The Grapes of Wrath
In general, the expectation for a catcher is to play in about 130 games, play well defensively, and hit as close to .250 as possible. Some catchers are able to exceed those expectations, but offense remains a secondary concern as defense takes priority. In a league with Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, and Jonathan Lucroy, there are players like Martin Maldonado, A.J. Ellis, Robinson Chirinos, and Jeff Mathis playing fairly regularly despite their offensive shortcomings. In fact, Mathis has been a sought-after back-up catcher for his 700+ career games due to strong defense alone. His career batting average is .197 with an OPS of .564.
This year, there is one team with 2, not just 1, offensive-minded catchers on their roster: the Houston Astros. The first guy, Evan Gattis, was looking like he was taking the Kyle Schwarber route and moving away from catching, but the Astros played him behind the dish in 55 games in 2016. This season, Brian McCann was added to the mix to make one of the most potent catching tandems in history. If you are involved with fantasy baseball, the duo gives you the chance to have 162 games played at the catcher spot if you have both on your team. If they maintain their 2016 production as catchers when they combined for 35 HRs in 139 games, they could produce 40+ HRs this season as a power squatting combo.
What some other strong catching duos from the past?
LaValliere/Slaught: The Pirates split their catching duties between Mike LaValliere and Don Slaught from 1990 to the start of 1993. While neither player was a power hitter, both boasted an on-base percentage north of .350 while platooning in Pittsburgh as well as strong defensive play. The Barry Bonds/Bobby Bonilla/Andy Van Slyke/Doug Drabek Pirates of the early 1990s also featured a high quality L/R platoon that can easily be overlooked.
Posada/Girardi: Jorge Posada began his near-HOF career as Joe Girardi‘s backup in the mid 1990s. From 1997 to 1999, their roles reversed with 1998 being their best combined season. Posada’s .824 OPS and 17 HRs were backed by Girardi’s .276 Avg and strong defense.
Nokes/Heath: During the late 1980s, the Tigers offense was known for power. The arrival of Matt Nokes, who was acquired with Eric King and Dave LaPoint in a deal that sent Bob Melvin and Juan Berenguer to San Francisco, was another powerful addition to the Tiger offense. Nokes blasted 32 HRs and 87 RBIs in 1987 while his backup, Mike Heath, added another 8 HRs and a career best .769 OPS.
Surhoff/Schroeder: 1987 was a strong year for catchers in Milwaukee as well. B.J. Surhoff enjoyed a strong rookie year batting .299 and reaching base at a .350 clip. Bill Schroeder must have felt the need to compete as he belted a career high 14 HRs to go with his .332 batting average and .927 OPS, which were clear outliers for his career.
Hernandez/Hanigan: For 3 seasons, 2009-11, Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan split time at catcher in Cincinnati. In 2010, Hernandez’s .792 OPS was good enough for second best among Reds’ catchers as Hanigan reached an OPS of .834, supported by a .405 on-base percentage. The pair combined for 88 RBIs and were regarded as dual starters for the time they shared in Cincy.
Hundley/Kreuter: In 2000, Todd Hundley and Chad Kreuter combined for 30 HRs and 98 RBIs for the Dodgers. Kreuter produced an OPS of .827 while Hundley reached a career high OPS of .954, which is just a bit higher than former Dodger Mike Piazza‘s career .922 OPS.
McCann/Sanchez: The aforementioned Brian McCann and the most powerful rookie of 2016, Gary Sanchez, are the most recent catching duo to produce well offensively. Sanchez achieved an amazing 1.077 OPS and hit 14 of his 20 HRs as a catcher last year. Meanwhile, McCann hit 16 of his 20 HRs while playing as a catcher, giving the Yankees 30 HRs from their backstop combo.
Know of another strong catching tandem? Add it to the comments.