clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The best Braves catchers since 1990

In a two-man race between Javy Lopez and Brian McCann, who will ultimately win the title as the best Braves catcher since 1990?

Javy Lopez or Brian McCann? The best Braves catcher since 1990 is one of the two. But who is it?

Since the Braves moved to Atlanta prior to the 1966 season, catcher has been a position of relative stability, with the team employing a handful of long-term catchers whose tenure with the team spanned nine years or longer.

Since 1990, the Braves had the luxury of having two catchers log more than 1,000 games behind the plate. While this retrospective looks at all the qualifying seasons for catchers since the beginning of the ‘90s, ultimately the conversation comes down to Brian McCann versus Javy Lopez as to who is the best catcher of this most-modern era of Braves baseball.

In the classic 1960s cartoon, ‘The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’, most segments ended with a cliffhanger teaser of two different future segment titles based on different ways the story could turn out.

If you are from the ‘Battle for Dream Island’ era, that’s cool, because ‘BFDI’ cliffhangers from that series works here, too. Think of this as Firey versus Flower.

So who is it? McCann or Lopez? Lopez or McCann?

In the honor of ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’, find out it is later in this article, in: “Lopez Crushes McCann’s Cans Hearts” or “Lopez Can’t Out Man McCann”.

(Alliteration?! Consonance?! Assonance?! I wasn’t an English Major! But Luan Loud-quality bad pun-based sub-heads? Definitely!)

Anyway, back to the subject-matter at hand. Before diving into the McCann vs. Lopez debate, it’s take a look back at some of the other notable catchers in Atlanta Braves history.

Given that Phil Niekro and his notoriously effective but difficult-to-catch knuckleball anchored the Braves’ starting rotation in Atlanta from 1966 through 1983, these men donned the tools of ignorance knowing that they, nor their steed, were going to know exactly where that unique pitch was going every fourth day.

Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds
Joe Torre bats against the Reds in Cincinnati in 1967.
Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

When the Braves moved from Milwaukee, they brought with them Joe Torre who was coming off of three consecutive All Star seasons as the primary Braves catcher. Torre, who debuted for the Braves as a 19 year-old in 1960 and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1961, would post All Star seasons in 1966 and 1967 with Atlanta and hit the first home run in what was then known as Atlanta Stadium.

A solid defensive catcher, Torre was an outstanding offensive player who posted an OPS+ of 156 in 1966, when he slashed .321/.382/.560 with 36 home runs as 101 RBI in more than 600 plate appearances. After a down season - for him - in 1968, Torre found himself embroiled in a disagreement with the team over his contract, and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for HOFer Orlando Cepeda.

Torre, who shifted to corner infielder because of the Cardinals employing 1967 MVP runner-up Tim McCarver, would win the MVP award in 1971 while earning four consecutive All Star births with the Cardinals from 1970 through 1973, before ending his career with the Mets in 1977.

Torre’s post-playing career earned him Hall of Fame enshrinement as a manager, including a three-year stint for the Braves in the early 1980s. Despite Torre spending 10 seasons as a catcher - playing more than 900 game in his career behind the plate - his impressive offensive output has left him short of Hall of Fame induction as a player.

Oddly, despite posting 33.2 bWAR while playing more than 1,000 games with the Braves organization - and posting a .529 winning percentage and winning the 1982 NL West Division as manager - the Braves still have not inducted Torre into their Hall of Fame.

A few other notable names who spent time at catcher in Atlanta during the ‘60’s included Bob Tillman and Bob Didier who were the primary catchers in 1969 and 1970; former Milwaukee Braves back-up catcher (and HOF broadcaster) Bob Uecker who ended his playing career in Atlanta; and Rico Carty, who started 14 games in 1966 (and appeared in a total of 17 games). Oddly, Carty did not appear as a catcher at any other point in his 15-year MLB career.

St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves
Earl Williams had two stints with Atlanta during the 1970s. Williams, shown here kneeling in pain in 1972 as Torre watches.
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

In 1971, rookie Earl Williams was the primary catcher (although he did see significant time at first and third base) and proceeded to win the Rookie of the Year award as he posted 4.2 bWAR boosted by a 123 OPS+ and 33 home runs. He spent 1972 behind the dish for Atlanta before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles in a deal that brought Davey Johnson and catcher Johnny Oates to Atlanta.

Oates and Vic Correll would man the position until Williams returned to Atlanta in 1975 for another year-and-a-half run with Atlanta before being purchased from Atlanta by Montreal.

The back-half of the 1970’s saw three Braves prospects suit up at catcher on the way to carving out historical footnotes for the organization.

Dale Murphy, who would go on to be a Braves icon for his excellence as an outfielder, including back-to-back NL MVP awards, came up as a catcher in 1976 and struggled for several seasons before leaving the catching position for good prior to the 1980 season.

While the other two Braves catchers didn’t go on to have the career achievements of Murphy, Biff Pocoroba and Bruce Benedict are two of only four players in the history of the Braves franchise to spend 10 years or more with the Braves and to only play for the Braves organization.

Pocoroba was with Atlanta from 1975 through 1984 and was named to the NL All Star team in 1978. He spent most of his career as a back-up with injuries limiting his role in the last-half of his career.

Benedict, whose reputation as a superb defensive catcher belied the his lack of offensive power, was with the organization for 12 seasons from 1978 through 1989. He was a two-time All Star, in 1981 and 1983, with his ‘83 season including a .295 batting average and a stellar .385 OBP.

Atlanta Braves...
Bruce Benedict spent 12 seasons with the Braves and was an NL All Star in 1981 and 1983.

Although not as uncommon in that era as now, Benedict provided little power as a backstop hitting only 18 home runs in the 982 games he played with Atlanta.

In part due to Benedict’s limited offensive production, the Braved traded for Ozzie Virgil after his All Star season with Philadelphia prior to the 1986 season. Virgil’s high-water mark with Atlanta was 1987 when he was an All Star and pounded 27 home runs.

However, that same ‘87 season saw Steve Bedrosian - who was the primary player traded for Virgil - save 40 games for the Phillies while winning the NL Cy Young award.

As the decade wound-down, the Braves were home to Ted Simmons, who ended his Hall of Fame career with a three-year run as a utility player (including catcher) and with days left in the 1988 season, the team traded for former Chicago Cubs All Star Jody Davis, whose subsequent 92-game run in Atlanta was woefully unproductive.

And that brings us to 1990.

As with the other position-player pieces in this series, this look at the best catchers since 1990 will focus, primarily, on offensive performance.

Catcher is a notoriously difficult position to judge defensively - especially going back decades when current advanced metrics were not available. Additionally, the role catchers have played in game-calling, “handling a pitching staff” and other nearly-impossible to define ways make the total value of position a difficult one to view without some caveats.

In keeping with the previously defined qualifying seasonal standard, the only determining factor to qualify for this list is appearing in 65 games at catcher in a single season. All data is based on Baseball-Reference data, and while not perfect, it works just fine for this application.

Let’s take a look at the best catchers since 1990s, shall we?

Best Single Seasons Since 1990

Here are the best single seasons by a catcher for the Braves since 1990.

Javy Lopez runs
In 2003, Javy Lopez posted one of the strongest offensive seasons for a catcher in MLB history.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Top 5 Seasons, by bWAR

Javy Lopez, 2003, 6.8

Brian McCann, 2008, 5.5

Brian McCann, 2006, 4.3

Brian McCann, 2010, 3.6

Javy Lopez, 1997, 3.5

Javy Lopez heads to first base
Lopez’s OPS+ of 169 in 2003 bested Brian McCann’s 143 in 2006.
Photo by Craig Melvin/Getty Images

Top 5 Seasons, by OPS+

Javy Lopez, 2003, 169

Brian McCann, 2006, 143

Brian McCann, 2008, 135

Javy Lopez, 1997, 129

Kurt Suzuki, 2017, 128

Javy Lopez hits
In 2003, Lopez broke the record for home runs hit by a catcher (while catching) with 41.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Top 5 Seasons, by HR

Javy Lopez, 2003, 43

Javy Lopez, 1998, 34

Brian McCann, 2006, 24

Brian McCann, 2011, 24

Javy Lopez, 2000, 24

Javy Lopez produced the two highest RBI totals for a catcher since 1990 with 109 in 2003 and 106 in 1998.
Lopez exceeded 100 RBI in a season twice, driving in 109 in 2003 and 106 in 1998.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Top 5 Seasons, by RBI

Javy Lopez, 2003, 109

Javy Lopez, 1998, 106

Brian McCann, 2009, 94

Brian McCann, 2006, 93

Brian McCann, 2007, 92

Atlanta Braves v Baltimore Orioles
Jopez led Braves catchers in runs scored in a single season with 89 in 2003. His 73 in 1998 was second on the list.

Top 5 Seasons, by Runs

Javy Lopez, 2003, 89

Javy Lopez, 1998, 73

Brian McCann, 2008, 68

Brian McCann, 2009, 63

Brian McCann, 2010, 63

Lopez rounds bases after 25th home run
By registering a 1.065 OPS in 2003, Lopez led all Braves catchers in single season OPS.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Top 5 Seasons, by OPS

Javy Lopez, 2003, 1.065

Brian McCann, 2006, .961

Brian McCann, 2008, .896

Javy Lopez, 1997, .895

Kurt Suzuki, 2017, .887

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets
Brian McCann hit .333 in 2006, edging Lopez’s .328 in 2003, for the highest batting average in a season.

Top 5 Seasons, by BA

Brian McCann, 2006, .333

Javy Lopez, 2003, .328

Javy Lopez, 1995, .315

Johnny Estrada, 2004, .314

Brian McCann, 2008, .301

Best Single Seasons by Decade

These are the best single seasons for catchers per decade based on qualifying seasons only.

Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Javy Lopez had the four highest single season bWAR totals in the 1990s, including a 3.5 bWAR in 1997.

Top 5 bWAR, 1990s

Javy Lopez, 1997, 3.5

Javy Lopez, 1998, 3.0

Javy Lopez, 1995, 1.8

Javy Lopez, 1996, 1.5

Greg Olson, 1990 and 1992, 1.0

Florida Marlins v Atlanta Braves
Lopez also produced the four highest seasonal OPS+ totals, led by 129 in 1997.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Top 5 OPS+, 1990s

Javy Lopez, 1997, 129

Javy Lopez, 1998, 124

Javy Lopez, 1995, 117

Javy Lopez, 1996, 101

Greg Olson, 1990, 92

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies
During the Braves World Series Championship season of 1995, Lopez hit .315 in 100 games.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Top 5 BA, 1990s

Javy Lopez, 1995, .315

Javy Lopez, 1997, .295

Javy Lopez, 1998, .284

Javy Lopez, 1996, .282

Greg Olson, 1990, .262

1998 All-Star Game
Lopez was an All Star for the second time in his career in 1998. He hit 34 home runs for the Braves that season.

Top 5 HR, 1990s

Javy Lopez, 1998, 34

Javy Lopez, 1997, 23

Javy Lopez, 1996, 23

Javy Lopez, 1995, 14

Javy Lopez, 1994, 13

Atlanta Braves Javy Lopez
Lopez, shown here against Arizona on 8/17/2003, finished fifth in the NL MVP voting and was an All Star for the final time in his career in ‘03. He posted a 6.8 bWAR for the season.

Top 5 bWAR, 2000s

Javy Lopez, 2003, 6.8

Brian McCann, 2008, 5.5

Brian McCann, 2006, 4.3

Brian McCann, 2009, 3.2

Javy Lopez, 2000, 2.5

San Francisco Giants new second baseman Eric Young, #21, makes a diving tag against the Atlanta Braves Javy Lopez, #8, in the fourth inning at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco on Wednesday August 20, 2003. (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS / Nhat V. Meyer)
Lopez’s 169 OPS+ led the Braves in 2003. Gary Sheffield finished second with a 162 OPS+ that season.
Photo by MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Top 5 OPS+, 2000s

Javy Lopez, 2003, 169

Brian McCann, 2006, 143

Brian McCann, 2008, 135

Brian McCann, 2009, 119

Johnny Estrada, 2004, 113

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets
Brian McCann secured his first Silver Slugger award and All Star nod in 2006 when he led the Braves with a .333 batting average.

Top 5 BA, 2000s

Brian McCann, 2006, .333

Javy Lopez, 2003, .328

Johnny Estrada, 2004, .314

Brian McCann, 2008, .301

Javy Lopez, 2000, .287

BBA-BRAVES-METS-LOPEZ-HOMER
Lopez’s 43 home runs in 2003 led all Braves catchers. His 24 in 2000 tied McCann’s 24 in 2006 for second-most in the 2000s.
Photo credit should read MATT CAMPBELL/AFP via Getty Images

Top 5 HR, 2000s

Javy Lopez, 2003, 43

Javy Lopez, 2000, 24

Brian McCann, 2006, 24

Brian McCann, 2008, 23

Brian McCann, 2009, 21

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves
Brian McCann’s 3.6 bWAR in 2010 led the 2010s. He also posted the second highest mark for catchers with 2.8 in 2013.
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Top 5 bWAR, 2010s

Brian McCann, 2010, 3.6

Brian McCann, 2013, 2.8

Brian McCann, 2011, 2.6

Kurt Suzuki, 2017, 2.6

Evan Gattis, 2014, 2.2

Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves
Kurt Suzuki led Braves catchers with in OPS+ in the 2010s with a 128 in 2017. He’s shown here after his walk-off single against the Miami Marlins on September 7, 2017.
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Top 5 OPS+, 2010s

Kurt Suzuki, 2017, 128

Evan Gattis, 2014, 126

Brian McCann, 2010, 124

Brian McCann, 2011, 122

Brian McCann, 2013, 118

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves
A.J. Pierzynski hit .300 in 2015, his age 38 season. That batting average led all Braves catchers in the 2010s.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Top 5 BA, 2020s

A.J. Pierzynski, 2015, .300

Kurt Suzuki, 2017, .283

Tyler Flowers, 2017, .281

Kurt Suzuki, 2018, .271

Brian McCann, 2011, .270

Tyler Flowers, 2016, .270

Philadelphia Phillies v. Atlanta Braves - Civil Rights Game
Brian McCann homered 24 times in 2011, the most of any catcher in the 2010s.
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/MLB via Getty Images

Top 5 HR, 2010s

Brian McCann, 2011, 24

Evan Gattis, 2014, 22

Brian McCann, 2010, 21

Brian McCann, 2012, 20

Brian McCann, 2013, 20

Best Cumulative Qualifying Seasons

These are the best cumulative totals from qualifying seasons for Atlanta’s catchers since 1990.

Divisional Series - St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves - Game Two
McCann, who ended his playing career by returning to Atlanta in 2019, led all Braves catchers with 24.3 bWAR in qualifying seasons since 1990.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Top 5 bWAR, Qualifying Seasons

Brian McCann, 24.3

Javy Lopez, 21.0

Kurt Suzuki, 4.7

Tyler Flowers, 2.6

Greg Olson, 2.2

Evan Gattis, 2.2

Javier Lopez of the Atlanta Braves celebrates as h
Javy Lopez led Braves catchers in home runs in qualifying seasons with 202. He also homered 10 times in the post-season during his career, including this 10th inning home run against the Reds in the NLCS on October 11, 1995.
Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images

Top 5 HR, Qualifying Seasons

Javy Lopez, 202

Brian McCann, 183

Tyler Flowers, 39

Kurt Suzuki, 31

Evan Gattis, 22

81st MLB All-Star Game
McCann, a seven-time All Star with Atlanta, led Braves catchers in RBI during qualifying seasons. McCann drove in the only three runs scored by the NL in the 2010 All Star game with this seventh inning, bases-loaded double. The NL won the game 3-1 and McCann was named the game’s MVP.
Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Top 5 RBI, Qualifying Seasons

Brian McCann, 683

Javy Lopez, 645

Tyler Flowers, 154

Greg Olson, 131

Johnny Estrada, 115

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies
McCann scored 472 runs during his nine qualifying seasons. His total was two more runs that Lopez scored in nine qualifying seasons of his own.
Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

Top 5 Runs, Qualifying Seasons

Brian McCann, 472

Javy Lopez, 470

Tyler Flowers, 138

Greg Olson, 132

Johnny Estrada, 87

Youngest and Oldest Qualifiers

Atlanta Braves v San Diego Padres
Brian McCann was 22 in 2006, his first qualifying season as Braves catcher. He and Lopez alternated spots for the youngest catcher on this list.
Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Top 5 Youngest

Brian McCann, 2006, 22

Javy Lopez, 1994, 23

Brian McCann, 2007, 23

Javy Lopez, 1995, 24

Brian McCann, 2008, 24

Top 5 Oldest

MLB: MAY 31 Braves at Giants
A.J. Pierzynski played 19 seasons in MLB, with his final two seasons as a member of the Braves. His age 38 season in 2015 was the oldest on the list. He just missed qualifying in 2016 when he caught 64 games.
Photo by John Hefti/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A.J. Pierzynski, 2015, 38

Eddie Perez, 2004, 36

Brian McCann, 2019, 35

Kurt Suzuki, 2018, 34

Kurt Suzuki, 2017, 33

Tyler Flowers, 2019, 33

Lopez Crushes McCann’s Cans Hearts

World Series - Cleveland Indians v Atlanta Braves - Game Six
Lopez was behind the dish for the final out in 1995 as the Atlanta Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series.

When it comes to the best starting catchers for the Braves in the last 30 years, it is a flip of a coin between Brian McCann and Javy Lopez. Across the board, their offensive careers are so evenly matched, you could call it a tie and be justified in that conclusion.

If you exclude qualifying seasons, their careers are almost in parallel with each other. If you want to factor in their entire career, again, they are almost in lockstep.

Thanks to Baseball-Reference and the power of MS Paint, you can see just how close McCann and Lopez were, offensively while with Atlanta. McCann is the top set of data in this image.

Writer’s note: I changed my mind. After writing this piece, I went back and looked at the numbers again. At first, I thought McCann held a slight enough edge to call him the winner. But, now I think that honor is bestowed to Lopez based on fewer plate appearances. It is close, that’s for sure.

Lopez edges out McCann as the best Atlanta Braves catcher since 1990, in my (revised) opinion. Lopez put up the better single season - his 2003 campaign is one of the best ever produced by a catcher - and his overall production in few opportunities give him a the nod.

But it’s close. So close. Like, really, really, close.

There was one stat where McCann blew Lopez away ... stolen bases. McCann led all Braves catchers with 22 stolen bases in qualifying season with Lopez second with eight. Lopez returned the favor by besting McCann in triples, 14 to 2 for their respective Atlanta careers.

Looking at more numbers from qualifying seasons, McCann appeared in 1072 games at catcher compared to 1030 for Lopez. Those extra games allowed McCann to edge Lopez in Total Bases 1871 to 1857. While Lopez did hold the advantage with home runs, McCann put up slightly higher counting states thanks to those extra 4-percent games played.

St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves
McCann stole 23 bases with Atlanta. He also motored into second with 236 doubles.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

If you wanted to find another tie-breaker for Lopez, then the post-season is where an argument for Lopez could be made.

Maybe.

For his career, Lopez appeared in 15 post-series across nine seasons (all with Atlanta), slashing .278/.327/.493 and 10 home runs and the MVP award for the 1996 NLCS. But, cWPA (Championship Win Probability Added) rated him at -39.6% for his career, including the 1996 World Series with a -25.6%.

McCann, in eight seasons (five with Atlanta) and 11 post-season series, slashed a poor .172/.252/.297. However, cWPA rated him much better than Lopez, with a career -7.8% and a World Series cWPA of 4.4%.

Lopez signed with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent prior to the 2004 season and put up a 4.8 bWAR season hitting .316 while hitting 23 home runs. His 2005 season was still productive, but injuries limited him to 103 games. That same season the 21 year-old McCann was called up to Atlanta as part of the “Baby Braves” that lead the team to the NL East pennant.

The next season saw McCann break-out as as a star while the 35 year-old Lopez was traded to the Boston Red Sox mid-season before Boston released him in September of that year.

Lopez did not appear in any games against Atlanta after McCann despite six head-to-head meetings between the Orioles and Braves in 2005 and 2006. So hopes of a tie-breaker based on head-to-head production isn’t an option.

While McCann was able to return to Atlanta to end his career in 2019, Lopez was not able to do the same. Despite not playing in 2007, the Braves brought Lopez to Spring Training in 2008 with an opportunity to win the back-up catcher’s job to McCann.

Having McCann and Lopez share duties behind the plate would have, in retrospect, been a fitting way to link these two Atlanta greats together. But alas, Lopez didn’t show enough in the eyes of the Braves to earn a trip north from Orlando and thus Corky Miller and Clint Sammons served as McCann’s back-up in ‘08.

Notable Tidbits

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves
Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers served as an effected catching tandem in 2017 and 2018, posting a collective 7.4 bWAR combined in those two seasons.

Although several players missed the 65-game cutoff to qualify for a season, the relatively few number of players that qualified at catcher was surprising. Here’s some interesting details from the data:

  • Of 37 qualifying seasons, only 11 different catchers qualified.
  • Only seven seasons had multiple qualifiers, with three of those occurring between 2017 and 2019. The other four seasons were 1992, 1993, 2002, and 2004.
  • What was surprising, in retrospect, was the notable back-up catchers that didn’t qualify for any season. That includes revered back-up catchers such as David Ross and Charlie O’Brien.
  • O’Brien’s development of hockey goalie-style catcher’s masks was a trend for more than a decade in MLB.
  • Greg Olson (1992) and Eddie Perez (2004) only managed three home runs in each of their qualifying seasons, the fewest of any seasons.
  • Back-up catchers are often among the most popular players with a team’s fanbase, and the Braves are no exception. Olson, Perez, Ross, O’Brien, and Evan Gattis were all fan favorites during their respective runs with Atlanta.
Atlanta Braves v Cincinnati Reds
Greg Olson spent four seasons with Atlanta in the early ‘90s.
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images
  • Olson, who came into the 1990 season as a long-shot to make the Braves roster, took advantage of injuries at the catching position - including to 38 year-old, high-priced, free agent signee Ernie Whitt - and a hot offensive start, to win the starting catching job and appear in the 1990 All Star game.
  • Olson held off another veteran free agent for the starting job in 36 year-old Mike Heath during the legendary 1991 worst-to-first season.
  • The Braves have had a number of catching prospects since 1990 whose careers ended up disappointing or not materializing until after leaving the organizations. This includes Kelly Mann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Brayan Pena, and Christian Bethancourt.
  • We all have our favorite little-known Braves reserve catchers, mine happens to be Jerry Willard. Greg Myers was a two-time Braves reserve. Maybe you liked one of the 2018 reserves? Chris Stewart, Rene Rivera, or maybe Carlos Perez?
  • One of the best story of the early 2010s was that of Gattis. “El Oso Blanco” hit 43 home runs while not wearing batting gloves for the Braves in two seasons as a catcher/bat-playing-other-positions. He finished seventh in the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year awards.
  • When he retired following the 2018 season Gattis hit 139 career home runs and 12 triples. Gattis hit one triple for the Braves and hit the other 11 for the Astros in 2015. An incredible quirk in the history of triples.
  • Henry Blanco’s nickname was “Hank White”. That’s pretty funny in that dry wit sort of way. Blanco also had one triple during his two-year run as a back-up catcher 20 years ago.
  • Ross, although not qualifying for this list, earns recognition by posted a 119 OPS+ in four seasons and 227 games as the Braves back-up catcher from 2009 through 2012.
Florida Marlins v Atlanta Braves
David Ross was excellent as the back-up to Brian McCann for four season ended in 2012.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  • A whole article could be written on the Braves back-up catchers alone. Hello to Francisco Cabrera, Atlanta Braves icon, and hello to Joe Aryault, too.
  • Going back to qualifying seasons, power was in short supply outside of Lopez and McCann. Braves catchers supplied 14 qualifying seasons of 10 of fewer home runs, none of which included Lopez of McCann.
  • The worst bWAR was produced by Damon Berryhill in 1992, with -1.0. Only four other players put up negative bWAR seasons, Blanco (2002, -0.4), Olson (1993, -0.3), Flowers (2019, -0.2) and Lopez (1994, -0.1).
  • Slightly more than half - 19 of 37 - qualifying seasons produced an OPS+ of 100 or higher.
  • And 18 of the 37 qualifying seasons were produced by Lopez and McCann.
  • Kurt Suzuki exploded for a .887 OPS in 2017 - best of any catcher that decade.
  • Suzuki’s 19 home runs in 2017 came in only 309 plate appearances.
  • The 2017 season was fantastic for the position as Suzuki and Flowers combined for 31 home runs, 99 RBI and hit .282 as the duo split time at catcher with Flowers appearing in 85 games at the position and Suzuki appearing in 77.
  • Although he didn’t qualify for this list, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the 2020 season had by Travis d’Arnaud. In 44 games he posted an OPS+ of 139.
Sports Contributor Archive 2019
Greg Olson’s 1991 World Series collision with the Twins Dan Gladden is an icon moment for Braves catchers.
Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Here we are, at the end of this look back on the best to strap-on the shin guards, clip their chest protector into place and keep ice on their knees for hours after a game in Atlanta history.

We know that the best comes down to Javy Lopez and Brian McCann.

As for Lopez being better than McCann ... ask me again tomorrow. I might change my mind between now and then.