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Best and Worst Seasons by Jay Catchers by WAR

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Division Series - Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Three Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Since there hasn’t been much for Blue Jays news (in the last several months), I thought I’d spend a day finding the best and worst seasons for Blue Jays catchers.

I used Baseball Reference WAR for this little exercise. Likely FanGraphs WAR would give us slightly different results.

Top 10 Blue Jays by WAR

Rank Year Player WAR
Rank Year Player WAR
1 2005 Gregg Zaun 3.5
2 1983 Ernie Whitt 3.4
3 2015 Russell Martin 3.3
4 1990 Pat Borders 3
6 1988 Ernie Whitt 2.8
7 1989 Ernie Whitt 2.7
8 1987 Ernie Whitt 2.6
9 1985 Ernie Whitt 2.5
10 1986 Ernie Whitt 2.5
11 2003 Greg Myers 2.4
12 2014 Dioner Navarro 2.4

Bottom 10 Jays Catchers Seasons by WAR

Rank Year Name WAR
Rank Year Name WAR
53 1995 Sandy Martinez -0.8
52 1991 Pat Borders -0.5
51 2002 Ken Huckaby -0.5
50 1986 Buck Martinez -0.3
49 1994 Pat Borders -0.3
48 1996 Sandy Martinez -0.3
47 1978 Rick Cerone -0.1
46 1993 Pat Borders 0
45 1995 Lance Parrish 0
44 2001 Darrin Fletcher 0
43 2003 Tom Wilson 0

Some notes:

  • Yeah, that’s Zaun at the top of the list. He had some good years catching for us. From 2004 to 2008, Zaun had bWARs of 2.3, 3.5, 1.8, 2.3 and 0.8. In 2005 he hit .251/.355/.373 and played good defense, even though he didn’t have the greatest of arms. Everything else he did well.
  • Ernie Whitt’s name shows up a lot. He also holds the 11th and 13th spots on the ‘worst’ WAR list. In 1980 he had a 0.1 bWAR and 1981 he had a 0.2 bWAR. Then he learned how to pull the ball (if you don’t remember/haven’t seen Whitt swing a bat, you are missing out. He often finished with his right knee on the ground, he sold out to pulling the ball so much.). It is fair to note that Cito Gaston became the Jays hitting coach in 1982. I think Whitt is one of his bigger successes.
  • bWAR aside, I consider Russell Martin’s 2015 season the best season a Jays catcher has ever had.
  • Buck Martinez, being the right-handed hitting half of the platoon with Whitt, didn’t get the at bats to make the top 10 list, but he had some good seasons too, he had bWARs of 1.6 in 1982 and 1983.
  • Pat Borders had the best season of his career in 1990, hitting .286/.319/.497, while playing good defense. He shows up on the bottom ten in 3 spots in part because he was tough and would play through injuries that he shouldn’t have (and in part because he wasn’t much of a hitter).
  • Sandy Martinez played 62 games in 1995 (a strike shortened year) and 76 games in 1996, as the left-handed hitting half a platoon at the position. He was one of our first ‘catchers of the future’ who didn’t live up to the billing.
  • Darren Fletcher had some good seasons, just missing out on the top 10 with WARs of 2.3 in 2000 and 2.0 in 1999. His 2001 season was his second last in the majors, he was 34. He played 45 games in 2002, and had a -0.3 WAR but I didn’t list players that weren’t regulars.
  • Lance Parrish was a very good catcher (324 career home runs), who the Jays signed when he was 39, to platoon with Sandy Martinez. He retired after that season.
  • I don’t remember Tom Wilson at all.
  • Dioner Narvarro had the very good season, in 2014, and was rewarded by losing his job when the Jays signed Russell Martin.
  • J.P. Arencibia just missed out on the bottom ten with a 0.1 in 2013. He also had a 1.7 and 1.3 as a Jay.
  • Rick Cerone was called up to the majors before he was ready, like many of the players in the first couple of seasons of Jays history. He would go on to have a very good season with the Yankees, 4.2 bWAR in 1980.