MLB: Dollar values of the best catchers

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 11: St. Louis Cardinals Catcher Yadier Molina (4) during a game between the Colorado Rockies and the visiting St. Louis Cardinals on September 11, 2019 at Coors Field in Denver, CO. (Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 11: St. Louis Cardinals Catcher Yadier Molina (4) during a game between the Colorado Rockies and the visiting St. Louis Cardinals on September 11, 2019 at Coors Field in Denver, CO. (Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

In raw dollars, which MLB catchers earned the most by their play on the field in 2019

In MLB, we’re pretty much obsessed with the concept of value. We apply a plethora of sometimes exotic statistical approaches to measure it: batting average, slugging, home runs, WAR, OPS+, Defensive Runs Saved, Weighted Runs Created…the list goes on.

The one factor we generally overlook in all these assessments is the most meaningfully value-oriented of all of them: salary. What, precisely, was the player paid – relative to all other players tasked with doing what he was doing – and how much of that pay did he “earn” by his performance?

The rating system that follows corrects that oversight. Based on 2019 performance, it measures which players were the most “valuable” as judged by their on-field production relative to their salary. And let it be noted here that we are limiting our focus to on-field value only. Some players, megastars, are paid based largely on factors unrelated to on-field performance, their drawing power at the gate, their celebrity, their endorsement/promotional potential being among them. Those factors, while acknowledged as real and legitimate, are not part of this discussion.

Since different positions require different skills, the standard for determining production will vary depending on position…although for position players there will always be an offensive component. Indeed, at certain positions – designated hitters, left fielders, and first baseman notably – that may the predominant or only component.

We begin with catchers, where defense is a decided component. In 2019, 37 catchers were behind the plate for at least 500 innings. They’ll be assessed on three weighted criteria: 60 percent for WAR (for offense), 30 percent for total fielding runs above average (for defense) and 10 percent for pitch framing. These factors are selected in part due to their cumulative nature. In baseball as in many other things, showing up is a big deal.

For each component, we’ll compare their performance against both the group average performance and the group average salary, and translate it to a dollar value. In the end, we’ll not only know who the “most valuable” catchers were but also precisely what that “value” was.

For the record, the average salary of a catcher working a minimum of 500 innings in 2019 was $3.904 million.  Here are the other pertinent averages for this position: WAR 1.324; defensive runs saved per year 0.378; strike zone runs above average (framing) 0.486.