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  • The Five Best Catchers In Brewers History


    Harold Hutchison

    In the 54 seasons (1969-2022) the Milwaukee Brewers/Seattle Pilots have played, there have been a lot of players. Some have stood out more than others, though. So who were the best players to play each position? We will start with catcher – those who donned the “tools of ignorance” and work our way around the diamond.

    Image courtesy of © Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY

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    Twenty-three players were primary starters at catcher for the Brewers. Some have been great; others held down the position for a long time and did a solid job.

    5. Manny Pina
    .245/.315/.414 with 42 HR, 148 RBI in six seasons (2016-2021)

    Pina was the primary starter for only two seasons, but he was also a valuable complement to Omar Narvaez and Yasmani Grandal after the 2018 season. Pina took over for Jonathan Lucroy after Lucroy was traded in 2016. He was no black hole on offense and provided solid defense. He later left as a free agent for Atlanta, then was part of the three-team deal in which the Brewers acquired William Contreras. Not too bad for someone acquired as the player to be named later in the K-Rod trade.

    4. Charlie Moore
    .262/.320/.355 with 36 HR, 408 RBI in 14 seasons (1973-1986)

    Moore was the primary starter behind the plate for six seasons but also saw action at multiple other positions (notably, he was the primary right fielder for the 1982 World Series team and the following year) over his 14 seasons with the Brewers. He would have been a valuable bench asset in the National League, pre-universal DH. His offensive production primarily hinged on batting average since he lacked power and didn’t take a lot of walks. For the most part, he was a solid player to have around.

    3. B.J. Surhoff
    .274/.323/.380 with 57 HR, 524 RBI in 9 seasons (1987-1995)

    Like Moore, Surhoff was the primary starter at catcher for six seasons in Milwaukee and flashed a lot of versatility. Surhoff has time at third base (serving as the team’s primary third baseman in 1993) and in the outfield for the Brewers in addition to being a catcher and had 102 starts in 1995 at six positions (counting designated hitter). Unlike Moore, Surhoff batted left-handed and had more power and speed (102 stolen bases with the Brewers). Surhoff later exploded offensively after leaving Milwaukee for Baltimore as a free agent before 1996, but getting nine seasons from a number one overall pick is not too shabby.

    2. Darrell Porter
    .229/.334/.375 with 54 HR, 226 RBI in 6 seasons (1971-1976)

    Porter served as the primary catcher for the Crew in four seasons, with two cups of coffee before earning a third-place finish in the 1973 Rookie of the Year vote. Porter added an All-Star Game appearance for the Brewers, showing outstanding OBP skills and some left-handed power for the team. He was traded to the Royals before 1977, which brought the Brewers Bob McClure, who served as a starter and reliever from 1977-1986, as a player to be named later. He also haunted the Crew with the Cardinals in the 1982 World Series.

    1. Jonathan Lucroy
    .284/.342/.436 with 79 HR, 387 RBI in 7 seasons (2010-2016)

    Lucroy was the primary starter at catcher for seven seasons, more than any other Brewer in franchise history. He also provided a potent bat to the team, posting a franchise-record 53 doubles in 2014 and making two All-Star Game appearances. His trade to Texas in 2016 provided a key piece (Lewis Brinson) in the package that brought Christian Yelich to Milwaukee before the 2018 season. Lucroy was a third-round pick in the 2007 draft and outperformed Matt LaPorta (who was dealt for CC Sabathia in 2008) in terms of a major-league career.

    Honorable Mentions
    Two other players deserve at least an honorable mention. First, there is Dave Nilsson, who served as the primary catcher for three seasons but saw much more action at other positions. The second is Ted Simmons, who was the primary catcher for three seasons, but initially slumped in Milwaukee and then spent a lot of time as a first baseman/designated hitter after 1983.

    Brewer Fanatics, who are your top five all-time Brewers catchers?

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    Ellie Rodriguez was an All Star & put up 8 WAR in his 3 seasons as a catcher on the 1971-73 teams.  He was a high OBP guy with a rocket arm who threw out 50 percent of base stealers.

    I would choose my top 5 as:

    Lucroy

    Porter

    Surhoff

    Nilsson

    Rodriguez

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    Dave Nilsson should be #1. He was the best hitting catcher they’ve had. Even moving him around to keep him healthy he still caught 300 games for the Brewers.

    Surhoff would be #2. Debuted as a 22 year old less than two seasons after being drafted #1 overall and caught nearly 700 games and mostly before he was moved out from behind the plate to keep him fresh.

    Lucroy would be #3. You could argue he should be 1 or 2 but he was a chump on his way out of town, nixing the trade to Cleveland because he thought it would hurt his earnings then missing out on the World Series and never getting a multiyear contract anyways. 
     

    #4 Raul Casanova because he had a fantastic name and hit pretty well for a catcher but was a Brewer only for a short period of time.

    #5 Joe Oliver. 13 year MLB veteran with a World Series ring, who somehow found himself in Milwaukee after the ‘94 strike. Went out put up a career year with the Brewers in ‘95 and re-signed with the Reds thereafter. 

     

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    21 minutes ago, Jopal78 said:

    Dave Nilsson should be #1. He was the best hitting catcher they’ve had. Even moving him around to keep him healthy he still caught 300 games for the Brewers.

    Surhoff would be #2. Debuted as a 22 year old less than two seasons after being drafted #1 overall and caught nearly 700 games and mostly before he was moved out from behind the plate to keep him fresh.

    Lucroy would be #3. You could argue he should be 1 or 2 but he was a chump on his way out of town, nixing the trade to Cleveland because he thought it would hurt his earnings then missing out on the World Series and never getting a multiyear contract anyways. 
     

    #4 Raul Casanova because he had a fantastic name and hit pretty well for a catcher but was a Brewer only for a short period of time.

    #5 Joe Oliver. 13 year MLB veteran with a World Series ring, who somehow found himself in Milwaukee after the ‘94 strike. Went out put up a career year with the Brewers in ‘95 and re-signed with the Reds thereafter. 

     

    Joe Oliver had a nice season for us in '95, but as far as short-tenure Brewers to throw on the end of a list, I'd have Grandal, Kendall, and of course Damian Miller way ahead of him.  Hell, I'd have Henry Blanco ahead of him.

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    1 hour ago, AKCheesehead said:

    Joe Oliver had a nice season for us in '95, but as far as short-tenure Brewers to throw on the end of a list, I'd have Grandal, Kendall, and of course Damian Miller way ahead of him.  Hell, I'd have Henry Blanco ahead of him.

    I threw Oliver in there because he played a long time in MLB and was the catcher on the ‘90 Reds World Series team. Brewers have not had many catchers in modern times with a ring (Damian Miller had one too, he could go here too but he went downhill with Milwaukee his first year).

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