Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Celebrating Ivan Rodriguez

Earlier in the day, this writer posted an article asking why catchers can't hit (as a general rule). Once the post was listed on Twitter, a fellow writer (@RangersExpress) asked why the post didn't mention Ivan Rodriguez. It was a legitimate question. In a baseball age where we celebrate the careers of Derek Jeter, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones and call them, "sure-fire Hall of Fame players," why isn't Ivan Rodriguez ever mentioned that way? "Pudge" has been around so long and has been past his prime for so long that he is often forgotten. But Ivan Rodriguez has had a Hall of Fame career and should be celebrated like other grand players of the game. This one's for you, Nicholi.

Ivan Rodriguez is sixth on the active list in rWAR behind only A-Rod, Pujols, Chipper, Thome and Jeter. Pudge has more career WAR than Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Vlad Guerrero, Todd Helton, Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran. He is second in career WAR for catchers behind only the great Johnny Bench and there are a lot of great names below him on that list. If we went just by this category, could it be said that Pudge is the second greatest catcher in baseball history? Would you guess that Ivan Rodriguez's career OPS is a point higher than Carlton Fisk's? Probably not.

So why is Ivan Rodriguez such a quiet topic among the active great players of the game? He won an MVP Award and was in the top ten three other times. His career 106 OPS+ is quite nice for a catcher always noted for his defense. Perhaps Rodriguez has been passed over because he hasn't posted a great offensive season since 2004. He's become ridiculed for his lack of patience at the plate. His 2005 season where he walked only 11 times in 525 plate appearances set the standard for the "never takes a walk" crowd. Because he still loves to play the game, he has become somewhat of a vagabond as he's wandered to five different teams since 2008.

But none of that should matter. He should be remembered for his integral part of the Tigers' renaissance in 2006 when they went to the World Series. He should be remembered for all those great years in Texas. He should be remembered for being part of that Florida Marlin team that beat the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. Has any catcher caught more games with all that gear in hotter weather?

From 1995 to 2002, Ivan Rodriguez hit over .300 for eight years in a row. And if you bring that to 2006, he did it ten times in fourteen seasons. He played nine seasons where he played more than 130 games in a season...remarkable for a catcher. He's hit 934 extra base hits including 572 doubles in his career. And he has 2842 career hits. For the first half of Ivan Rodriguez's career, he was a terrific offensive catcher.

And we haven't even gotten to the good part yet. Catching defense has been debated hotly over recent years. But attempts have been made to rate catchers and their defense. One such attempt is called Total Zone Runs and Ivan Rodriguez leads all catchers in Total Zone Runs and it isn't even close. Plus, his total of 167 Total Zone Runs is the twelfth highest all time for any position player.

What many will remember about Ivan Rodriguez is his arm. Have some fun and just watch this video to see some highlights. Turn the sound down as the sound is terrible:

The reputation is well earned. In a day and age when 30 percent success at throwing out base runners in considered adequate, Ivan Rodriguez has averaged 46 percent for his career. Even at the age of 39, he is averaging 48 percent this season. As good as he is now as an older player, he was unbelievable as a younger one. He has led the league in stolen base percentage ten times! He had a streak between 1996 and 2002 where his caught stealing percentage was unbelievable:
  • 1996 - 51 percent
  • 1997 - 57 percent
  • 1998 - 56 percent
  • 1999 - 55 percent
  • 2000 - 49 percent
  • 2001 - 60 percent!!
Ivan Rodriguez should be celebrated. His record of endurance should be celebrated. He's caught in 200 more games than anyone else in history. He was a great defensive catcher who could also hit. He helped two teams get to the World Series and three Texas teams get to the playoffs. He's been an MVP, a multiple All Star and Gold Glove catcher. Yeah, he's probably hung on too long. But if you were still getting paid good money to do what you love, wouldn't you? Ivan Rodriguez has had an amazing career and it should not be forgotten.


bobook said...

From 'Pudge' to 'Slim'
the P.E.D. era within...

Anonymous said...

Ho hum, another non-fan throwing out the steroid card. So do we trivialize everybody's career who played MLB from 1970's to 2003? You have to assume all or nothing then. Because of no testing everybody has to be considered guilty, whether they are or not. So I throw it out the window all together, and consider it a level playing field. Pudge was and still is awesome.

Anonymous said...

I havee been watching Pudge since I was little and still can not get enough of him. He will always be one of the best catchers in history!