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  • #31
    Ex-Expo fan,

    One must read my posts with care. I did not say, nor did I imply, that Joshua Gibson, was not a good defensive catcher. I DID say that he could not receive with Biz Mackey and some other catchers of the Negro Leagues. And that is true. He couldn't. But that is not to say, nor imply that he wasn't about the 10th best defensive catcher in the history of the Negro Leagues. Which makes him a good defensive catcher, but not among their MOST illustrious technicians. After all, POPUPS BEHIND THE PLATE? Easiest play for a catcher, I'd think.

    My point was in trying to show the difference in value between a total master like Biz Mackey, who saved countless games by not calling the wrong pitch on a given hitter, and Josh Gibson, who could get the job done, but not on the same plane of nuanced perfection.

    Oh, and another thing. It was Biz Mackey who mentored Roy Campanella. They said that if you saw Campy receive, you saw Biz. Both were large men, who were light and airy on their feet. But even Campy couldn't approach the master, when it came to defensive receiving.

    Below is a quote from Ted "Double Duty Radcliffe.

    Quote: Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe:
    "I played with both Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson on the Crawfords. They say Josh Gibson was the greatest catcher. Josh was not the greatest catcher; he was the greatest hitter. We had 5 or 6 men who could outcatch him. Josh couldn't receive with Larry Brown or Frank Duncan or Biz Mackey or Roy Campanella or any of those fellows. Of course I wouldn't include myself because that wouldn't be right, but they thought a lot of me, because I caught more East-West games than anybody." (Voices From The Great Black Baseball Leagues, by John Holway, 1975, pp. 171-172)

    (One may include Bruce Petway & Louis "Santop" Loftin in the group of those Negro L. catchers who could outcatch Josh Gibson.)
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 04-08-2005, 07:28 AM.

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    • #32
      Originally posted by [email protected]
      Ex-Expo fan,

      One must read my posts with care. I did not say, nor did I imply, that Joshua Gibson, was not a good defensive catcher. I DID say that he could not receive with Biz Mackey and some other catchers of the Negro Leagues. And that is true. He couldn't. But that is not to say, nor imply that he wasn't about the 10th best defensive catcher in the history of the Negro Leagues. Which makes him a good defensive catcher, but not among their MOST illustrious technicians. After all, POPUPS BEHIND THE PLATE? Easiest play for a catacher, I'd think.

      My point was in trying to show the difference in value between a total master like Biz Mackey, who saved countless games by not calling the wrong pitch on a given hitter, and Josh Gibson, who could get the job done, but not on the same plane of nuanced perfection.

      Oh, and another thing. It was Biz Mackey who mentored Roy Campanella. They said that if you saw Campy receive, you saw Biz. Both were large men, who were light and airy on their feet. But even Campy couldn't approach the master, when it came to defensive receiving.

      Below is a quote from Ted "Double Duty Radcliffe.

      Quote: Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe:
      "I played with both Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson on the Crawfords. They say Josh Gibson was the greatest catcher. Josh was not the greatest catcher; he was the greatest hitter. We had 5 or 6 men who could outcatch him. Josh couldn't receive with Larry Brown or Frank Duncan or Biz Mackey or Roy Campanella or any of those fellows. Of course I wouldn't include myself because that wouldn't be right, but they thought a lot of me, because I caught more East-West games than anybody." (Voices From The Great Black Baseball Leagues, by John Holway, 1975, pp. 171-172)
      First I must apologize for misinterpreting your prior argument, I just saw that you put Gibson's name next to Piazza's, and now I realize that you could not have used another more similar player than Gibson, due to the rare facts we have about the Negro Leagues. Secondly you are absolutely right, Biz Mackey taught Campanella (pardon my insomnia), I looked it up and reread the passage in the biography. In fact Biz Mackey was also the man Joshua looked up to when he came into the League in 1930. But Campanella did praise Gibson at the beginning, before Gibson started fading. As for his inability to catch pop fouls it was due to dizzyness.(Josh Gibson A Life in the Negro Leagues, William Brashler)
      Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-19-2006, 09:25 PM.

      Comment


      • #33
        --Bill, while I agree that having a good defensive catcher is important that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider their hitting in the equation. If you accept that Gibson was a good defensive catcher then the offensive advantage he has over Mackey can't help but to be greater than Mackey's defensive one. I think that is probably true even if Gibson was only an adequete defensive catcher, but there is at least some room for arguement there (more like the Piazza-Rodriguez comparions which is a hard one for me).

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        • #34
          But Mark, you are misunderstanding my balance. My offensive/defensive balance, while perhaps precarious in your estimation, is there. I promise you that it is there. I do weigh quite importantly the difference in the two, and give it considerable attention, however much it appears that I've neglected that one essential wedge issue.

          I give enormous importance to hitting and always have, and I believe I always will. As a matter of fact, I refuse to support for the Hall of Fame, some of my favorite players, like Charlie Bennett, Martin Bergen, Jimmie McAleer, and about 4 others. I require hitting for my Hall candidates. In fact, Ewing and Lange are on the bubble specificly for their lack of better offense, altough Buck had a lot more of it than Bill.

          But here is the one critical issue which seems so slippery for you Mark. Offense is easy to quantify because it is so obvious. We can count up the runs. Defense gets overlooked, IMHO, due to the fact that we cannot know how many runs a one-of-a-kind defensive master receiving technician saves his teams. That is the invisible side to the game.

          I, alone on Fever, believe that a master the level of Ewing/Mackey/Bench/Rodriguez can save their teams anywhere from 2-3 runs a game. 5 blown pitches can destroy 9 innings of otherwise defensive perfection.

          Let's say a catcher knows what to call for, but his pitcher is green and prone to lose his nerves at the moment of greatest tension. The catcher must not only call the right pitch, he must mother/father the kid to let him know he believes in his arm, and coaxs the most out of his guy out there. This is an art of the highest order. As far as that kid is concerned, his catcher is GOD almighty, and he settle his nerves in order to get his location perfect. One inch too much, and it's bye bye ballgame.

          So how do we know that an offensive bomber is a certain difference better than a defensive meister? We don't. But I don't give the benefit of the doubt to offense, and it appears I'm the only one who appreciates the defensive side to this here game. Defensive appreciation requires insight, anticipation and a deeper understanding of the game. Defense saves games every single day of the season. Perhaps 4-5 times a game. When you see it that way. And a defensive catching genius, might figure into half of them, in his pitch calling.

          This won't change your attitude, but there is a method to my ways of balancing things out. Thanks for even trying to see things as I do.

          Bill Burgess

          Comment


          • #35
            Another word on defense.

            Every night we're barraged with a highlight reel of HRs. Ever see a highlight reel of perfect pitches, which prevented HRs? No? Me neither. Might be boring, don'cha think?

            But winning games is not only putting runs up there, which is important, but in prevention of enemy runs going up there. Much less visible. 5 minutes of pitching sloppiness, or pitch calling sloppiness, can turn a 3-2 game, into a 7-2 debacle. It doesn't require much sloppiness/inattentiveness to throw away a perfectly good game, by 7 other players.

            Pitchers get the glory, cuz they're so visible. Catchers go unnoticed for perfect games, no-hitters, etc.

            Most great teams feature great catching. Big Red machine, early Giants (Ewing/Bresnahan), early Cubs, 50's Dodgers/Yanks, etc.

            Kling was the backbone of the Cubs, but his pitchers got the glory. Same with early Giants. Matty, McGinnity wow, Bresnahan who? Cubs roared, Brown gets the gravy, Kling who? Kling takes yr. off, no pennant, even though they had another great catcher - Archer. Archer had a wow arm, could hit better, but no pennant. Kling returns, pennant. Johnny get big thank you? He gets the boot next season!

            Morgan/Rose always get attention for Red Machine, but Bench was the backbone of that aggregation. Great catchers end up on winners most of the time, but not even they can carry poor teams.

            Defense begins on the mound, and the mound begins behind the plate. With a poor catcher, the staff has to memorize the hitters catalogue. With a great catcher, the staff can relax and focus on their mechanics, without burdening themselves with hitter weaknesses/strengths. You need your pitcher to focus on his mechanics and relax his mind.

            Bill Burgess
            Last edited by Bill Burgess; 04-08-2005, 06:51 PM.

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            • #36
              --Bill, I think your 2-3 runs a game difference between signal callers is wildly overstating the case. Pitchers don't see their ERAs jump significantly when throwing to different catchers. If the difference was anything close to that the best defensive catchers would be the most sought after players in the game. Instead good glove, weak bat catchers often have difficulty holding down a starting job. Ruth and Cobb weren't worth anywhere near 2 runs per game to their teams based on tangible contributions. Do you really believe the intangible contributions of a top receiver are worth twice as much as the best hitters of all time?

              Comment


              • #37
                My point is that we don't know. I have seen tons of games by the Giants ruined by hanging curves, sliders that don't slide, etc. Now I'm not making an argument that the catchers are responsible for all of that carnage.

                But a master catcher can settle his guy down, so that he can focus on his mechanics.

                You say that a top player cannot account for 2-3 runs per game. While that might sound reasonable enough, in the past, you allege that certain players carried their teams to pennants, etc. You made it sound as if R. Jackson, Ruth, Mantle put much more runs up there.

                If you don't feel that 2-3 runs per game is the right number to work with, do you at least agree that a great defensive receiver, if he were taken off a team, and replaced with a poor defensive receiver, could cost you the pennant? (Kling, Campy, Berra, Bench, Bresnahan, Ewing, etc.)

                Bill Burgess

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                • #38
                  --Depends on how close the race is. Replacing a star player at any position with a lesser one could cost you 2-3 or even 8-10 games in the standings, depending on how great the star and how weak the replacement. For a good glove, weak bat catcher it is more likely 2-3 games per season than 2-3 runs per game. For Bench, who was a great defender and a great hitter hitter, in his best seasons closer to the latter figure. Johnny Bench in 1970 and 72 probably was worth 10 or more games over an average catcher, but those were quite possibly the most most valuable seasons ever put up by any catcher.

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                  • #39
                    Giving the Biz to Mackey

                    OK, so a catcher can save 2-3 runs a game, Mr. Burgess? This is probably true, if the given alternative is my grandmother, calling lots of fastballs down the middle and telling the hitters what's coming. All major league catchers can catch, even jerks like Pierzynski. OK on Kling, and Bresnahan, and probably Mackey, and Dickey, and Schalk as awesome defensive catchers. But they are a rung below fellows who were outstanding on both O & D, fellows like Campanella, Bench, Berra, Ivan Rodriguez, Josh Gibson, maybe Cochrane, those are the separators. Piazza is a great offensive catcher, but he probably couldn't throw out my aforementioned grandma. Now, Gran's got wheels, and all, but c'mon.

                    Tell it true, you want Bench or Biz in your lineup? Should you choose the latter, it would be like saying a gifted, balletic first sacker saves a team several runs a game and is thus more valuable than the alternative. Now, I'm a Gi'nts fan for ferever an' such, and I'd still rather have Thome than J.T. Snow. Or is that dance background telling the tale here?

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Allen Barra did an interesting study on the effects of being caught by Yogi Berra on the performances of pitchers. Don't have it in front of me, but it was enough to convince me that more so than for any other position, the contributions of a catcher to his team go far beyond his stat line. Compounding the problem is the fact that the defenisve stats on catchers are almost unworkable.

                      More so than with any other position, rep and peer evaluations should be used to temper the stats of catchers.

                      It's just so hard for me to choose between Gibson, Bench and Berra. Gibson is the hardest to place here. It seems that peer evaluations were not consistent for him - Dizzy Dean and Walter Johnson thought he was super-duper behind the plate, the latter comparing him to Bill Dickey and the former contending that no catcher in the Majors could work a pitcher like Gibson could. OTOH, not all of his rivals in the Negro Leagues thought he was even the best defensive catcher in the Negro Leagues.

                      This could be due to a number of perfectly legitimate reasons:

                      1. Maybe Dizz and Walter had too small of a sample size to judge from (too few barnstorming games played in or observed), and the other black players had a better view.

                      2. Maybe the other players in the Negro Leagues were resentful of the overexposure given to Paige and Gibson by the black media, which was essentially on the payroll of Gibson's employers, Gus Greenlee and Cum Posey (what an unfortunate name).

                      3. Maybe the Negro Leagues were just a lot stronger at the catcher position than the Majors.

                      4. Maybe it depends on when they saw him play. Perhaps he was a much better defensive catcher in the 30's than in the 40's, when his beer, marijuana, and heroin binges addled his brain and body.
                      Last edited by Metal Ed; 04-08-2005, 01:34 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Ah, c'mon guys?! Why you quit workin' with me on this. Catchers is one of my favorite things. I have this thing for defensive catchers and we could work this out if you let us.

                        The reason catchers can save games that 1B can't is pitch selection. Fastest way to throw a game away is to call the wrong thing. Or save runs, by calling the right stuff. C'mon work with me here. We can get this done if you got the tenacity. Mark, instead of pissing on my stuff, work with me a little harder won'cha and let's get this balance worked out right.

                        All it takes is some patience. Let's go guys. Let's settle down and get this offensive/defensive balance understood in catchers. This is the hardest defensive position to evaluate by far. Don't know how Jeffrey James didn't go nuts out of his head trying to figure it out and have it all come out good.

                        Bill

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          Originally posted by [email protected]
                          Ah, c'mon guys?! Why you quit workin' with me on this. Catchers is one of my favorite things. I have this thing for defensive catchers and we could work this out if you let us.

                          The reason catchers can save games that 1B can't is pitch selection. Fastest way to throw a game away is to call the wrong thing. Or save runs, by calling the right stuff. C'mon work with me here. We can get this done if you got the tenacity. Mark, instead of pissing on my stuff, work with me a little harder won'cha and let's get this balance worked out right.

                          All it takes is some patience. Let's go guys. Let's settle down and get this offensive/defensive balance understood in catchers. This is the hardest defensive position to evaluate by far. Don't know how Jeffrey James didn't go nuts out of his head trying to figure it out and have it all come out good.

                          Bill

                          Okay, let's try this. This will never work, but let me at least throw the idea out. To at least pretend like we're making an objective stab at evaluating the defense/offense balance of a catcher's game.

                          Let's compare some top hitting catchers with some top hitting 1B and OFers in both hitting and overall rating.

                          For overall rating we can use Bill James' Win Shares. For hitting only, we could try OPS, SLOB, or better yet, Schell's fully adjusted hitting stats.

                          The difference between, say, Schell's ratings in ESBR and James' ratings in Win Shares might indicate how much of a catcher's contributions to his team come from non-hitting aspects of his play.

                          And yeah, before you say it, there's about a million things that are wrong with the experiment I just proposed. Still might be fun just to look at.

                          Anyone got a copy of the Historical Abstract handy? I would post some stats immediately if I had mine here. Let's use rate stats only - not Total Win Shares, but WS/season.

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            SubObjectivity

                            I agree with both Mr. Burgess on the value of defensive catching, particularly pitch calling, and with MetalEd on the problematic measurement of true value of a defensive-minded catcher. I like that potential contemporary subjectivity is recognised (f'rinstance, how much more pub do Yankees and Cubs get than do, say, Expos). Still, those subjective measures are part of the overall value. In a similar fashion, stats like runners thrown out doesn't take into account the dearth of willing potential base thieves facing Bench or IRod. Too bad there's not an Intentional Unsteal #, as with Bonds' IBB, to measure the Weighed the Odds and Elected to Opt Out factor. Back to 1B for a moment, though, as they take so many throws, how many runners (and by continuation, runs) does a J.T. Snow save? A Thome allow? And one would have to adjust for age-related and behavioural effects, as with Gibson's partying, or Bonds' bulk, Cobb's arm, etc. I'm looking forward to the numerical comparisons with OFs and 1Bs and other sluggers (methinks Bench of the early '70s matches up to anyone in the league). Defensive rankings are going to be a lot more subjective, but memory and pitch calling and game control are valid comparitives. Before I wound up at SS and P, I was a catcher, and a littler one (before my growth), so I hit singles and out-thought the opposition. And yes, catching a foul pop with all that gear is an adventure. I seem to recall reading a fan's account of mid-century ball where Jim Hegan was listed as a favourite because he was the only catcher that didn't look like a reeling drunk whilst trying to track down foul pops.

                            All that said, it's great to see Mr. Burgess and MetalEd get wound up about something. There aren't a whole lot of more agile minds than those two, especially when in (mock) offense mode.

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              --I'll make my contribution to ME's idea. Here are the Win Shares per 162 for the top 10 overall catchers in TNBJHA, plus some selected catchers who got ranked primarily for their defence.
                              Berra 28.66
                              Bench 26.72
                              Campanella 27.60
                              Cochrane 30.06
                              Piazza 33.94
                              Fisk 23.86
                              Dickey 28.43
                              Carter 23.78
                              Hartnett 26.46
                              Simmons 20.78

                              Boone 15.03
                              Roseboro 18.50
                              Sundberg 16.51
                              Pena 14.26
                              Lopez 14.37
                              Hegan 13.32

                              I'll be happy to provide the data for anybody else in the top 100 who is of interest to anyone.

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                --I think you can find the data on the value of calling a good game fairly easily by comparing how the same pitcher does when throwing to different catchers. In most cases it isn't going to be much. There should be a fair amount of data out there on this as CERA (catcher ERA) was a stat which got a fair amount of play for a couple years recently before most analysts decided it wasn't really worth much.
                                --If a catcher isn't good at calling pitches he can always be shaken off or have the pitches called from the dugout. Some managers perfer that control regardless of who is catching. Some pitchers also call their own games. Ultimately what pitch gets shown should be the pitchers call anyway. I'd rather see a pitcher throwing the "wrong" pitch with confidence than the "right" pitch that he doesn't think it best for the situation.

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