Mike Piazza going into Hall of Fame, but not as a Dodger

Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. are being inducted to the Hall of Fame today. It’s unfortunate Piazza won’t go in the Hall as a Dodger, but it’s still amazing to see your favorite baseball player during your formative years reach the peak of baseball greatness.

I wrote about Piazza’s election — four years overdue — in January.

“If you look at the pure numbers, there is no reason Piazza shouldn’t have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer (rank among catchers from 1947 until now in parenthesis).

  • 62.5 fWAR (5th)
  • .237 ISO (1st)
  • .390 wOBA (1st)
  • 140 wRC+ (2nd)
  • 370.1 Off (1st)
  • 396 HR (1st)

Say what you will about his defense — his arm was poor, but his overall defense wasn’t as bad as some would have you believe — his offense was off the charts.

Growing up, I played mostly catcher in Little League Baseball. Early in my “career,” I played a lot of second base. Steve Sax was my favorite player until Piazza burst onto the scene in 1993. After that, he was my guy.

I tried to emulate his batting stance, but quickly found that wouldn’t work. Even as a kid swinging a relatively light aluminum bat, my wrists and forearms weren’t strong enough to have a hitch in my swing and a violent finish. I never really hit for much power, but I still tried to model myself after Piazza.”

Speaking of his defense, it turns out he would have graded out quite well overall if today’s metrics were available when he played. From Ben Lindberg at 538:

“Per opportunity, Piazza ranks in the fifth percentile as a thrower among regular catchers. But he also places in the 74th percentile as a pitch-framer, and the 89th percentile as a pitch-blocker. His arm was just as bad as the naysayers believed, but that weakness wasn’t crippling, and he more than made up for it by blocking balls in the dirt and eking out extra strikes.”

And R.J. Anderson at CBS Sports:

“It’s not like the other areas where Piazza did well are newfangled, either. The idea of quantifying framing and blocking remain relatively new — Brewers employee Dan Turkenkopf was on the beat in 2008 — but the concepts themselves are old school. Check most any old baseball book that details catching and you’ll find references to each. Heck, Keith Hernandez talked about sticking pitches in his book with regards to another Hall of Fame Mets backstop, Gary Carter.”

Anderson wrote Piazza was 99 runs above average in framing for his career and 11 RAA in blocking (and -47 RAA in throwing). As someone who watched a lot of Piazza behind the plate in the 90s, I absolutely believe this data.

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So, Piazza is going into the Hall not as a Dodger, but as a Met. His best years came with LA, but he had a lot of high-profile years with New York. He helped the Mets to the World Series in 2000 (his only World Series appearance) and he homered in three of the first four games in which he played after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, capped by a dramatic one against the Braves.

Long story short, Piazza is still my favorite player of all-time, despite whatever spat he had/has with Vin Scully.

OK, guys, let’s bury the hatchet, grow up and get this thing done. There needs to be a Mike Piazza night at the stadium and his No. 31 needs to be retired. Here’s hoping it happens.

To close, I’ll just quote myself from the January article.

“Congratulations, Mr. Piazza. You had a profound impact on my (baseball) life and I’m thrilled that you’re (about) to become part of baseball’s very best. Thank you for helping me become — in large part — the baseball fan that I am today. Cheers.”

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.