Carlton Fisk And Advanced Catcher Defense

Yesterday, while looking at who you should vote in as the catcher for the All-Fenway team, maybe sentimentality and the allure of the catcher defense you knew Jason Varitek provided swayed you into thinking he was the right choice, and not Carlton Fisk.

Fisk is a Hall of Famer, but he didn't spend his whole career with the Red Sox, he wasn't part of two championship teams, and so on -- you might not be right in your selection of Varitek as the superior backstop, but you can at least make a point-by-point argument as to why you picked him, and the crux of it would be his defensive skill. After all, it wasn't that long ago here that the point was made that Varitek was far more valuable defensively than the metrics had been giving him credit for over the years, thanks to his fantastic game calling and his ability to block pitches. And while Fisk was clearly the superior player overall, Varitek spent more time in Boston, making him Boston's better catcher, at least in this counter-argument you could construct.

Turns out, though, that you shouldn't bother coming up with elaborate justifications to choose Varitek over Fisk. Varitek wasn't breaking any new ground in Red Sox history, as Fisk was a fine game caller in his own right. Max Marchi, the Baseball Prospectus analyst whose research helped us get an idea of Varitek's late-career defensive contributions, released a study today going back to 1948 (as far back as reliable Retrosheet data takes us these days) detailing runs prevented via game calling historically. While Varitek ranked fifth in today's game over the last five seasons, Fisk ranks fifth going back to 1948, with 191 runs prevented -- that's an extra 19 wins worth of game calling on top of the nearly 70 wins above replacement the Hall of Fame backstop already had.

Since Fisk played from 1969 until 1993, and aging did very little to slow the productivity of handling a pitching staff (read Marchi's piece for more information on that note), it's no wonder he's in the top five in the study.

Sentimentality might count for a lot when recounting your personal Red Sox experiences, but when constructing the "All-Fenway" team, remember that Fisk wasn't just a fantastic hitter: he was also a worthy game caller for his pitching staffs.

Latest News

In This Article


Trending Discussions

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Over the Monster

You must be a member of Over the Monster to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Over the Monster. You should read them.

Join Over the Monster

You must be a member of Over the Monster to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Over the Monster. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.