Why Ivan Rodriguez Is Worthy of Being a First-Ballot Hall of Famer
It's hard to get into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a catcher.
Before Wednesday, only 17 catchers had been elected to Cooperstown. The only position with fewer players in the Hall of Fame is third base (16). However, one more backstop was added to the ledger with the induction of Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez in his first year on the ballot.
Rodriguez was one of the most dominant receivers in the game during his prime. He lasted 21 seasons, spending his first 13 years with the Texas Rangers. He would later play one season for the Miami Marlins (where he won his first and only World Series title) and five seasons with the Detroit Tigers before finishing up his career with stints with the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, the Rangers again and finally the Washington Nationals.
In all, Pudge played 2,543 games, hitting 311 career home runs with a slash line of .296/.334/.464 and an OPS+ of 106. He was the American League MVP in 1999 when he hit .332/.356/.558 with a career-high 35 home run and 113 RBI (as well as a career-best 25 stolen bases!).
He had terrific power for a catcher, as evidenced by this three-homer game against the Minnesota Twins in 1997.
And here is a much younger Pudge launching his first career dinger as a 19-year-old in 1991.
Pudge went to 14 All-Star Games and also took home seven Silver Slugger Awards, but his offense may not have even been his best attribute.
Rodriguez won 10 straight Gold Gloves and 13 overall, and was known for having one of the best throwing arms the game has ever seen.
That's a hose, yo. So is this.
He also knew how to stand his ground.
He was a tremendous player who was the best at his position from his first year (1991) to his last (2011). Here is where he ranked according to fWAR during that stretch.
But perhaps more instructive as to how good Rodriguez was is in his JAWS statistic, a system developed by SI.com's Jay Jaffe that takes into account a number of components to help us more easily compare players across the generations.
Among all catchers in MLB history, Rodriguez' JAWS of 54.0 ranked third, behind only Johnny Bench (61.0) and Gary Carter (59.1). The average JAWS of the 14 Hall of Famers at this position was 43.4.
Here is where he ranks among catchers all-time among some of the other major categories.
So, Pudge is in, and deservedly so. It may have been a bit surprising that he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but the numbers show he was worthy of being enshrined at Cooperstown on the first try.