By Scott Barzilla

Editor’s Note: If you are joining us for the first time, make sure to read the primer article on Total Run Index.

Everyone is interested in lists even if those lists don’t have a lot of relevance to the future. Every good stock broker will tell you that past performance is not a guarantee of future performance. Baseball players are much the same way. However, when we stretch the timeline out a bit we can do a better job of predicting the future. That isn’t really our purpose here today. We are simply looking back at the past season to see who rates on top.

1) Buster Posey– San Francisco Giants

Fielding: 0.3

Hitting: 51.2

Running: -2.7

TRI: 48.8

There is a school of thought that says that players at premium defensive positions should get more credit in the MVP discussion than players from premium offensive positions. The argument follows that the gap between the best catcher and second best catcher is greater than that at other positions. Therefore, Buster Posey deserved the MVP. I’m not necessarily swayed by that argument, but it is a compelling one.

It should be noted though that the gap between Posey and the second best catcher is not as large as we might think because he is a neutral defender and sub par base runner. These elements all add together to give us a complete picture of a player. We will see the difference as we move forward with the other catchers.

2. Yadier Molina– St. Louis Cardinals

Fielding: 8.4

Hitting: 29.2

Running: -4.1

TRI: 33.5

Last season, we here at hardballchat scoffed at the long term deal that the Cardinals gave to Molina (5 years, 75 million). Well, year one was a resounding success for the Cardinals as Molina turned in his best all around season. He has had better fielding seasons, but he rebounded from a very mediocre season with the glove to turn in the top season for all catchers defensively. Offensively, he played a little above his head, but he has been trending up over the past several seasons with the bat.

3. Carlos Ruiz– Philadelphia Phillies

Fielding: 3.5

Hitting: 26.4

Running: -1.3

TRI: 28.6

I was always bullish on Ruiz and I turned out being right for the wrong reasons. Ruiz was caught by the new MLB drug testing for a banned substance, so he will miss the first 50 games of the 2013 season. He has always been strong defensively and he has always been a plus hitter, but in retrospect, 2012′s numbers did seem a bit inflated.

4. Joe Mauer– Minnesota Twins

Fielding: -5.3

Hitting: 30.6

Running: -0.6

TRI: 24.7

There is a huge debate in Minnesota about whether Joe Mauer should be moved to first base. The idea is that he could become an average defensive first baseman (in lieu of being near the bottom defensively at catcher) and maintain his offensive ability over a longer period of time. On the other hand, his ranking among catchers would be much higher than it would be among first baseman, so he should remain where he would be more valuable.

The problem with the second argument is that he has already been signed. So, you should play him where he is going to be at his best and that probably is not behind the plate. As a hitter, there are few who are better and if he got to play 150 or more games a year at a less demanding position he might even produce more.

5. John Jaso– Seattle Mariners

Fielding: -1.6

Hitting: 22.0

Running: 1.3

TRI: 21.7

Miguel Olivo did a credible job as he always has and he is unemployed. The main reason for that is Jaso. The Rays traded him away for someone that barely pitched for them. Even the best of organizations make mistakes. Jaso might not be this good, but he should be a solid catcher for the foreseeable future. Of course, we will look at what to expect in the future when we look at the fantasy angle.

6. Miguel Montero– Arizona Diamondbacks

Fielding: 2.7

Hitting: 19.2

Running: -5.4

TRI: 16.5

If it weren’t for his negative base running score he likely would have ranked a little bit higher on the list. Considering that this is the second consecutive season he has finished in the top ten we have to figure that he belongs. 2011 saw him produce some gaudier numbers, but 2012 was perhaps a little bit better overall.

7. Jonathan Lucroy– Milwaukee Brewers

Fielding: 0.1

Hitting: 15.7

Running: -0.6

TRI: 15.2

Lucroy was another one of those surprise performers from 2012. It was his third full season in the big leagues, so maybe it was a case of him finding himself. It also could have been a career season we might not see again. Thus is the problem with younger players. When you have a limited timeline you can’t predict the future as easily. Hopefully for the Brewers sake, 2012 was just the beginning.

8. Carlos Santana– Cleveland Indians

Fielding: -0.4

Hitting: 17.7

Running: -3.9

TRI: 13.4

Most people in Cleveland assumed that Santana would take his place in the top five of the catcher’s list. He did improve a great deal defensively, but the gains in offense just didn’t happen. Santana is a low batting average on balls in play guy. The associated assumption is that he should bounce back in that category. That didn’t happen in 2012, so we either double down for 2013 or just accept that he will be one those guys.

9. Yasmani Grandal– San Diego Padres

Fielding: 2.4

Hitting: 12.9

Running: -2.1

TRI: 13.2

Grandal was dealt to the Padres in a package for Mat Latos. He spent most of the first half in AAA and saw his timeline sped up by the poor performance of Nick Hundley. Going into the offseason, the Padres might have regretted signing Hundley long-term, but Grandal got clipped late in the year by the new MLB drug testing. Now, one has to wonder how good Grandal really is.

10. A.J. Ellis– Los Angeles Dodgers

Fielding: 0.6

Hitting: 12.6

Running: -2.5

TRI: 10.7

The Dodgers are the new Yankees and as such there is a ton of star power there. Just like the Yankees of the late 1990s, teams that win have players that fly under the radar and Ellis is one of those kinds of players. He isn’t a brilliant offensive performer like Buster Posey or Joe Mauer, but he is very good for the position and for what the Dodgers need. The fact that he is an above average defender is that much better. He should continue to grow as he gets more playing time.

 

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at hardballchat.com. He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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