>Top Mets Catchers by Decade.

>Since the 00’s are coming to a rapid close, let’s take a look back at this decade, and while we’re at it every Mets decade. Here are the top 5 Mets catchers from this decade as well as those from all five decades of the Mets’ existence, sorted by historical Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which is available on baseballprojection.com:

1. Jerry Grote (1967-69, 1591 PA) – .243/.309/.319, 16 HR, 125 RBI
2. Chris Cannizzaro (1962-65, 657 PA) – .236/.312/.282, 0 HR, 30 RBI 
3. J.C. Martin (1968-69, 467 PA) – .219/.281/.316, 7 HR, 52 RBI
4. Jesse Gonder (1963-65, 625 PA) – .271/.325/.381, 14 HR, 59 RBI
5. Sammy Taylor (1962-63, 227 PA) – .228/.326/.326, 3 HR, 26 RBI

#1 song in America on December 31, 1969 – “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” by B.J. Thomas

This is by far the weakest group of Mets catchers. Sammy Taylor is fifth with a WAR of 0. Only three players here managed to have a slugging percentage higher than their on-base percentage. 

The best Mets catcher of the 60’s, Jerry Grote, faced Steve Carlton more than any other pitcher over his career, but the light hitting Grote was able to hold his own against the Hall-of-Famer. In 85 plate appearances against Carlton, Grote hit .347/.405/.413, with 8 walks against 7 strikeouts. He faced another Hall-of-Famer, Bob Gibson, the second most times, but those at-bats didn’t go as well – Grote hit .139/.173/.208 with 20 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances.

Grote’s favorite place to eat in New York City, according to his prehistoric-looking website, is the Stage Deli, located 834 Seventh Avenue. You can also join the Jerry Grote group on MySpace and Facebook, if you are a big fan of defensive-minded catchers – or of Facebook groups run by former ballplayer’s wives.

1. John Stearns (1975-79, 1999 PA) – .247/.341/.376, 41 HR, 214 RBI
2. Jerry Grote (1970-77, 2774 PA) – .264/.328/.335, 19 HR, 232 RBI
3. Ron Hodges (1973-79, 868 PA) – .232/.316/.316, 12 HR, 77 RBI
4. Duffy Dyer (1970-74, 1084 PA) – .216/.290/.301, 13 HR, 85 RBI
5. Alex Trevino (1978-79, 245 PA) – .269/.336/.329, 0 HR, 20 RBI

#1 song December 31, 1979 – “Please Don’t Go” by K.C. & the Sunshine Band

John Stearns is the second best catcher in Mets history. Piazza is first, and then Gary Carter’s name gets often mentioned because A.) he’s in the Hall of Fame and B.) his two out single started the 10th inning rally in Game 6. However, Carter only played with the Mets for five seasons, most of which came during his career decline. Carter had a monster season in 1985 and decent ’86, but fell of a cliff for his final three Met seasons – OPS of .682, .659, and .515. Carter was just 3.9 runs above average offensively over his Mets career, while Stearns was worth 9.5 above average. Stearns was on the Mets for most of ten seasons, and accumulated a lifetime WAR of 18.5 with the Mets. Gary Carter had a career WAR of 11.2 with the Mets. Jerry Grote also places ahead of Carter by career Mets WAR, with 13.1. Mike Piazza is first with a Mets WAR of 25.6 and Todd Hundley rounds out the top five with a 10.9.   

If you want to take this argument a step further, John Stearns was also the best all-around catcher the Mets ever had. Mike Piazza was a great hitter – the best the Mets ever had – but he was an awful defensive catcher. Piazza lost about 6 wins off his lifetime total because of his defense, 5 of them during his time with the Mets. Now, if you are going to build an all-time Mets team, Piazza is obviously the catcher on the strength of his bat alone. However, if you want a catcher who can do a bit of everything, Stearns has Piazza beat. John Stearns was worth 3.6 career wins with his defense and 1.9 with his bat over his entire Mets career. He also stole 91 bases over his Mets career – he was caught 51 times, for a not so great 64% success rate, but he could run a bit. Piazza is the starter on the All-Mets team, but Stearns gets the nod to be the backup.

1. Gary Carter (1985-89, 2448 PA) – .249/.319/.412, 89 HR, 349 RBI
2. John Stearns (1980-84, 1081 PA) – .282/.342/.374, 5 HR, 98 RBI
3. Ron Hodges (1980-84, 815 PA) – .248/.368/.329, 7 HR, 70 RBI
4. Mackey Susser (1988-89, 322 PA) – .289/.315/.407, 2 HR, 39 RBI
5. Alex Trevino (1980-81, 541 PA) – .258/.294/.292, 0 HR, 47 RBI

#1 song December 31, 1989 – “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins

Gary Carter had an career OPS of .873 against the Mets, his highest against any team.

Steve Carlton had problems facing catchers who played for the Mets – Gary Carter, like Jerry Grote, faced Carlton more than any other pitcher, put up a .309/.389/.682 line in 128 plate appearances against him, and hit 11 home runs. Carters next highest home run total against any pitcher is just 5. Carlton, who struck out 4136 batters, managed to strike Carter out only 7 times in 128 plate appearances. I guess there was just something about Carlton and Mets catchers – John Stearns faced Carlton more than any other pitcher as well, and put up a .897 OPS against the Hall of Famer – 180 points higher than his career OPS.

1. Todd Hundley (1990-98, 2904 PA) – .240/.323/.438, 124 HR, 397 RBI
2. Mike Piazza (1998-99, 1039 PA) – .322/.385/.588, 78 HR, 200 RBI
3. Todd Pratt (1997-99, 352 PA) – .286/.355/.419, 7 HR, 58 RBI
4. Charlie O’Brien (1990-93, 659 PA) – .212/.289/.309, 8 HR, 59 RBI
5. Rick Cerone (1991, 258 PA) – .273/.360/.357, 2 HR, 16 RBI

#1 song December 31, 1999 – “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. Is anyone noticing a trend here with the songs? Not a lot to be proud of here, America.

The switch hitting Todd Hundley hit 202 career home runs: 178 came as a right-handed batter against left-handed pitchers, 23 came as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitchers – and 1 came as a left-handed batter against a left-handed pitcher. Hundley’s reverse-platoon home run was a solo shot off Doug Simmons on April 19, 1992. I’m not sure why Hundley decided to hit lefty against the left handed Simmons in his first and only at-bat against him. Simmons was a Met the previous year, so I’m going to venture a guess and say Hundley knew what Simmons threw and did it to neutralize a cutter – that is, if he even threw one, and I don’t know that Simmons did. This makes sense though – Hundley would also bat left-handed against another cutter, Al Leiter’s.

1. Mike Piazza (2000-05, 2902 PA) – .286/.368/.525, 157 HR, 455 RBI
2. Ramon Castro (2005-09, 785 PA) – .252/.321/.415, 33 HR, 121 RBI
3. Paul Lo Duca (2006-07, 1039 PA) – .297/.334/.404, 14 HR, 103 RBI
4. Vance Wilson (2000-04, 713 PA) – .254/.308/.384, 17 HR, 92 RBI
5. Brian Schneider (2008-09, 578 PA) – .244/.323/.377, 12 HR, 62 RBI

1# song right now – “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha. Ouch. That one looks bad even now.

Mike Piazza hit 6 of his 427 career home runs against Pedro Martinez; three of them came against the Mets in 2006. Piazza homered in his first and last at-bats against Martinez, the first coming on April 24, 1994, and the last two twelve years later on August 8, 2006 at Shea Stadium. In between, Martinez knocked Piazza out of a June 5, 1998 Mets-Red Sox game in Boston when he hit Piazza on the hand in the first inning with a 2-2 fastball. Fortunately, Piazza’s replacement, Albert Castillo, did his best Piazza impression. He would be one of four Mets to homer off Martinez, propelling the Mets to a 9-2 victory.

Up next: First Basemen.

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