Best San Francisco Giants Catchers in Team History [All-Time List!]

Many catchers have played for the New York and San Francisco Giants over the years, but just a handful stand out above the rest. 

This article showcases these players by highlighting the best New York and San Francisco Giants catchers in team history based on single-season and career wins above replacement (WAR).

Keep reading for more…

best san francisco giants catchers

Background on the Giants

The franchise now known as the San Francisco Giants first began playing in 1883. At the time they were known as the New York Gothams, and two years later changed their name to the Giants.

The New York Giants played in the big apple for a number of decades until 1958, when the team moved to San Francisco.

The Giants are one of the most successful teams not only in baseball history, but in all of sports history. They have appeared in 20 World Series and won eight of them.

Many Hall of Famers have played for the Giants. This group includes legendary names like Willie Mays, Christy Mathewson and Mel Ott, just to name a few.  

mel ott in color

Giants great Mel Ott (image source: Don Stokes).

A number of incredibly talented catchers have also worn Giants jerseys over the years. This article focuses specifically on these men, as it explores the best catchers in Giants history since 1883.

Wins Above Replacement

Arguably the best statistic in baseball to measure comprehensive player value is Wins Above Replacement, or WAR. 

If you'd like to learn more about this metric, we would recommend this article.  

We love WAR (the statistic, that is) and think it stands alone in its ability to singularly quantify a players productivity.

So for this article, we researched every catcher to have played for the New York and San Francisco Giants since 1883, and then we ordered them by highest single-season and career WAR (utilizing the WAR calculation from Fangraphs, or fWAR).  

The following summarizes the top five Giants catchers in team history based on career WAR, and then we provide an overview of the top five seasons by New York and San Francisco Giants catchers based on single-season WAR.

Top 5 Giants Catchers by Career WAR

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

#1. Buster Posey, 57.6 career WAR

buster posey in catcher's gear

Future Hall of Famer, Buster Posey.

Any Giants fan knows who Buster Posey is. The Florida State alumn spent 12 seasons in San Francisco and retired after the 2021 season. Posey's incredible career will undoubtedly land him in Cooperstown one day.

A lifetime .302/.372/.460 hitter, Posey had 1,500 hits, 158 home runs and 729 RBIs. Of the 9,291 innings he caught, he maintained a strong .995 fielding percentage and a 33% caught stealing percentage (CS%).

In addition to being named to seven all star teams, Posey's accolades include:

  • The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year award
  • The 2012 NL MVP award
  • Three World Series championships (2010, 2012, 2014)
  • Five silver slugger awards
  • One gold glove award

 

#2. Jim O'Rourke, 52.1 career WAR

jim o'rourke catcher

A 19th century card of Jim O'Rourke.

Jim O'Rourke was an incredible 19th century ballplayer whose professional career began in 1872. He played every position on the diamond, which wasn't uncommon for the time. In particular, O'Rourke caught approximately 231 professional games.

From an offensive point of view, O'Rourke collected 2,639 career hits, stole at least 229 bases (statistics during this time are incomplete), and had a lifetime batting average of .310.

As a catcher, O'Rourke had a .914 fielding percentage and he threw out an average of 46% of runners attempting to steal (including a league leading 51% in 1891). 

Of his 23 years in professional baseball, eight were spent with the Giants. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945. 

#3. Buck Ewing, 48.1 career WAR

buck ewing catcher

A drawing of Buck Ewing in 19th century magazine Harper's Weekly.

Buck Ewing was a speedy 19th century catcher who played nine of his 18 professional seasons with the New York Giants. 

Ewing owns a career .303 batting average with 1,625 hits. Of those hits, 178 of which were triples - which is a career record among catchers. Ewing also collected 354 stolen bases, which is another record for catchers.

Like many ballplayers of his era, Ewing played a variety of positions. Roughly 50% of his professional appearances were as a catcher. When playing behind the plate, Ewing had a .931 fielding percentage and a 38% caught stealing percentage (CS%). 

Ewing helped lead the Giants to two World Series championships, in 1888 and 1889. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939, becoming the first catcher to make it to Cooperstown. 

#4. Ernie Lombardi, 41.9 career WAR

ernie lombardi new york giants

Ernie Lombardi at bat while a member of the NY Giants.

The final five seasons of Ernie Lombardi’s 17 year major league career were spent with the New York Giants. The 1938 NL MVP with the Cincinnati Reds, Lombardi was an eight-time all star and two-time batting champ.

Lombardi's career slash line was .306/.358/.460, and he collected 1,792 hits, 190 home runs and 990 RBIs. The man could hit, though he had a reputation for being slow on the basepaths. Somehow, he did manage eight career stolen bases.

Lombardi played no other defensive positions besides catcher. In 12,644 innings behind the plate, Lombardi maintained a .979 fielding percentage and gunned down an impressive 48% of all runners attempting to steal.

He was reported to be a "skilled receiver and handler of pitchers (with) an outstanding arm from (the) crouch position, rifling throws with a side-arm release."

The 1940 World Series champ was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.

#5. Roger Bresnahan, 39.6 career WAR

roger bresnahan ny giants

Early 20th century NY Giants catcher Roger Bresnahan.

Roger Bresnahan came to fame as the catcher for John McGraw's famous New York Giants teams of the early 20th century. He was also known as one of the first catchers of his day to experiment with using catcher’s gear behind the plate

Over the course of his 17 year career in the big leagues, Bresnahan collected 1,252 hits, 212 stolen bases and maintained a .279 batting average. Bresnahan played a variety of defensive positions, although the majority of his games were spent behind the dish. As a catcher, he kept a fielding percentage of .971 and he threw out 47% of runners attempting to steal.  

Bresnahan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Old Timers Committee, alongside Jim O'Rourke.

Honorable Mentions

  • Tom Haller, 30.0 career WAR
  • Walker Cooper, 29.8 career WAR
  • Benito Santiago, 28.7 career WAR

 

Top 5 Seasons by Giants Catchers, Ranked by WAR

Please note: The player must have at least 70 games played in one season as a member of the Giants to be eligible for the single-season WAR list.

#1. 2012 - Buster Posey (10.1 WAR)

buster posey mvp

Buster Posey receiving his 2012 NL MVP award (image source: Getty Images).

Buster Posey had the highest single-season fWAR of any catcher in baseball history in 2012. 

Posey literally had a storybook year in 2012. He hit 24 home runs and 103 RBIs, won the NL batting title with a .336 average, won the NL MVP award, and won a World Series title. An incredible season by any standard.

Behind the dish in 2012, Posey led NL catchers with 38 runners thrown out attempting to steal, and he had a career high 69 assists.

Posey had four hits and a home run in the Giants' World Series victory over the Tigers in 2012. Other accolades he earned that season include winning a silver slugger award and earning his first all star game selection, which he started behind the plate.

#2. 2014 - Buster Posey (7.6 WAR)

buster posey 2014 world series

Buster Posey scores a run during the 2014 World Series (image source: Getty Images).

Posey had another solid season two years after his MVP campaign of 2012.

In 2014, Posey hit .311 with 22 home runs and 89 RBIs. Defensively, he maintained a .994 fielding percentage and a 30% CS%. 

Posey helped lead the Giants to a World Series championship over the Kansas City Royals in 2014 - the Giants' third in just five years. He won the silver slugger award and finished sixth in NL MVP voting that season.

#3. 2013 - Buster Posey (6.9 WAR)

buster posey hitting in 2013

Buster Posey at bat during a 2013 away game against the New York Mets (image source: Getty Images).

Although Posey's 2013 campaign was not quite as phenomenal as his previous season, it was still good enough to earn him an all star selection and a top 20 finish in the NL MVP vote.

Posey slashed .294/.371/.450 in '13 with 15 home runs, 72 RBIs and an .821 OPS. His fielding percentage as a catcher in 2013 was slightly improved over his 2012 mark (from .991 to .993) and his CS% remained at 30%.

#4. 2015 - Buster Posey (6.8 WAR)

Posey running to catch a foul pop during a home game against the LA Dodgers in September 2015 (image source: Getty Images).

Posey continued his streak of productive seasons with a 6.8 WAR in 2015. 

He nearly matched his career high with 177 hits and he had his fourth season with an above .300 batting average (.318 in 2015). 

Behind the plate in 2015, Posey had a near perfect .998 fielding percentage and he gunned down 22 runners attempting to steal (36%).

#5. 2016 - Buster Posey (6.7 WAR)

Posey heads back to the dugout during a 2016 game in San Francisco (image source: Getty Images).

Rounding out our list of the top five seasons by Giants catchers is none other than… you guessed it, Buster Posey.

Let's talk defense first. Posey won his first and only gold glove in 2016. His fielding percentage was .997 and he led NL catchers in double plays turned (8) and total zone runs (15). It was perhaps the finest defensive season of his career.

Posey had a good year at bat too. He hit .288 with 14 home runs and 80 RBIs in 2016. He was also elected to his fourth all star game and finished in the top 15 for NL MVP.

List of All Giants Catchers With a 2.0+ WAR Season

If a catcher reaches a WAR of 2.0 or better in a season, it typically indicates he had a good year.

A significant number of Giants catchers have reached or surpassed the 2.0 WAR mark since the Gothams/Giants first began playing in 1880s.  

The list below shows each New York and San Francisco Giants catcher to have had a 2.0 or better WAR in a season.

SeasonNameWAR
2012Buster Posey10.1
2014Buster Posey7.6
2013Buster Posey6.9
2015Buster Posey6.8
2016Buster Posey6.7
1908Roger Bresnahan5.4
1947Walker Cooper5.1
1970Dick Dietz5.1
2021Buster Posey4.9
1888Buck Ewing4.7
2017Buster Posey4.7
1906Roger Bresnahan4.7
1892Buck Ewing4.6
1912Chief Meyers4.5
1883Buck Ewing4.5
1884Buck Ewing4.5
1889Buck Ewing4.4
1951Wes Westrum4.1
2010Buster Posey4.0
1971Dick Dietz4.0
1967Tom Haller3.9
1950Wes Westrum3.9
1928Shanty Hogan3.9
1939Harry Danning3.9
1886Jim O'Rourke3.8
1885Buck Ewing3.8
1984Bob Brenly3.8
1945Ernie Lombardi3.7
1962Tom Haller3.7
1911Chief Meyers3.5
1905Roger Bresnahan3.5
1907Roger Bresnahan3.5
1966Tom Haller3.4
1940Harry Danning3.4
1963Ed Bailey3.4
1913Chief Meyers3.4
1987Bob Brenly3.3
1993Kirt Manwaring3.2
1964Tom Haller3.2
1899Mike Grady3.0
1992Kirt Manwaring3.0
2011Chris Stewart2.8
1952Wes Westrum2.8
1986Bob Brenly2.8
1886Buck Ewing2.8
1914Chief Meyers2.8
1931Shanty Hogan2.8
1922Frank Snyder2.8
1921Earl Smith2.7
1963Tom Haller2.7
1921Frank Snyder2.7
1936Gus Mancuso2.6
1938Harry Danning2.6
1965Tom Haller2.6
1930Shanty Hogan2.6
1962Ed Bailey2.3
1982Milt May2.3
1924Frank Snyder2.3
2018Buster Posey2.2
1898Mike Grady2.2
2002Benito Santiago2.2
1999Brent Mayne2.2
1924Hank Gowdy2.1
1969Dick Dietz2.1
1917Bill Rariden2.1
1943Ernie Lombardi2.0
2000Bobby Estalella2.0
1968Jack Hiatt2.0

Giants Catchers over the Last 10 Years

Please note: the following catchers are listed based on the order of games caught per season for the Giants. Catchers with the most games caught per season start at the top. 

2012 Giants

  • Buster Posey (primary)
  • Hector Sanchez
  • Eli Whiteside

 

2013 Giants

  • Buster Posey (primary)
  • Guillermo Quiroz
  • Hector Sanchez
  • Johnny Monell

 

2014 Giants

  • Buster Posey (primary)
  • Hector Sanchez
  • Andrew Susac
  • Guillermo Quiroz

 

2015 Giants

  • Buster Posey (primary)
  • Andrew Susac
  • Hector Sanchez
  • Trevor Brown
  • Jackson Williams

 

2016 Giants

  • Buster Posey (primary)
  • Trevor Brown

 

2017 Giants

  • Buster Posey (primary)
  • Nick Hundley
  • Tim Federowicz

 

2018 Giants

  • Buster Posey (primary)
  • Nick Hundley
  • Aramis Garcia

 

2019 Giants

  • Buster Posey (primary)
  • Stephen Vogt
  • Aramis Garcia
  • Erik Kratz

 

2020 Giants

  • Joey Bart (primary)
  • Chadwick Tromp
  • Tyler Heineman
  • Rob Brantly

 

2021 Giants

  • Buster Posey (primary)
  • Curt Casali
  • Chadwick Tromp
  • Joey Bart

 

Complete List of All Giants Catchers Over the Last 10 Years

The below list shows every San Francisco Giants catcher who played in at least one defensive game as a catcher for the team since 2012. 

Catchers are listed in alphabetical order by first name.

  • Andrew Susac
  • Aramis Garcia
  • Buster Posey
  • Chadwick Tromp
  • Curt Casali
  • Eli Whiteside
  • Erik Kratz
  • Guillermo Quiroz
  • Hector Sanchez
  • Jackson Williams
  • Joey Bart
  • Johnny Monell
  • Nick Hundley
  • Rob Brantly
  • Stephen Vogt
  • Tim Federowicz
  • Trevor Brown
  • Tyler Heineman

 

Thank You for Reading

We sincerely hope you found this article to be interesting and helpful! We enjoyed learning more about the Giants through our research and writing for this article.

Please reach out with any comments or questions by going to our contact page or by sending an email to scott (at) catchersome (dot) com.

Thanks for stopping by Catchers Home.

 

Sources for this article

  • Baseball Almanac
  • Baseball Reference
  • Bleacher Report
  • Fangraphs
  • National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum