Johnny Bench • C • HOF

1st in JAWS (75.2 career/47.2 peak/61.2 JAWS)

Teams: Reds 1967–83
Stats: .267/.342/.476 • 126 OPS+ • 2,048 H • 389 HR • 68 SB
Rankings: 14x All-Star • 10x GG • 8x top 10 WAR • 5x top 5 SLG • 4x top 5 HR • 4x top 10 OPS+
Voting: BBWAA 1989 (1st, 96.4%)

“You don’t compare anyone to Johnny Bench. You don’t want to embarrass anybody.” — Sparky Anderson, quoted in All Roads Lead to October by Maury Allen

In his entry in the book, I noted, “Catchers heavily used in their twenties don’t tend to accrue much value in their thirties, and Bench was no exception.” Indeed of the 18 catchers with 1,000 games caught through their age-29 seasons, only 11 were worth more than 10.0 WAR in their 30s while playing any position.

A more drastic point of inflection is through age-32, in that none of the 18 — and remember, this is now a more lenient cutoff, with three extra years to reach the 1,000 games caught mark — was worth more than 10.0 WAR afterwards, and only three catchers, Ivan Rodriguez (9.3), Jim Sundberg (6.8) and Benito Santiago (5.8) were worth more than 5.0. Gary Carter (3.9) is second among Hall catchers in this context, while Bench was worth just 2.2 WAR from his age 33 season (1981) onward.

• Sports Illustrated, “Johnny Goes Job Hunting in a Tight Market,” March 30, 1981

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