The Tampa Bay Rays have never been known for their catchers. Approximately 36 different players have fielded the position for the Rays in the ballclub’s 21 years of existence, yet no one man stands out as the undeniable “best.” Conceding this point, I turned to Baseball-Reference.com for the numbers and to my own gut for the opinion to compile a list of the High-Five of Tampa Bay Catchers.
No. 2: Toby Hall
The Tampa Bay Numbers:
Batting Average: .262
The No. 2 spotlight is reserved for the workhorse of the Tampa Bay catchers, Toby Hall. No disrespect is intended by this moniker, let me assure you.
To begin with, the man played 586 games for the Devil Rays. That means 17.22% of every regular season game Tampa Bay has ever played saw Toby Hall in the lineup. For a team whose turnover rate behind the plate is, let’s say it, ghastly, Hall’s four seasons as the Devil Rays’ every day catcher (2002-2005) is astonishing.
Besides, after lauding John Flaherty for playing 471 games with a frankly awful team, kneeling down at the altar of Toby Hall should be no surprise. The Devil Rays were pitiful during Hall’s years, too. From ’02-’05, the team managed only 255 wins, losing the other 391 outings. There’s no way to make those numbers look pretty.
Hall’s longevity at the position is only enhanced by the numbers he produced while manning it. In 2005, the Devil Rays’ 1997 ninth-round draft pick had his best statistical year. Hall finished third on the team that season in batting average (.287) and WAR (2.8). He tied for the lead in SF (7) and held dWAR (2.7) title all to himself.
On a team that lost 95 games in 2005, there’s some negative to address, too. The team’s 5.39 ERA ranked 13th in the American League. The starting staff only completed one game (last in the AL) and allowed 851 earned runs (13th in AL). Some of this must be laid down at the feet of the catcher. Certainly, Hall’s eight passed balls and nine errors did not help matter. However, the 33 men he caught stealing for a CS% of 42 helped mitigate things, I argue. (That team-leading dWAR did not come out of the blue.)
In June, 2006, Tampa Bay traded Toby Hall to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Devil Rays received Dioner Navarro, a key piece to the 2008 World Series-bound team. Even in his departure, Hall contributed.
Bottom line: Longevity won the day (and spot No. 2) for Toby Hall. While Navarro and Jaso were certainly flashier at the plate, neither of them offered the constancy of Hall. The years he put in with the Devil Rays tipped the scales in his favor.
Besides, we are nowhere without the beloved (and woefully underappreciated) workhorses of the world, like Toby Hall.
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Tomorrow, the No. 1 spot on the High-Five is announced. Do you think offense or defense will win the day?