The New York Yankees are an incredibly historic ball club that has fielded a number of legendary catchers over the decades.
This post reviews the top Yankees catchers since 1913, ranked by career and single-season Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Keep reading to learn more!
Best Catchers in New York Yankees History
A Quick History of the New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are the most famous team in Baseball, and one of the most famous teams in all of sports.
No other MLB team even comes close to touching the Yankees' 27 World Series championships. And some of the biggest names in Baseball history - Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra - all wore Yankee pinstripes.
The Early 20th Century
The New York Highlanders ballclub changed their name to the “Yankees” in 1913. During this time the team played at the Polo Grounds, sharing the stadium with the New York Giants.
The Yankees played sub-.500 baseball in much of the 1910s. Then in 1919, they went 80 - 59, finishing 3rd in the major leagues.
1919 began a streak of winning seasons for the Yankees, whose lineup was bolstered by the addition of Babe Ruth in 1920. In 1923 the original Yankee Stadium was opened, and that same year the Yankees won their first World Series.
In 1927, the Yankees had one of the best seasons in MLB history, going 110 - 44 and sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Additionally, Babe Ruth set a single-season record of 60 home runs that season.
The Yankees would go on to win a total of seven World Series between the years 1928 and 1941. Also in 1941, the great Joe DiMaggio had a mind blowing 56 game hitting streak, a record that still stands today.
As World War II dawned, the New York Yankees stood as the most successful franchise in Baseball to-date.
Post-World War II
The years between the end of World War II (beginning in the 1946 season) and the beginning of Joe Torre’s managerial tenure (1996) were incredibly productive for the Yankees. In this span of time, the Bronx Bombers won approximately 12 more World Series championships.
The 1950s saw the emergence of a new generation of Yankees superstars, such as Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. They absolutely dominated the decade; for example, there were only two seasons where the Yankees did not make the World Series in the 1950s.
1961 was another phenomenal season for New York, highlighted by their 109 - 53 record, World Series victory against the Cincinnati Reds - and perhaps most significantly - a home run race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.
Maris would go on to break Ruth's single season home run record by hitting home run number 61 on the final game of the regular season.
In 1973, George Steinbrenner bought the team, marking a major milestone in Yankees history. Three years later, the Bronx Bombers began playing in a newly remodeled Yankee Stadium after spending two seasons playing at nearby Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets.
Both the 1977 and 1978 seasons ended in World Series championships over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Those Yankees teams were led by superstars such as Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Ron Guidry and Thurmon Munson.
The 1980s was not a particularly notable decade for New York, as it was the first decade since the 1910s that the Yankees did not win a World Series. However, they still had some great players that decade ranging from guys like Don Mattingly to Rickey Henderson and Goose Gossage.
The early 90s were also not very successful, although the 1994 team did finish first in the AL East during the strike shortened season.
The Torre Years to Present Day
Former Braves and Cardinals legend - and NL MVP - Joe Torre took the helm in 1996, and thus began the next span of championship runs by the Yanks. During Torre’s tenure, the Yankees appeared in six World Series, winning four of them.
Torre’s Yankees were led by superstars Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, as well as multi-year all stars like Bernie Williams, Andy Pettite, Paul O'Neill and Jorge Posada.
Torre’s most successful team was the 1998 Yankees, which won an eye popping 114 regular season games that year.
Former catcher Joe Girardi took over for Torre starting in 2008. The following season, the Yankees won another World Series by defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
The Yankees continued playing solid, above .500 Baseball in the 2010s under Girardi’s leadership. During his ten years at the helm, Girardi's Yankees made the playoffs six times.
In 2018, a new skipper was brought on board - former Yankee Aaron Boone. In his time as the Yankees' skipper thus far, Boone has a record far exceeding .500 while overseeing a New York team that has featured studs like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu (to name just a few).
Wins Above Replacement (WAR)
Commonly known as WAR, Wins Above Replacement 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).”
Keep in mind that there is a different formula used for pitchers and for position players, and WAR calculations can vary slightly by media outlet (such as Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference).
Still, it’s an incredibly useful (and popular) metric, since it captures the holistic value that a player provides to his team.
For this post, I researched every catcher that has ever worn a Yankees 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 metrics going back to 1913 - the season that the Highlanders officially became the Yankees.
The following list highlights the top five Yankees catchers ranked by career WAR, while the second list showcases the top five best seasons by a Yankees catcher, ranked by WAR.
Top 5 Yankees Catchers by Career WAR
#1. Yogi Berra, 59.5 career WAR
Arguably the most famous catcher in Yankees history, Yogi is an 18-time all star and a three-time AL MVP who spent 18 years in the Bronx (19 overall in the MLB).
As his Hall of Fame plaque states, he holds a record for playing "on more pennant-winners (14) and world champions (10) than any player in history." A lifetime .285 hitter, Yogi smashed 358 career home runs, drove in 1,430 runs and finished his career with a .830 OPS.
Defensively, Yogi maintained a .989 fielding percentage as a catcher and gunned down 403 would-be base runners, good for a 49% Caught Stealing percentage. He ranked first in the AL for many seasons in categories like Putouts, Assists, Caught Stealing and Range Factor/Game.
After his playing career, Yogi went on to manage in the big leagues for the Yankees and the Mets.
Yogi was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
#2. Bill Dickey, 57.3 career WAR
Bill Dickey spent his entire 17 year MLB career with the Yankees. He appeared in 11 all star games and won seven World Series championships. He was a career .313 hitter with 202 home runs, nearly 2,000 hits, 1,209 RBIs and a .868 OPS.
Dickey ended his career with a .988 Fielding Percentage behind the dish, and caught runners attempting to steal 465 times (47%). Similar to Yogi, he led AL catchers multiple seasons in Assists, Putouts, Fielding Percentage and Range Factor/Game (among others).
Dickey was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1954.
#3. Thurman Munson, 46.0 career WAR
Thurman Munson spent 11 years in the big leagues - all with the Yankees - before he died tragically in a plane crash in 1979.
His career highlights include seven all star games, two World Series championships, three Gold Gloves, winning the 1970 AL Rookie of the Year and the 1976 AL MVP award.
Munson was a lifetime .292 hitter with a .756 OPS. He collected 113 career home runs, 1,558 hits and 701 RBIs.
Munson threw out 427 would be base runners (44%) and had a lifetime .982 Fielding Percentage as a catcher. He led AL catchers three times in Defensive Games and in Assists, and twice in Caught Stealing percentage.
#4. Jorge Posada, 42.7 career WAR
Jorge Posada is a five-time AL all star who spent his entire 17 year MLB career in the Bronx. A four-time World Series winner, Posada collected 1,664 hits, 275 home runs and 1,065 RBIs, good for a .273 average and .848 OPS.
He led AL catchers multiple times in Defensive Games, Putouts, Assists, and Range Factor/Game. Posada also collected 5 Silver Slugger awards during his career.
#5. Elston Howard, 27.1 career WAR
The first African American to play for the Yankees, Elston Howard joined New York in 1955 and spent 12+ seasons in the Bronx. (He also played in the Negro Leagues and spent part of 1967 and 1968 in Boston).
Howard was selected to 12 AL all star teams, and he won four World Series, two Gold Gloves, and the 1963 AL MVP award.
Howard collected 1,471 hits, 167 home runs and 762 RBIs over the course of his MLB career, good for a .274 average and .749 OPS.
He was a great defensive catcher, gunning down 223 would be base runners (44%) and finishing his career with a strong .993 Fielding Percentage as a catcher.
Top 5 Seasons by Yankees Catchers, Ranked by WAR
#1. 1973 - Thurman Munson (7.2 WAR)
The highest single season WAR by a Yankees catcher belongs to Thurman Munson, who had a 7.2 bWAR in 1973.
The Yankees as a team did not have a particularly notable year in '73, finishing fourth in the AL East. However, Munson was a bright spot in the lineup.
He hit .301 in 1973, and set career highs in home runs (20), doubles (29), OPS (.849), and Slugging Percentage (.487). He also collected 74 RBIs and even stole four bases.
Behind the plate, Munson had a 48% Caught Stealing percentage that year and he led AL catchers in Defensive Games, Assists, and Double Plays Turned.
#2. 1937 - Bill Dickey (6.7 WAR)
Bill Dickey was a member of a star-studded 1937 Yankees team that went on to win the World Series in five games against the San Francisco Giants. His incredible 6.7 bWAR that year was fourth on the team, behind fellow Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez (9.0), Joe DiMaggio (8.3) and Lou Gehrig (8.3).
In 1937 Dickey hit .332 and had career highs in hits (176), home runs (29), RBIs (133), doubles (35), and Total Bases (302).
Defensively, Dickey maintained a .991 Fielding Percentage, and led AL catchers in Defensive Games, Putouts, Assists, and Caught Stealing Percentage.
#3. 1975 - Thurman Munson (6.6 WAR)
Thurman Munson had an incredibly productive 1975 campaign, serving again as a bright spot on a Yankees team that didn't make the playoffs that year.
In '75, Munson had career highs in games (157), singles (151), hits (190), and batting average (.318). He also exceeded the 100 RBI mark that season for the first time in his career.
Munson gunned down a career high 60 would be base runners, leading the league with a 50% Caught Stealing percentage. He also finished first among AL catchers that year for Double Plays Turned and Range Factor/Game.
#4. 1956 - Yogi Berra (6.2 WAR)
Yogi Berra was a major part of the famed 1956 Yankees team that beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series. This was the same World Series where Yogi caught Don Larsen's perfect game!
In 1956, Yogi hit .298 with 30 home runs and 105 RBIs (.911 OPS). In the World Series that year, Yogi hit .360 with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs.
From a defensive perspective, Yogi's 1956 campaign resulted in a .986 Fielding Percentage and a 48% Caught Stealing percentage. That year, he led AL catchers in Defensive Games, Putouts, Double Plays Turned, and Range Factor/Game.
#5. 1950 - Yogi Berra (6.1 WAR)
In 1950, Yogi Berra had career highs in runs (116), hits (192), doubles (30), batting average (.322), On-Base Percentage (.383) and Total Bases (318). He gunned down 34 base runners, good for a career high 58% Caught Stealing percentage.
Yogi’s 1950 season concluded with his third World Series championship, a 4 game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.
List of All Yankees Catchers With a 4.0+ WAR Season
Earning a 4.0 + WAR in a single season in the majors is an accomplishment in and of itself. Various Yankees catchers have met or exceeded this milestone, many on multiple occasions.
Check out the list below showing every New York Yankees catcher had a 4.0 WAR or better in a season.
Thanks for Reading
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