Best Minnesota Twins Catchers in Team History

The American League's (AL) Washington Senators moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season and renamed themselves the Twins. The franchise has had a successful history since then, and some solid catchers have worn Twins jerseys over the years.

This post surveys the best Minnesota Twins catchers in team history based on both career and single-season Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

Keep scrolling to learn more!

best minnesota twins catchers ever the comprehensive definitive post

The Best Minnesota Twins Catchers of All Time

A Quick History of the Minnesota Twins

The Washington Senators were one of the AL's original teams back in 1901. After six decades of baseball in the US capital city, the Senators' owner moved the team to Minneapolis after the 1960 team. 

This new team, now named the Twins, found success pretty quickly.

The 60s Through the mid-80s

The first game in Minnesota Twins history was played on April 11, 1961 in what resulted in a 6-0 victory over Whitey Ford and the Yankees.

Despite the success in the Twins inaugural game, they had a mediocre season in 1961, finishing 70 - 90. That mark was essentially flipped the following year, as the Twins finished '62 with a 91 - 70 record.  

Just three years later, Minnesota reached its first World Series. The 1965 Series was a thriller and featured a large number of legendary ballplayers. Despite an excellent performance by the Twins, they ultimately lost in seven games to a Dodgers team led by the dominant Sandy Koufax. 

Jim Kaat and Sandy Koufax during the 1965 World Series

Legendary pitchers Jim Kaat of the Twins and Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers pose during the 1965 World Series.

The Twins mostly played .500 + baseball for the rest of the 60s, and even reached the ALCS in '69 and '70.

The Twins in the 70s also played .500 + baseball most seasons, as their average winning percentage during the decade was .506. Stars like Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven (both future Hall of Famers) shined during this time. 

As the 70s turned into the 80s, however, the Twins hit a rough patch and experienced a period of subpar seasons. To illustrate this point, Minnesota only had a .438 winning percentage between 1980 - 1986. 

Soon, the Twins fortunes would change for the better. 

Two Championships in Five Years

New skipper Tom Kelly took over the club in 1987. Although the Twins had just come off a bad season, the ‘87 team was full of talent, much of it from young players like Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Greg Gagne. 

Minnesota ended up having a strong season, particularly when they played at home. In the World Series, the Twins faced the St. Louis Cardinals and took them to seven games before sealing their victory at the Metrodome. 

Sports Illustrated of the Minnesota Twins world championship in 1987

The Twins celebrating their 1987 World Series championship.

It was the Twins first championship in team history (not including the Washington Senators 1924 championship).

The next three seasons had their share of ups and downs. The Twins played excellent baseball in 1988 (91 - 71) but finished below .500 in 1989 and 1990.

Then came 1991, in which the Twins finished 95 - 67 and won the AL West. In the 1991 World Series, the Twins advanced to face a dangerous Atlanta Braves team.

The Braves took the Twins down to the wire in the Series. Kirby Puckett was the game six hero, forcing what would go on to be arguably the greatest game seven in World Series history. 

Future Hall of Famers Jack Morris and John Smoltz faced off in game seven and had an epic pitcher’s duel, taking a scoreless game into extra innings. In the 10th, Gene Larkin singled home Dan Gladden and the Twins claimed their second World Series championship in five years.

Kirby Puckett and the Twins celebrate their World Series win in 1991

Kirby Puckett and the Twins celebrating their 1991 World Series victory.

The Twins Since the Early 90s

The following season, the Twins had another strong performance (90 - 72), although they did not make the playoffs. It would be the last season that Minnesota finished above .500 for nearly a decade. 

During the 90s, the Twins went 718 - 833 for the decade, good for just a .462 winning percentage.

Early into the next decade, manager Tom Kelly retired and was replaced by Ron Gardenhire. 

Former minnesota twins manager Ron Gardenhire

Former Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire [Getty Images].

Between 2002 (Gardenhire’s first season as manager) and 2009, the Twins had an impressive 709 - 588 record (.547) and made the playoffs five times. Also during this period, star players like Johan Santana and Joe Mauer emerged.

 

The next decade (2010 - 2019), the Twins had a 765 - 855 record (.472). The 2019 team was a bright spot in this decade, and their 101 - 61 record was second only to the 1965 club for most wins in a season by the Twins.

As of this writing, the Twins in 2021 have a good deal of talent with guys like Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and Jose Berrios powering the team. 

Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

Generally referred to as WAR, Wins Above Replacement is a metric developed to measure the overall contribution that a layer makes to his team. 

According to the MLB, the following is the definition of WAR:

“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).”

Interestingly, there is a different WAR formula used for pitchers and for position players. Also, the calculation for WAR can vary slightly by publisher, such as Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs.

Still, it is an extremely useful and popular metric since it does such a good job at capturing the overall value that a player provides.

In this article, I researched every catcher that has ever played for the Twins and ranked them by both career and single season WAR, using Baseball Reference as my source. Meaning, I scanned player data going back to 1961 - the first season in Twins history. 

What follows is a summary of the top three Minnesota Twins catchers ranked by career WAR, while the second list highlights the top three best seasons by a Twins catcher, ranked by single season WAR.

Top 3 Minnesota Twins Catchers by Career WAR

Please note: The player must have at least 100 games played as a member of the Twins to be eligible for the career WAR list.

#1. Joe Mauer, 55.2 career WAR

Former legendary Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer in catcher's gear

Legendary Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer.

Joe Mauer is hands down the best catcher in Minnesota Twins history. The Saint Paul, Minnesota native and six-time AL all-star spent his entire 15-year big league career with the Twins.

Although he had considerable playing time as a DH and first baseman, the vast majority of his career he played catcher. And in 2009, Mauer won the AL MVP award in a season where he caught 112 games. 

Mauer was a rare catcher that excelled both offensively and defensively. From an offensive perspective, he had a lifetime .306 batting average and won the AL batting title three different times (2006, 2008 and 2009). Mauer is the only catcher in the history of the MLB to win three batting titles.

Additionally, he collected over 2,100 career hits, approximately 143 home runs, and won five silver slugger awards (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013). 

Behind the plate, Mauer won three gold glove awards (2008 - 2010). He had a lifetime .995 fielding percentage as a catcher and a caught stealing percentage of 33%.

Mauer led AL catchers multiple times in caught stealing percentage and in fielding percentage, and he regularly finished top three in the league for a variety of other defensive categories.

#2. Terry Steinbach, 28.0 career WAR

Former Minnesota Twins catcher Terry Steinbach about to take the field

Former Twins catcher Terry Steinbach taking the field.

Terry Steinbach's 28.0 career WAR is second highest among Twins catchers all-time. The three-time all-star spent his most productive years with the Oakland A’s before finishing up his career with the Twins between 1997 - 1999.

Over a 14-year big league career, Steinbach hit .271/.326/.420 with 1,453 hits, 162 home runs and 745 RBIs. He owned a .989 fielding percentage as a catcher and gunned down 436 runners caught stealing (36%). 

In addition to his three all-star game selections, other notable achievements from Steinbach's career include being named MVP of the 1988 all-star game and earning a World Series ring with the Athletics in 1989. 

Though Steinbach came to fame playing on the West Coast, he is a Minnesota native with deep roots in the state. For example, Steinbach played college baseball for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and he became a coach for the Twins after his playing days were over.

#3. Butch Wynegar, 26.5 career WAR

Butch Wynegar at bat while playing for the Minnesota Twins

Former Twins catcher Butch Wynegar at bat.

Butch Wynegar began his career with the Twins and ended up spending half of his 13-year MLB career with the club. 

His first two years in Minnesota were arguably the best of his career.

Wynegar was named an all-star during his rookie season in 1976, and he finished second in the AL rookie of the year award voting behind Tigers sensation Mark Fidrych.

The following season, Wynegar set career highs in runs (76), RBIs (79), and total bases (197), leading to his second consecutive all-star game selection. 

In total, Wynegar collected over 1,100 career hits, approximately 65 home runs and owned a .255/.348/.347 slash line. Defensively, Wynegar had a career .989 fielding percentage as a catcher and threw out 40% of runners attempting to steal. 

Honorable Mentions

  • A.J. Pierzynski, 23.8 career WAR
  • John Roseboro, 22.4 career WAR
  • Kurt Suzuki, 20.0 career WAR (note: active player)
  • Earl Battey, 18.8 career WAR

 

Top 3 Seasons by Twins Catchers, Ranked by Single Season WAR

Please note: The player must have at least 60 games played in one season as a member of the Twins to be eligible for the single-season WAR list.

#1. 2009 - Joe Mauer (7.8 WAR)

Joe Mauer in 2009 in a game against the Pirates

Joe Mauer in a June 2009 game at the Metrodome.

Joe Mauer's 2009 season was one of the best of any catcher in baseball history.

The Twins backstop hit a league leading .365/.444./587 (all career highs) en-route to winning the AL MVP award.

He also set career highs that season in hits (191), home runs (28), RBIs (96), OPS (1.031), total bases (307), and more.

Mauer led all of the AL in 2009 in oWAR (7.7), batting average (.365), and runs created (138), to name a few.

Behind the dish, Mauer had a .996 fielding percentage and gunned down 26% of attempted base runners, leading to his second consecutive gold glove award. 

Other accolades from the '09 season include being named the AL's starting catcher at the all-star game and winning the silver slugger award.

#2. 2006 - Joe Mauer (5.8 WAR)

Joe Mauer in a 2006 home game against the Tigers

Joe Mauer behind the plate during a July 2006 home game.

The second-best WAR in a season by a Twins catcher was Joe Mauer's 5.8 in 2006.

The 23-year-old had a fantastic third season in the big leagues, leading the AL in batting average (.347) and earning his first all-star game nod. 

Mauer collected 181 hits, 13 home runs, 84 RBI and a .936 OPS in '06. From a defensive perspective, he had a .996 fielding percentage and threw out 38% of runners caught stealing. 

Mauer led all catchers in the league in 2006 in range factor/game with 7.58. He also won his first of many silver slugger awards and finished sixth in AL MVP voting.

#3. 2008 AND 2013 - Joe Mauer (5.6 WAR)

Joe Mauer in the on deck circle in 2008 in Detroit

Joe Mauer on deck during a 2008 game in Detroit.

Third on our list is not one but two stellar seasons by Joe Mauer. In both the 2008 and 2013 seasons, he earned a 5.6 WAR.

In 2008, Mauer had a league leading .328 batting average, along with a .413 OBP and a .451 slugging percentage.

He collected 176 hits, nine of which were home runs alongside 85 RBIs. Behind the dish, Mauer earned his first gold glove award and led all catchers in the AL with a .997 fielding percentage.

In 2013, Mauer hit .324/.404/.476 and won his fifth and final silver slugger award.

Though his offensive was strong that year, Mauer’s defensive play was particularly impressive. His 1.3 dWAR in 2013 was the highest of his career.

He also led AL catchers with a 43% caught stealing percentage and had a .996 fielding percentage. 

Honorable Mentions by Decade

  • 1960s
    • Earl Battey (4.2 WAR in 1963)
  • 1970s
    • Butch Wynegar (4.4 WAR in 1979)
  • 1980s
  • 1990s
  • 2000s
    • A.J. Pierzynski (4.5 WAR in 2003)
  • 2010s
    • Mitch Garver (4.2 WAR in 2019)

 

List of All Minnesota Twins Catchers With a 2.5+ WAR Season

Earning a single season WAR that’s 2.5 or higher reflects a productive year for MLB ballplayers. A number of Minnesota Twins catchers have met or exceeded this mark since the team first began playing back in 1961.

The table below shows every Twins catcher who has had a 2.5+ WAR season.

SeasonNameWAR (2.5 +)
1961Earl Battey3.1
1962Earl Battey2.5
1963Earl Battey4.2
1965Earl Battey3.2
1973George Mitterwald2.6
1976Butch Wynegar3.4
1977Butch Wynegar3.8
1979Butch Wynegar4.4
1989Brian Harper2.8
1990Brian Harper2.8
2003A. J. Pierzynski4.5
2005Joe Mauer2.8
2006Joe Mauer5.8
2007Joe Mauer3.9
2008Joe Mauer5.6
2009Joe Mauer7.8
2010Joe Mauer5.5
2012Joe Mauer4.5
2013Joe Mauer5.6
2014Kurt Suzuki2.6
2017Jason Castro2.6
2019Mitch Garver4.2

Thank You for Reading

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