The Boston Red Sox are a historic franchise and one of the oldest teams in major league baseball.
Many catchers have worn a Boston Red Sox jersey over the decades, and this post sorts through all of them to identify the best statistically, as ranked by career WAR and single season WAR.
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Best Catchers in Boston Red Sox History
A Very Brief History of the Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are one of Major League Baseball's (MLB) most popular teams, with multiple World Series championships under their belt since the team's start back in the early 20th century.
A ballclub rich in history, some of the most noteworthy players in the game have suited up for the Red Sox. Individuals like Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, just to name a few.
The Early 20th Century
The American League's Boston Americans officially changed their name to the "Red Sox" for the 1908 season. At this time, the team was playing at a location known as the Huntington Avenue Grounds.
However, in 1912 - a historic season for Boston - the team began playing at Fenway Park. That same year, the Boston club won their first World Series as the "Red Sox", winning a thrilling series over the New York Giants.
In 1914, the great Babe Ruth joined the Red Sox and became a key member of a team that won three more World Series over just four years (1915, 1916 and 1918).
Later that decade, a new owner named Harry Frazee took over the club. Over the course of a few years, Frazee sold off many of the Red Sox's best players, including Babe Ruth.
He would go on to be remembered as one of the most notorious owners in team history, due largely to the trades he made after the 1918 championship.
Between 1919 and 1933, the Red Sox didn't have a single season with a .500 or better record. They did not finish in second place or better in the American League until 1938.
Still, there were some great Red Sox players that made a name for themselves during this period. These men included Hall of Famers like Lefty Grove, catcher Rick Ferrell and Jimmie Foxx, as well as legendary Player-Manager Joe Cronin.
And of course, there was the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams.
One of the greatest ballplayers to ever live, Williams was a tremendously productive member of the Boston Red Sox. He had an incredible season in 1941, hitting .406 - the last MLB player to hit .400 or better in a season.
Over the course of his career, Williams collected 2,654 hits, 521 home runs, 1,839 RBIs and maintained a lifetime .344 batting average..
Williams served in the military in both World War II and the Korean War, missing roughly five full seasons of professional baseball in the process. One can only imagine what his career totals would have been with five more "Williams-eque" seasons under his belt.
Post-World War II
The Red Sox had an amazing season immediately after World War II, in 1946.
That year, Ted Williams claimed his first AL MVP award after hitting .342 with 38 home runs and 123 RBI. Others including Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr and Rudy York also had strong seasons.
The Red Sox made it to the World Series that year where they faced the NL MVP, Stan Musial, and his St. Louis Cardinals. Boston won three of the first five games of the Series, though they would drop game six and lose by just one run in a heartbreaking game seven to the Cards.
Boston would not make it back to the World Series again until 1967, despite having a respectable above .500 (.528 to be exact) winning percentage across the decade of the 1950s.
In 1967 - and again in 1975 and 1986 - the Red Sox would make it to the World Series but lose each time in heartbreaking fashion four games to three. The curse of the Bambino was alive and well at this time.
In the '67 Series, the Red Sox again fell to the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite their best efforts, the Sox couldn't get past the fierce Bob Gibson, who three three complete game victories with 26 strikeouts in the Series.
Boston's nemesis in the 1975 World Series was "Big Red Machine" (Cincinnati Reds) managed by future Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson. Even with the Red Sox winning the most exciting game in Series history (game 6), they lost the deciding game seven by one run.
Fast forward 11 years and the Red Sox were in the Series again, this time against the New York Mets. Similar to 1946, the Red Sox went up three games to two, but dropped the last two games at Shea Stadium in heartbreaking fashion.
Despite the numerous disappointments in the World Series, there were many solid Red Sox teams between the 1960s and 90s. These were teams led by managers like Dick Williams, Don Zimmer, and John McNamara, and players like Luis Tiant, Dwight Evans, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Jim Rice.
As the 1990s drew to a close, a new crop of stars were coming on the scene. Boston seemed due for a world championship.
The 21st Century
After a crushing loss to the New York Yankees in the 2003 ALCS, a new manager named Terry Francona was hired to take over the Red Sox.
Francona piloted the 2004 Red Sox to a thrilling come from behind Series victory against their arch rival, the Yankees, in the 2004 ALCS.
The Red Sox kept rolling into the World Series in '04, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals to earn their first World Series championship since 1918.
Boston erupted in celebration, understandably so. It had been 86 years since the team's last World Series championship!
Only three short years later, Francona and the Red Sox made it back to the World Series, this time sweeping the Colorado Rockies to claim the 2007 title.
Then, in 2013, the Boston Red Sox again made it back in the World Series under new manager John Farrell. Though not a sweep this time, the Red Sox claimed the World Series crown that year by beating the St. Louis Cardinals four games to two.
The following two seasons (2014 and 2015) were disappointing for the Red Sox. However, the Sox quickly returned to their winning ways during the 2016 season, as it finished atop the AL East that season and the following one.
Despite its success in 2017, a different manager took the helm in 2018. Alex Cora, who is the current manager of the Red Sox (as of the publication date) would go on to immediately lead his new team to the World Series in 2018.
In that World Series, the Boston Red Sox convincingly beat the Los Angeles Dodgers four games to one, led by the bat of Series MVP Steve Pearce.
After a curse filled 20th century, the Red Sox had captured four World Series' crowns in the first 20 years of the 21st century!
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 Red Sox jersey and ranked them by career and single season WAR, using Baseball Reference as the source (also called bWAR).
Thus, I scanned player data going back to 1908 - the season that Boston’s AL club officially adopted the ‘Red Sox’ name.
What follows is a summary of the top five Red Sox catchers ranked by career WAR, while the second list highlights the top five best seasons by a Red Sox catcher, ranked by WAR.
Top 5 Red Sox Catchers by Career WAR
Please note: The player must have at least 100 games played as a member of the Boston Red Sox to be eligible for the career WAR list.
#1. Carlton Fisk, 68.4 career WAR
Fisk spent the first half of his career in Boston before moving to the Chicago White Sox in 1981 until his retirement in 1993.
He won the 1972 AL Rookie of the Year award and made 11 AL all star teams during his career.
Fisk also won three Silver Sluggers, a Gold Glove, and he placed in the top 20 for AL MVP seven different times.
A career .269 hitter, Fisk hit 376 home runs, had 1,330 RBIs, earned a .797 OPS and collected nearly 4,000 total bases. Defensively, he had a .988 fielding percentage behind the dish and threw out a total of 665 would be base runners, good for a 34% caught stealing percentage.
Fisk was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. Of all the Red Sox catchers that have ever taken the field, none have been more productive than Fisk.
#2. Wally Schang, 47.9 career WAR
Wally Schang was an early 20th century catcher that played 19 seasons in the major leagues, three of which were spent in Boston (1918 - 1920). He was a member of three different World Series winning teams throughout his career, including the 1918 Red Sox club.
Over the course of his career, the switch-hitting Schang batted .284 with a .794 OPS and over 120 stolen bases, which is a very high number for catchers! He's second only to Mickey Cochrane in career on base percentage (.393) among catchers.
Schang also gunned down 814 attempted base runners (46% caught stealing average) and had over 5,000 putouts as a catcher.
In our humble opinion, Wally Schang is worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown. Fingers crossed that he gets the recognition he deserves and is inducted into the Hall of Fame one day.
#3. Rick Ferrell, 31.1 career WAR
Rick Ferrell spent roughly four of his 18 MLB seasons with the Red Sox, from 1933 - 1937. An eight time AL all star, Ferrell collected 1,692 hits and nearly 2,200 total bases during his career, with a lifetime .281 batting average.
Ferrell had a reputation as being a solid defensive catcher and a great handler of pitchers. He maintained a .984 fielding percentage and had over 7,200 putouts. Ferrell also threw out 654 would be baserunners, good for an impressive caught stealing percentage of 44%.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
#4. Elston Howard, 27.1 career WAR
Although Elston Howard made a name for himself as a member of the New York Yankees, he spent his final two years in professional baseball as a member of the Boston Red Sox (1967 - 1968).
Over the course of his storied career, the 1963 AL MVP made 12 all star teams and won two Gold Glove awards. While with the New York Yankees, he was a member of four World Series winning teams.
Howard collected 1,471 hits and 167 home runs during his MLB career, good for a .274 batting average and .749 OPS. He was also a solid defensive catcher, catching 223 attempted base runners (44%) and finishing his career with a noticeably high .993 fielding percentage as a catcher.
#5. Tony Peña, 24.7 career WAR
Tony Peña caught in the big leagues between 1980 and 1997, spending four of those seasons in Boston in the early 90s.
The Dominican Republic native was elected to five all star teams and earned four Gold Glove awards during his career. Peña had a .260 career average with 1,687 hits, 107 home runes, a .673 OPS and 2,360 total bases.
Defensively, Peña had an impressive lifetime fielding percentage of .991 and collected over 11,000 putouts. He also gunned down a total of 656 (35% average) runners attempting to steal.
Top 5 Seasons by Red Sox Catchers, Ranked by WAR
Please note: The player must have at least 70 games played in one season as a member of the Boston Red Sox to be eligible for the single season WAR list.
#1. 1972 - Carlton Fisk (7.3 WAR)
The highest single season WAR by a Red Sox catcher belongs to Carlton Fisk, who had a 7.3 WAR during his Rookie of the Year winning season in 1972.
Fisk left spring training in ‘72 as the backup to the backup catcher. He started out so hot, however, that he became Boston’s primary catcher roughly one month into the season, and was elected to the all star team that year (his first).
During the 1972 season, Fisk hit .293 with 22 home runs and a .909 OPS, and he set a career high in triples (9). In fact, he tied Oakland’s Joe Rudi for most triples in the American League that year, a feat in and of itself for a catcher.
Behind the plate, Fisk had a 39% caught stealing percentage, a .984 fielding percentage, and he led AL catchers in putouts (846) and assists (72).
#2. 1977 - Carlton Fisk (7.0 WAR)
Fisk again had a strong season in 1977. That year he was the starting catcher on the AL all star team. He hit .315 during the year and set career highs for hits (169), runs (106), on base percentage (.402) and total bases (279).
His defensive stats were also impressive. In ‘77 Fisk matched a career high of 50 (45%) runners caught stealing, he had a .987 fielding percentage, and he led AL catchers in defensive games played at 151.
#3. 1978 - Carlton Fisk (5.9 WAR)
Continuing his streak on our list, Carlton Fisk also had the third highest single season WAR by a Boston Red Sox catcher. Immediately following his 7.0 WAR campaign in 1977, he had a 5.9 WAR season in 1978.
That year Fisk hit .284 with 20 home runs and 88 RBIs. He had career highs that season for games (157), at bats (571) and doubles (39).
Behind the dish Fisk threw out 49 runners attempting to steal, he had a .980 fielding percentage, and he led AL catchers in defensive games played (154).
Fisk was again named an AL all star in 1978.
#4. 1985 - Rich Gedman (5.4 WAR)
Rich Gedman had an excellent 1985 season. The 11 year Red Sox veteran was a major contributor in ‘85, and was selected for his first all star game that year.
Gedman set career highs in nearly every offensive statistical category in 1985, including average (.295), OPS (.846), hits (147), RBI (80), and total bases (241).
Defensively, Gedman led all catchers in the AL in caught stealing (53/43.4%) and assists (78), and he had a career high five pickoffs in 1985.
#5. 1919 - Wally Schang (4.4 WAR)
Wally Schang's best major league season, based on WAR, happened in 1919. Just one year after helping lead Boston to a World Series, Schang hit .306 with 15 stolen bases and an excellent .436 on base percentage for the 1919 Red Sox.
He gunned down 68 (49% average!) runners attempting to steal, led AL catchers in double plays turned (16), and finished second among AL catchers in assists (131) that year.
List of All Catchers for the Red Sox With a 4.0+ WAR Season
Reaching a 4.0 + WAR in a single major league season is quite an accomplishment all by itself. A few Boston Red Sox catchers have hit or exceeded this figure since the club first started playing back in 1908.
Check out the list below showing all the catchers for the Red Sox with a 4.0 WAR or better in a season.
Thank You for Reading
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