I guess baseball War defense agrees with me that Ivan Rodriguez was the all-time defensive catcher. He has more defensive WAR than any other catcher. I think arguments can be for Johnny Bench, Yadier Molina, Bill Dickey (kind of a surprise, but will discuss more in his article as he is my number 6 catcher), Roy Campanella, Gary Carter (who I discussed earlier), Ray Schalk, Bob Boone, Jim Sundberg and Russell Martin. If you say one of those guys or a few others I will say you make a good point because catchers are hard to judge defensively, because they do so much that is unrecorded or impossible to record.
He had a great arm, leading the league in runners caught stealing nine times. One or two times could be a fluke, nine times isn’t. He also led in total zone runs nine years. I also think he worked well with pitchers. Not anything I saw, but he got franchises into the playoffs, that weren’t really strong franchises. He got Texas in the playoffs 3 times in 4 years after they didn’t get there the first 35 years of their existence. He was named league MVP the third time they made the playoffs. These four years is when Rodriguez was at his peak.
After 12 years at Texas he signed a big contract with Florida. Florida won the 2003 World Series with Rodriguez. He led the team in WAR. Also, the team had a young pitching staff. Who works with the staff on a personal basis? The catcher. Rodriguez got the staff through three rounds of the playoffs. One of the best was a young 23-year-old Josh Beckett. Another key pitcher was 21-year-old Dontrelle Willis. Rodriguez probably deserves more credit than he received for that year. Florida hasn’t been back to the playoffs since.
Rodriguez then went to Detroit and helped them to the playoffs in 2006, the first time they were in the playoffs in 19 years. There he had a young 23-year-old pitcher pitching his first full year in the major leagues. His name was Justin Verlander. Rodriguez helped this team into the World Series.