The Washington Senators moved to Texas in 1972 and renamed themselves the Rangers. The team has had a fascinating history since that time, and some phenomenal catchers have worn Rangers jerseys over the years.
This post closely examines the best Texas Rangers catchers in franchise history based on both career and single-season Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
Keep scrolling to learn more!
The Best Texas Rangers Catchers of All Time
A Quick History of the Texas Rangers
The Washington Senators had been a fixture of the American League (AL) since 1901. Approximately 70 years later, then Senators’ owner Bob Short announced that he was relocating his historic team to Dallas, Texas.
Well, Arlington, Texas to be precise.
Short was also rebranding the team. They would no longer be known as the Senators, but as the Rangers.
The newly formed Texas Rangers moved into Arlington Stadium for their inaugural 1972 season, and it would remain their home field through 1993.
The 70s Through the 90s
The Rangers' finished in last place in their first two seasons, with a combined record of 111 - 205 in this timespan.
Things turned around in 1974, however, as new manager Billy Martin piloted Texas to its first winning record (84 - 76), good for second in the AL West.
The Rangers also had second place finishes in 1977 and 78. However, the Rangers finished the decade with a sub-.500 record at 614 - 672 (.477).
They didn't fare any better in the 1980s. The Rangers owned a 720 - 839 (.461) record for the decade with just two AL West second place finishes (1981 and 1986).
Still, some phenomenal players wore Texas Rangers jerseys between 1972 - 1989. These included hall of famers Fergie Jenkins, Bert Blyleven, Gaylord Perry and Nolan Ryan, in addition to all-stars like Toby Harrah, Buddy Bell, Jim Sundberg, Ruben Sierra and Julio Franco.
The 1990s was the breakthrough decade for the Texas Rangers. They not only finished the 90s with an 807 - 747 (.519) record and four first place finishes in the AL West, but they moved into a beautiful new park called the Ballpark in Arlington.
In addition, the Rangers in the 90s had some of the best offense in the MLB thanks to Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro, among others.
The Rangers in the 21st Century
The first decade of the new century was not a particularly memorable one for the Rangers. Their record for the ten year span of 2000 - 2009 was 776 - 844 (.479). One of the most notable events in the Rangers’ history during this period was the signing of Alex Rodriguez in late 2000 for a 10 year contract valued at a mind blowing $252 million.
A-Rod would spend three seasons as a Ranger, winning the MVP once and leading the AL in home runs each year during this span.
The 2010s have been the best decade for the Texas Rangers thus far. The Rangers had a great season in 2010, with Josh Hamilton winning AL MVP and the team reaching their first World Series in franchise history.
Perhaps their best season was 2011, however. The Rangers won a franchise record 96 games that season, and lost the World Series to the Cardinals by the slimmest of margins (and in heartbreaking fashion).
The Rangers made the playoffs three more times (2012, 2015 and 2016) in this span, and finished above .500 in six of 10 years that decade.
The first season in the next decade was a disappointing one, with a last place finish in the AL West for the Rangers. However, a highlight for the team during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season was the opening of their brand new ballpark called Globe Life Field.
Wins Above Replacement (WAR)
Generally referred to as WAR, Wins Above Replacement is a Baseball metric developed to measure an individual player’s overall contributions to his team.
According to the MLB, the definition of WAR is the following:
“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, and the calculation for WAR can vary slightly by publisher (such as Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs).
Still, it’s 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 put on a Rangers jersey and ranked them by career and single season WAR, using Baseball Reference as my source. Thus, I scanned player data going back to 1972 - the first season in Texas Rangers history.
What follows is a summary of the top five Texas Rangers catchers ranked by career WAR, while the second list highlights the top five best seasons by a Rangers catcher, ranked by single season WAR.
Top 5 Rangers Catchers by Career WAR
Please note: The player must have at least 100 games played as a member of the Rangers to be eligible for the career WAR list.
#1. Ivan Rodriguez, 68.7 career WAR
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is arguably the greatest player in Texas Rangers history and one of the greatest catchers of all time.
A first ballot hall of famer and 14 time all star, Pudge Rodriguez ranks first among catchers in a large number of categories. For example, he is first all time in:
- Defensive Games as Catcher - Most in a Career: 2,427 games
- Putouts as Catcher - Most in a Career: 14,864 putouts
- Hits - Most in a Career by a Catcher: 2,844 hits
- Gold Glove Awards - Most in a Career (Catchers): 13 Gold Gloves
- Runs - Most in a Career by a Catcher: 1,354 runs.
... and more!
Rodriguez's high 68.7 career WAR is third all time among catchers and is a testament to his longevity and high level of production over his 21 year MLB career.
#2. Jim Sundberg, 40.5 career WAR
Jim Sundberg was one of the best players on the Texas Rangers during the 1970s and early 80s. Of Sundberg's 16 MLB seasons, 12 of them were spent with the Rangers.
Over the course of his career, Sundberg collected 1,493 hits, 95 home runs, 624 RBIs, and owned a .248/.327/.348 slash line. He was a three time AL all star and he collected six gold gloves.
Sundberg was excellent defensively and led the AL multiple times in categories such as defensive games, putouts, assists, caught stealing, and more. He had an outstanding career .993 fielding percentage and 41% caught stealing percentage, gunning down a grand total of 708 attempted base runners.
#3. Mike Napoli, 26.3 career WAR
Though Mike Napoli may be better remembered in the broader baseball community as a member of the Angels or Red Sox, he did spend four of his 12 years in Texas. Though he played various positions during his career, Napoli's predominant position in Texas during 2011 and 2012 was catcher.
Over 12 years Napoli collected 1,125 hits with 267 home runs and 744 RBIs, as well as a .246/.346/.475 slash line. He owns a solid .990 fielding percentage as a catcher. Napoli made one all star team (2012) and was a member of the World Series champion Red Sox in 2013.
#4. A.J. Pierzynski, 23.8 career WAR
A.J. Pierzynski had a long and productive career in the majors. He played for seven different teams during his 19 year career, including the 2013 season with the Rangers.
Pierzynski had over 2,000 hits, approximately 188 home runs and a lifetime slash line of .280/.319/.420. He was also a solid defensive catcher, leading his league multiple times in fielding percentage and double plays turned, and having multiple top five finishes in categories like putouts, assists and defensive games.
Pierzynski was named an all star twice (2002 and 2006), won the silver slugger once (2012), and won a World Series ring with the 2005 Chicago White Sox.
#5. Mike Stanley, 20.9 career WAR
Mike Stanley began his MLB career with the Rangers, spending his first six big league seasons in Texas (1986 - 1991) before playing with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, among other teams.
Stanley hit .270 across 15 major league seasons, collecting over 1,100 hits, 180 + home runs, and 700 + RBIs. His lifetime fielding percentage as a catcher was .988 and he had a 24% caught stealing average. Additionally, he was named an AL all star once (1995) and won one silver slugger award (1993).
Top 5 Seasons by Rangers Catchers, Ranked by WAR
Please note: The player must have at least 60 games played in one season as a member of the Rangers to be eligible for the single-season WAR list.
#1. 1997 - Ivan Rodriguez (6.5 WAR)Ivan Rodriguez's 1997 season was one of the most productive of his long career. His slash line was .313/.360/.484 and he collected 187 hits, 20 home runs, and 77 RBIs.
Rodriguez's fielding percentage in 1997 was .992 and his caught stealing average was a fantastic 57% with 49 runners caught stealing. He led all of the American League - across every position - in Defensive WAR in 1997 (3.0).
Pudge was the starting catcher for the AL all star team in 97, and he won a gold glove and silver slugger award that year as well - his fourth year in a row.
#2. 1999 - Ivan Rodriguez (6.4 WAR)Pudge's 1999 campaign resulted in his first and only MVP award of his career. In '99 he had career highs in hits (199), home runs (35), RBIs (113), stolen bases (25), and total bases (335). For the eighth year in a row, Pudge won the AL gold glove and silver slugger award for catchers.
Rodriguez's defensive statistics in 1999 were impressive as well. His fielding percentage was .993 and caught stealing percentage was 55%. He led AL catchers in caught stealing percentage and defensive games (141), and finished in the top two or three for many other categories.
#3. 1998 - Ivan Rodriguez (6.4 WAR)Next on our list is Pudge Rodriguez once again. He hit .321 with 186 hits, 21 home runs, and 297 total bases in the '98 season. He had his second highest career totals in doubles (40) and RBIs (91) that year as well.
Defensively, Rodriguez led all AL catchers in defensive games (139), putouts (864), assists (72), and caught stealing (49 and 56.3%), among other categories. Like other years, he earned a gold glove and silver slugger award.
#4. 1996 - Ivan Rodriguez (6.1 WAR)Rodriguez had career highs in games (153), at bats (639), runs (116, tied with 1999), and doubles (47) in 1996. He had 192 hits, 19 home runs, and a .300/.342/.473 slash line that season.
Pudge had the highest defense WAR of his career in '96, with 3.3. He led catchers in the AL in defensive games (146), putouts (850), assists (81), and caught stealing (48, and 51.1%), just to name a few categories. His '96 campaign also earned him his third consecutive gold glove and silver slugger awards.
#5. 2011 - Mike Napoli (5.5 WAR)Mike Napoli caught 61 games for the Rangers in their 2011 World Series season. His remaining games that year were split between first base and DH.
Napoli slugged 30 home runs, 75 RBIs, and had a career high slash line in 2011 at .320/.414/.631. He played solid defense when behind the plate, earning a .996 fielding percentage and a 36% caught stealing average.
Napoli appeared in all 7 games in the 2011 world series, hitting .350 with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
List of All Texas Rangers Catchers With a 3.0+ WAR Season
Earning a 3.0 + WAR in a single season in the major leagues is an accomplishment all by itself. A handful of Texas Rangers catchers have met or eclipsed this mark since the team first began playing back in 1972.
The table below shows every Rangers catcher who has had a 3.0+ WAR season.
Thank You for Reading
Hopefully you found this article to be both educational and entertaining! Personally, I learned a lot just from the time I spent researching and writing it.
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