Catcher Generation

As we watch the clock on the career of Yadier Molina tick down, questions of his legacy, his place among the greats, and his impact on the sport are legitimate things to pursue. He recently eclipsed the all-time putout record at Catcher with an eye-popping 14,865. He’s been the beating heart of a Cardinals team that has captured two titles during his tenure and is always in the hunt. His career has been exemplary and will almost certainly be enshrined in Cooperstown for all time. 

Sports are best understood in context and Molina’s context may be the greatest generation of catchers the league has ever seen. At the conclusion of the ‘22 season, Joe Mauer, Russell Martin, Brian McCann, Buster Posey, and Yadi will have each retired and made their claim as the greatest catcher of the two decades since 2000. Each of them also places in the top 15 all-time in fWAR for Catchers, making the impact of this group particularly special.

Catcher is a demanding position and one close to my heart, having played it through High School and College. Not only is the Catcher expected to fill a lineup spot, but also analyze and dissect the opposing lineup in order to support the pitcher’s gameplan, control the running game, and sell out his body to keep errant pitches from turning into opportunities for the other team. The fact each of the five members of the Catcher Generation did so while standing out as leaders and stars for their teams is nothing short of incredible. 

To demonstrate how amazing this group was (and to suggest their place relative to each other) I’ll go over defense, offense, career achievements, and total value. 


StatJoe MauerRussell MartinBrian McCannYader MolinaBuster Posey
Def High13.
Def Peak52.7170.7198.9198.2149.7
FRM High8.130.434.526.429.0
FRM Peak27.6108.7130.2102.8104.5
BS Framing^15N/A2502765
dWAR High1.
dWAR Peak4.410.25.712.97.2

First, a glossary of terms. The first stat and most comprehensive currently available is “Def” or defensive runs above average from Fangraphs. The second row is the highest single-season “Def” value accumulated and the third row is the top 5 seasons combined. 

The second statistic, FRM, is Fangraphs’ Framing Runs metric. Again the total, single-season high, and 5-year combined high are shown. The next row is Baseball Savant’s Framing Runs statistic. Their numbers only go back to 2015 and Mauer had already transitioned to 1B by then. 

The next set is the defensive component of Baseball Reference’s bWAR. Finally, the caught stealing percentage and the total number of steals allowed are listed before the number of Gold Gloves wraps up the chart. 

I’ve highlighted the leader in each statistic. Molina appears to be the runaway leader in this category with 7 of the 13 categories going to him. Remember that he has a distinct advantage in counting stats, however (or disadvantage for situations like stolen bases allowed) because he has played 300+ more games and 4+ more seasons than 2nd on the list (Mauer/McCann). 

Also note, that McCann and Martin rate very highly in FGs Framing while Buster blows the field away in Savant’s Framing metric with the highest total among these peers and 2nd highest since Savant started tracking it in 2015. Molina’s defensive prowess appears most obviously with his arm cutting down 40% of would-be stealers. Otherwise, he’s much closer to his peers.

Historically, Molina, Martin, and McCann are all-timers according to Fangraphs with their Def totals ranking 1st, 3rd, and 5th respectively in history among Catchers. And while FRM has only been tracked since 2008, it’s again those three leading the pack as the ones responsible for the highest total Framing Runs ranking 1, 2, 3 – Martin, McCann, and Molina. Posey isn’t too far down, ranking 7th in FRM and 10th in Def among Catchers, all time. 


StatJoe MauerRussell MartinBrian McCannYader MolinaBuster Posey
wRC+ High143140142138164
HR High2823262224
AVG High0.3650.2930.3330.3190.336
OBP High0.4440.4020.3880.3730.408
SLG High0.5870.4690.5720.5010.549
oWAR High7.
oWAR Peak30.810.219.516.918.8

The hitting stats are weighted Runs Created Plus, a percentage statistic taking the offensive climate of the league and valuing the production of each player against an average of 100. Simply stated, Joe Mauer’s 123 wRC+ means he was 23% more productive than the average hitter over his career. Molina’s 97 implies he has been 3% below average.

The bottom two stats are Offensive WAR, the offensive component of Baseball Reference’s bWAR, and Silver Sluggers. 

It is clear from this chart that Mauer and Posey were on a different level offensively than the rest of Catcher Generation. None of them were slouches however, only Martin failed to reach a .300 average in a season but he reached the more impressive .400 OBP mark. All of them hit more than 140 HRs and Mauer made up for the lack of dingers with the most overall production – so many doubles. B-Mac hit the most HRs and likely parlayed that particularly flashy offensive production into the most hardware with his six Silver Sluggers. 

Historically, Mauer (12th) and Posey (19th) rank among the all-time great Catchers in Frangraphs’ offensive runs produced. McCann finished 8th in HRs from the Catcher position while Mauer is 11th and Molina is 9th on the Catcher hits list with 7th within reach by the end of the season. Posey’s 129 wRC+ is tied for 10th among Catchers with Fred Carroll & Joe Torre. 


StatJoe MauerRussell MartinBrian McCannYader MolinaBuster Posey
Batting Champs30001
Black Ink150004
Gray Ink43292044

Each of the members of Catcher Generation has a solid trophy case. Yadi doesn’t have the numbers to get to an 11th All-Star game this year but fan votes can be unpredictable. Posey is in rare company with an MVP, a ROY, and 2 Comeback POYs. He was the central piece to the every-other-year Giants Championship teams.

JAWS is a HOF metric based on statistics that typically predict HOF election. Out of the 16 current Catchers in the HOF the average JAWS is 44.2. McCann’s 28.3 is 33rd all-time and would currently be better than only one HOFer. Mauer and Posey are two of the only five Catchers to ever win batting titles, with Mauer collecting an absurd three total. 


StatJoe MauerRussell MartinBrian McCannYader MolinaBuster Posey
fWAR High8.
fWAR Peak31.530.332.831.538.2
bWAR High7.
bWAR Peak30.622.519.422.928.8
fWAR per Season3.
fWAR per 1624.
bWAR per Season3.
bWAR per 1624.

I think the value chart is the most fascinating of them all. The stats shown are fWAR and bWAR, the two summative value statistics from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference, their highs, peaks, per season, and per 162 game totals.

By fWAR, the five players are separated by the slimmest of margins. The gap between 1st (Posey) and 5th (Mauer) is a single All-Star season. Molina is a possibly resurgent 2nd half away from moving into 1st on the list. By that mark alone, it would appear that the saying “if one is a Hall of Famer, they all are” couldn’t apply better to a group of players.

However, bWAR tells a slightly different story. Mauer, last in fWAR, has a significant advantage in Baseball-Reference’s metric. This is primarily due to the positional weights and different defensive metrics used by the two systems. Regardless, even McCann’s stunted 32 bWAR is tied for 33rd all-time among Catchers.

In conclusion, we should be thankful we got to experience the Catcher Generation. In the years since we’ve had some impressive seasons from players such as Jonathan Lucroy, Yasmani Grandal, JT Realmuto, and Salvador Perez but none of them have risen to the heights of Buster and the M’s. Maybe the next generation – Adley Rutschman, the Contreras brothers, Will Smith, and others will make a mark, only time will tell.


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