Is catching the most important position?
In my opinion, you have four types of catchers:
1. The defensive-minded catcher
He can’t hit his way out of a paper bag, so why is he north of Single-A? He can field the position better than most! Some examples of this sort of catcher would be (sorry guys): David Ross, Yadier Molina (even though he hit .275 in 2007), Miguel Olivo (who admittedly does have some pop in his bat), etc.
2. The offensive minded catcher
He can hit the seams off the ball, but when it comes to fielding the position a 90 year old grandmother would be more suited for the job! Some examples of this sort of catcher would be (sorry again guys): Mike Piazza, Jason Kendall, Michael Barrett, etc.
3. The catcher that can handle a pitching staff, knows opposing batters, etc.
This catcher often can’t hit his way out of a paper bag either. Some examples of this sort of catcher would be (sorry once again guys): Brad Ausmus, Yorvit Torrealba (even though he came up big in the 2007 playoffs), etc.
4. The catcher that can do it all
These players are diamonds in the ruff! Sign them to long term contracts, but be aware that the production might go south at a rapid pace and without warning due to the beating these guys take year in and year out. Some examples of this sort of catcher would be: Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Varitek, and Jorge Posada.
Sometimes category Nos. 1 and 3 are the same player, as well as category Nos. 2 and 3 or even 1 and 2, but rarely does a player provide a team with all three attributes!
The Catcher’s Position
The baseball catcher has the best view in the park. He can see everything from where he squats. The only person with a better spot on the field is the home plate umpire (what a waste). Some of the best baseball managers have been catchers in their playing days. Men like Joe Torre, Mike Scioscia, Clint Hurdle, Joe Girardi, Eric Wedge, Bob Melvin, Jack McKeon, and Bob Brenly to name a few of the more recent examples.
Look at it this way, they have to study the game (especially their opponents batters) if they are going to call a good game. They need to know what to call in a given situation, because you need to pitch to certain hitters differently in different counts and game situations. A good catcher needs to know this! He needs to optimize the scouting reports and put in the time and effort to hone his craft, giving his team an edge.
He is likened to a football quarterback. He calls the shots and he will usually take the blame for requesting the wrong pitch on a gopher ball, and the pitcher will often admit to shaking off his catcher as being the reason why he gave up a big hit (like Boston’s Curt Schilling did after losing his no hitter in Oakland in 2007). Current players like Jorge Posada, Pudge Rodriguez, and Jason Varitek all have the makings of being really good major league managers once their playing careers are over.
I could probably go on and on, but we’ll stop here and open it up for further discussion in the comments. If they’re good, I’ll try to add them to the bottom of this post as they come in.
You can read more from Peter Schiller at his blog, Baseball Reflections.