Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Catcher Project: Gary Carter

Born: 4-8-54
Career: 1974-1992
Hall of Fame: Yes
Career highlights: Led National League in RBIs, 1984. Named to 11 All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves. Four seasons of 100-plus RBIs, nine seasons of at least 20 home runs. Four times in top six in MVP balloting. Regular catcher on one World Series champ.
Career slash line: .262/.335/.439

Games caught after age 30 season: 799. Age last season as regular catcher: 34. Win shares after age 30 season: 105. Win shares after age 33 season: 49

Gary Carter wasn't always a catcher. In his rookie season (1975), he played 92 games in right field for Montreal, 66 games behind the plate — and finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting (behind a pitcher named John Montefusco). The next season, he again caught just 60 times.

Then he went behind the dish for good, at age 23. In the next eight seasons, only once did he catch less than 138 games. The Expos used him hard, then shipped him off to the Mets after his age 30 season.

Which was close to the point where The Kid's offense went south. He had a good year with the Mets in 1985, dropped a bit in '86 — the World Series year — dropped a bit more in '87 and became a half-time player for the last four seasons of his career.

Seeing a pattern here? Young catcher shows he can play a key offensive role, his team keeps him in the lineup day after day, and his bat goes early in his 30s.

Which isn't to say it's the wrong way to exploit the talent. In truth, it's the right way — if, like the Expos, you trade him after his age 30 season. The Expos got the best out of him, and then got more talent in exchange.

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