The Los Angeles Dodgers are a well known Baseball team with a long and colorful past. Over the decades, many standout catchers have put on a Dodgers jersey.
In this post, we examine the top Dodgers catchers since 1932, ranked by career and single season Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
Keep scrolling to learn more!
Best Catchers in Los Angeles Dodgers History
A Very Brief History of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are one of Baseball’s great teams, with origins that go back to the late 1800s. Back at that time, the Brooklyn ballclub was known by the Atlantics, followed by a set of team names known as the Grays, Bridegrooms, Grooms and Superbas, and finally as the Robins in the 20th century.
The Early 20th Century
The first year the Brooklyn club was called the Dodgers was in 1932. Also referred to in the early days as the “Trolley Dodgers”, the name ‘Dodgers’ came from Brooklyn natives who rushed to get out of the way of oncoming trolley cars that were so prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Dodgers' early years in Brooklyn were not entirely successful. In fact, between the Dodgers first season (1932) and 1939, they went below .500 at 569 - 652 (.466). However, the 1940s would prove to be a better decade for the team, beginning with Brooklyn’s NL pennant win in 1941.
Post-World War II
After World War II, the Dodgers made history by signing the first African-American ballplayer in modern times to a professional contract, breaking Baseball’s color barrier.
Jackie Robinson made his big league debut on April 15, 1947 in a home game against the Boston Braves. He went on to capture the Rookie of the Year award that season, and the Dodgers again clinched the NL Pennant.
The Dodgers also won the pennant in 1949, 1952, and 1953, but each time lost to their cross-town rivals, the New York Yankees.
However, 1955 was different. That year, Brooklyn not only won the pennant but went on to defeat the Yankees in seven games. It was a thrilling World Series in which the Dodgers claimed their first championship.
Move to the West Coast
A short time later, Dodger’s owner Walter O’Malley shocked all of Brooklyn by moving the team from New York to Los Angeles, California beginning with the 1958 season.
Even though their address changed, the Dodgers’ winning ways did not.
In just their second season in Los Angeles, the Dodgers captured another World Series crown by defeating the Chicago White Sox four games to two.
Led by stars like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Maury Wills, the Dodgers went on to appear in three World Series in the 1960s, winning two of them (1963 and 1965).
The Dodgers fielded many good clubs in the 1970s, ending the decade with an excellent record of 910 - 701 (.564). Despite three World Series appearances in the decade (1974, 1977 and 1978), they lost them all.
However, in the 1980s, former Brooklyn pitcher-turned Manager Tommy Lasorda led the Dodgers to two World Series (1981 and 1988), winning them both.
The next decade, LA played above .500 Baseball, ending the 90's with a 797 - 757 (.512) record thanks to guys like future Hall of Fame backstop Mike Piazza. However, they made no World Series appearances in the decade.
The 21st Century
During the first decade of the new millennium, LA was led by four different skippers. Despite the managerial inconsistency, the Dodgers had a strong record in the 2000's, finishing 862 - 758 (.532) with playoff appearances in four seasons.
The Dodgers had an incredible run the next decade. Between 2010 - 2019, the Dodgers went 919 - 701 (.567) and made the playoffs in seven out of ten years.
In 2020, the Dodgers had an MLB leading 43 - 17 regular season record. They capped off the pandemic-shortened season with a World Series championship over the Tampa Bay Rays, their seventh in team history.
Wins Above Replacement (WAR)
Typically referred to as WAR, Wins Above Replacement is a metric that was created to measure an individual player’s overall contributions to his team.
Its definition per the MLB is as follows:
“WAR measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e.g., a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent).”
There is a different WAR formula used for pitchers and for position players, and calculations can vary slightly by publisher (such as Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs).
Nonetheless, it’s an incredibly useful and popular metric, since it captures the overall value that a player provides to his team.
In this post, I researched every catcher that has ever put on a Dodgers jersey and ranked them by career and single season WAR, using Baseball Reference as the source (also referred to as bWAR). Thus, I scanned player data going back to 1932 - the season that Brooklyn's national league team officially adopted the ‘Dodgers’ name.
What follows is a summary of the top five Dodgers catchers ranked by career WAR, while the second list highlights the top five best seasons by a Dodgers catcher, ranked by WAR.
Top 5 Dodgers Catchers by Career WAR
Please note: The player must have at least 100 games played as a member of the Dodgers to be eligible for the career WAR list. All statistics are current as of the date of publication.
#1. Mike Piazza, 59.6 career WAR
After being selected in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft, Mike Piazza defied the odds by breaking into the big leagues in 1992. He then went on to spend six incredibly productive years in Los Angeles.
The 1993 NL Rookie of the Year winner, Piazza made 12 all star teams and won 10 Silver Slugger awards during his career.
His lifetime slash line is 308/.377/.545. Piazza’s 427 career home runs is a record among catchers. He also collected 1,335 RBIs, 3,768 total bases and he had an OPS of .922.
Additionally, Piazza owns a .989 fielding percentage as a catcher and he gunned down 423 would-be base runners, which is good for a 23% caught stealing percentage (CS%).
Piazza was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016.
#2. Russell Martin, 38.8 career WAR
Russell Martin played for a variety of teams during his 14 year big league career, including six seasons in LA.
He has been named an all star four times, and Martin has won one Gold Glove and one Silver Slugger award during his career. He has also placed in the top 25 for his league's MVP award three different times.
Martin's career batting average is .248, and he hit 191 home runs with 771 RBIs, 803 runs and an OPS of .746.
An excellent defensive catcher, Martin has an excellent career fielding percentage as a catcher at .993. He gunned down approximately 365 (30% CS%) runners attempting to steal.
Martin last played in the MLB in 2019. In May of 2022, he officially announced his retirement from baseball.
#3. Roy Campanella, 35.6 career WAR
Roy Campanella was just the sixth African American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era, making his MLB debut roughly one year after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. He also holds the distinction of being MLB’s first African American catcher in the 20th century.
Though his MLB career was cut short by a debilitating car accident, Campanella had one of the most productive 10-year stretches of any catcher in Baseball history. In his 10 seasons with Brooklyn, Campanella was named an all-star 8 times, he won 3 NL MVP awards, and he won a World Series ring in 1955.
His career slash line is .276/.360/.500, and he collected 242 lifetime home runs, 856 RBI and 627 runs (not including time in the Negro Leagues).
An excellent defender, Campanella's career caught-stealing percentage is a ridiculous 57.4% (which is still a record), and his fielding percentage was .988.
Campanella was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
#4. Tom Haller, 29.3 career WAR
Tom Haller spent four of his 12 big league seasons as a member of the LA Dodgers (1968 - 1971). He was a three time NL all-star and earned MVP vote shares in two seasons.
Haller was a lifetime .257 hitter with 1,011 hits, 134 home runs, 461 runs and an OPS of .753. Defensively, he owns a lifetime fielding percentage of .992 and he threw out 261 runners, good for a 35% caught stealing percentage.
#5. Mike Sciosca, 26.1 career WAR
Mike Scioscia spent his entire 13 year playing career as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In those 13 seasons, Scioscia made two NL all-star teams and he earned two World Series rings, one in 1981 and the other in 1988.
Scioscia's career slash line is .259/.344/.356. He collected over 1,100 hits, 68 home runs, 398 runs and 446 RBI. Scioscia's lifetime fielding percentage is .988 and he threw out 500 (34% CS%) runners attempting to steal.
After his playing career ended, Scioscia became a very successful big league manager just down the road in Anaheim, CA.
In his 19 seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Scioscia compiled a 1,650 - 1,428 (.536) record with one World Series victory (2002) and two Manager of the Year awards (2002 and 2009).
Top 5 Seasons by Dodgers Catchers, Ranked by WAR
Please note: The player must have at least 70 games played in one season as a member of the Dodgers to be eligible for the single-season WAR list.
#1. 1997 - Mike Piazza (8.7 WAR)
The Dodgers catcher with the highest WAR in a single season is Mike Piazza in 1997. That year he had an outstanding 8.7 WAR and finished second in the NL MVP race to Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies.
During the 1997 season, Piazza was the top performer on an LA team that finished second in the NL West.
That year he had a career high slash line of .362/.431/.638, for an OPS of 1.070. Piazza also collected 40 home runs and 124 RBI (both tied for career highs), and had career highs in hits (201) and Total Bases (355).
Defensively, Piazza gunned down 43 attempted base runners (28%) in 1997 and led all NL catchers in putouts (1,045).
#2. 1993 - Mike Piazza (7.0 WAR)
Hall of Famer Mike Piazza also owns the second spot for highest single-season WAR by a Dodgers catcher.
Piazza had a spectacular 1993 campaign on the way to winning the NL Rookie of the Year award, claiming all first place votes. That season he hit .318/.561/.932 with 35 home runs and 112 RBIs.
From a defensive perspective, Piazza had a solid .989 fielding percentage behind the dish, and he earned career highs that season in runners caught stealing (59) and caught stealing percentage (35%).
Piazza finished the season in the top ten for NL MVP, even though he finished in the top three in the league that year in WAR.
#3. 1951 - Roy Campanella (6.9 WAR)
Roy Campanella's first MVP award-winning season, in 1951, was also his best season from a WAR perspective.
His 1951 slash line was a career-high .325 average with a .393 on base percentage and .590 slugging percentage. Campanella also collected 33 home runs, 108 RBI and a career-high 103 runs that year.
He was an absolute stud behind the plate in 1951, with a career-high 69% (!) caught stealing percentage. He also led NL catchers in defensive games (140), putouts (722), assists (72) and double plays turned (12), among other categories.
#4. 1953 - Roy Campanella (6.8 WAR)
Just two years after his 6.9 WAR campaign Campanella had another incredibly productive season, resulting in a 6.8 WAR.
In 1953, Campanella hit .312 and had career highs in home runs (41), RBIs (142 - leading the league), on base percentage (.395), slugging percentage (.611) and OPS (1.006).
Defensively, he had a .989 fielding percentage and threw out 54% of runners attempting to steal, and he led NL catchers in putouts (807), defensive games (140), and range factor/game (6.17).
Campanella claimed his second NL MVP award in 1953, beating out second place finisher Eddie Mathews of the Milwaukee Braves by 81 points.
#5. 1995 - Mike Piazza (6.2 WAR)
Mike Piazza hit .346 in his 1995 campaign on the way to leading the Dodgers to a first place finish in the NL West.
He also hit 32 home runs, collected 87 runs and earned 93 RBIs in '95, good for a 1.006 OPS. Piazza was the NL's starting catcher in the all star game and he won the silver slugger award that year.
Piazza had a .990 fielding percentage in 1995, a 25% caught stealing percentage, and he led NL catchers in putouts with 805.
List of All Dodgers Catchers With a 4.0+ WAR Season
Reaching a 4.0 + WAR in a single major league season is an accomplishment all by itself. A few Dodgers catchers have hit or exceeded this figure since the club first started playing under the Dodgers name back in 1932.
Check out the list below highlighting every Brooklyn or Los Angeles Dodgers catcher with a 4.0 WAR or better in a season.
|2001||Paul Lo Duca||4.6|
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