter was a very good player, and pretty consistent from year to year, for about a 9 year stretch. After age 31 he really went downhill fast. Fisk was more inconsistent from year to year, but aged MUCH better than Carter. About half of Fisk's WAR came after age 31, while Carter managed only about 7 WAR after that age. Their peak seasons were about the same, only Fisk's were more spread out. Neither guy was putting up all time great seasons, but they were solid all stars, and borderline MVP candidates a couple of times. If you want a guy who will give you all star play for a 9 or 10 season stretch, but little else, Carter is your man. if you want a guy who will mix poor years with good ones, but who will play forever and give you value well into his 40s, then pick Fisk.
                      I grew up on Long island so I had the gift of seeing the NL and AL in the pre-cable era.

                      Fisk and Carter were very similar behind the plate in that they were large men who could set up low and then rise up to frame pitches. Bob Boone and Jason Varitek were also in this mold. I would have to go with Carter defensively because of Carter's stupendous 1980, look at those putouts, and because the NL of his time had more aggressive base running. I do think that Fisk could have played in the large, artificial turf stadiums of that era but Carter actually did. After 1985 Carter's throwing deteriorated following his playing through broken ribs.

                      Fisk was a notably more patient hitter than Carter. Carter spent most of his career in the Olympic and Shea which were tough for hitters. Fisk had his injury-prone years in Fenway and played in pitcher friendly Comiskey.

                      Carter, as detailed in Davey Johnson's BATS, played though many injuries as his offensive decline after 1986 testifies. Fisk's early injured years may well have extended his career as he didn't seem to be plagued with the foot, ankle and back problems endemic to the tools of ignorance. Fisk also DHed and dabbled at 1st. and LF as the very capable Ron Karkovic played more than the usual backup catcher. (Karkovic was similar to Fisk, Carter, Boone and Varitek in size and caching technique).

                      Peak value is Carter. Career is Fisk. I always liked both of them and was able to see them both in Long Island and New York.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It is hard for me to find exact contemporaries who were also close in their on-field performance. Sometimes the years may be a little bit off. Nevertheless, I will try to keep things as close as possible.
                        "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

                        - Alvin Dark

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by AstrosFan View Post
                          It is hard for me to find exact contemporaries who were also close in their on-field performance. Sometimes the years may be a little bit off. Nevertheless, I will try to keep things as close as possible.
                          Are you open for suggestions?

                          I didn't realize you were doing this and posted Jermaine Dye v. Reggie Sanders earlier. My bad. I was looking for other ones too but I'll gladly give ya what I got.
                          Last edited by bluesky5; 03-30-2012, 09:36 AM.
                          "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bluesky5 View Post
                            Are you open for suggestions?

                            I didn't realize you were doing this and posted Jermaine Dye v. Reggie Sanders earlier. My bad. I was looking for other ones too but I'll gladly give ya what I got.
                            It's a little different, so feel free to continue with your threads. This is based more on observation, which is why voting is limited to people who were there. And by observation, I mean a combination of what people saw, what they heard about, and what they read about. Keeping it to eye-witness accounts will strangle a lot of people's ability to compare players. People used stats back then, and anyone is free to consider them, but only from the perspective of how they used those stats to rate the players back then. If anyone finds it too difficult to separate that from how newer metrics may have changed their stat-based opinions, I'd recommend leaving the numbers alone. Regardless, they should be a minor part of one's vote. I intend to keep things limited to players who began their career no earlier than 1950, in order to have a reasonable number of people voting and discussing the players.

                            Any suggestions should be PMed to me. I am currently using Hall of Fame or Hall of Fame quality players, and will gradually expand that circle. So whoever wants to send in suggestions should stick to high caliber players, and move from there. Jermaine Dye v. Reggie Sanders, for example, would be way below what I am looking for at the moment. People who send in suggestions should follow my lead to determine the level of player they should send in.

                            Finally, I ask everyone to not bombard me with suggestions. I'll probably enter these once every week or two, so I don't need to be overloaded with ideas, especially since I will find some of my own. Indeed, I have my next choice picked.
                            "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

                            - Alvin Dark

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Wow I didn't know that carter was that good. I never looked into him as a player and intuitively would have said that fisk was easily better.

                              but actually they are really close. Fisk a a razor thin lead in OPS+ (117 to 115) and WAR (67.3 to 66.3) so they are basically identical players.
                              I now have my own non commercial blog about training for batspeed and power using my training experience in baseball and track and field.

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