The New York Yankees have had two Hall of Fame catchers.
Bill Dickey played during the 1930s and early 1940s. Yogi Berra replaced Dickey and played from the late 1940s until the early 1960s.
How does Jorge Posada compare to Dickey and Yogi?
Jorge Posada had the best season of his career in 2007. He batted a robust .338, hit 20 home runs, slugged .543, batted in 90 runs, and produced a Mickey Mantle-like .426 on base average.
Prior to 2007, Jorge’s best season was 2000, when he hit .287, with 28 home runs, had a .417 on base average, batted in 86 runs, and slugged .527.
Dickey Was the Best Defensively
It is difficult to compare catchers’ defense statistically.
Handling a pitching staff, blocking pitches in the dirt, stopping potential base-stealers, pouncing on bunts, trying to pick off runners, calling a game, and hiding signs are all involved.
One must rely on one’s own judgement, as well as that of managers, players, and, yes, even baseball “experts,” usually called “baseball writers.”
Bill Dickey is considered the best defensive catcher among the three, with Yogi a close second. After all, wasn’t it Bill Dickey who taught Yogi his experience?
Dickey batted .313 and averaged 18 home runs, a .382 on base average, and a .486 slugging average over 17 seasons, which is misleading because he played in fewer than 100 games in four of those seasons.
Yogi hit .285 and averaged 27 home runs, a .348 on base average, and slugged .482 over sixteen seasons.
Posada has hit .278 and averaged 25 home runs, a .379 on base average, and a .482 slugging average during his 14 seasons (not counting one game in 1995 and 8 in 1996).
Dickey and Jorge Played in Offensive Eras
The numbers are close, especially between Jorge and Dickey, except for batting average.
Both played the bulk of their careers in offensive eras. Dickey played from 1928-1946 with two years out to defend freedom. During his career, the league batting average was .280 or 33 points less than Dickey’s.
During Posada’s career, the league batting average, with a DH, has been .269, or only nine points less than Jorge’s.
Yogi joined the Yankees in 1946, but his first full season was 1947, when he caught and played the outfield, something he did again when his career was ending. During Yogi’s career, the league batted .263 or 22 points less than Yogi batted.
From 1929-1939, Bill Dickey hit .320, with a high of .362.
Yogi’s highest average was .322, and Jorge’s was .338.
The most home runs Dickey ever hit was 29. Yogi hit 30 in two different seasons. Jorge’s high is 28.
So Many Variables
It is difficult, if not impossible, to compare players from different eras because so many variables cannot be controlled. Statistical adjustments do not control variables. They are helpful, but they are not definitive.
Those who saw Dickey play, and that number is shrinking, generally consider him the best of all Yankees’ catchers. Most who saw Berra, but never saw Dickey, choose Yogi.
While some young fans might pick Jorge, most that saw Yogi rank him ahead of Posada.
Dickey had a good offensive season when he was 36-years-old. At that age, in 1943, Dickey hit .351, but he caught only 71 games and hit only four home runs.
When Yogi was 36, he hit .271 with 22 home runs, but he caught only 15 games.
Two other great catchers played for the Yankees.
Elston Howard had some great seasons and replaced Yogi. Thurman Munson’s career was cut short or else he might have ranked higher, but Yankees’ fans must still be grateful.
On some teams, Jake Gibbs might be in contention as the greatest catcher in team history.