Baseball legends: Top five throwing catchers (career caught-stealing percentage)

Stolen bases are a primarily associated with the speed of a baserunner, but even more important is the ability to time and read the delivery of a pitcher. If done correctly, baserunners will steal a base far more than they will get thrown out by the catcher. Take for instance, Carlos Beltran(notes), whose career stolen base percentage was 88.1 percent in 328 attempts. Even Lou Gehrig, whose 50.2 percent base stealing percentage ranks as the lowest all-time among those with at least 200 attempts, still successfully stole a base more often than he was thrown out. Thus, a catcher who can effectively throw out baserunners with regularity is an invaluable asset to a baseball team. To lend some perspective to the career numbers below, consider that among active catchers, the average caught stealing percentage is a little north of 30 percent, with Ivan Rodriguez(notes) leading the way, throwing out 45.52 percent of attempted base stealers.

#5 - Hank Gowdy (50.75%)

In 17 Major League seasons, primarily with the Boston Braves of the National League, Hank Gowdy saw 1,131 baserunners attempt to steal a base on him; he threw out 574 of them. Gowdy is one of only seven catchers to throw out over 50 percent of all attempted base stealers. In his prime, from 1914 to 1922, Gowdy rifled out 52.37 percent of attempted thefts.

#4 - Buck Crouse (50.78%)

Buck Crouse had a relatively brief Major League career, logging eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox from 1923 to 1930. However, during that stint, Crouse was a menace to opposing baserunners. He twice led the league in caught-stealing percentage, including the 1925 season where he retired 69 percent of would-be base stealers. Over his career, Crouse threw out 195 of 384 attempted base stealers, including five of eight seasons where his percentage was above 50 percent.

#3 -Roy Campanella (51.01%)

Hall of Famer, Roy Campanella, spent all 10 of his Major League seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Over that time, he earned three MVP awards and was nominated to eight all-star rosters. Campanella burst onto the scene as a rookie in 1948, throwing out 56 percent of attempted base stealers to lead the National League. He would go onto earn that acclaim on five different occasions in his career, including his MVP season of 1958, in which he mowed down 69 percent of attempted base stealers. Of the 445 base stealers brave enough to run on Campanella, 227 of them were sent back to the dugout. During the first five years of his career, Campanella threw out runners at a rate of 54.5 percent, before dropping to around 40 percent during his final three seasons.

#2 - Arthur "Ben" Egan (51.02%)

As a player, Ben Egan's career was short, playing in just three full Major League seasons and 115 games. After playing just two games in 1908, Egan would not lace them up again until 1912, and then took another year hiatus before appearing in 71 games for Cleveland in 1914 and 1915. Yet before hanging up his spikes, Egan made his mark as a throwing threat from behind the plate. Of the 245 runners who attempted to steal on him, Egan retired 125, including an impressive 58 percent of all runners during the 1912 campaign. Unfortunately for Egan, he never fared well on the other side of the plate, batting just .165 over his career and an abysmal .108 in his final season.

#1 - Gabby Hartnett (53.84%)

The longtime Chicago Cub played 19 seasons in the Windy City before ultimately retiring after one year with the New York Giants. Over his hall of fame career, Hartnett amassed six all-star nominations, an MVP award in 1935 at the age of 34, and struck fear into opposing base runners. Overall, 582 of the 1081 baserunners that felt it wise to test Hartnett's arm were subsequently gunned down. Seven times, Hartnett led the National League is caught-stealing percentage, each time with a percentage above 41 percent. In 1922, 1926 and 1928 Hartnett retired 63 percent of all baserunners, followed closely by the 1932 season in which he threw out 62 percent. His 1926 season ranks as the 11th best individual season percentage of all-time. Perhaps most impressive, was that Hartnett maintained a cannon from behind the plate well past his prime, gunning out 55 percent of all base stealers in 1939 at the age of 38 years old.

References:

MLB Career Leaders, Caught Stealing % Leaders, Baseball-Reference.com

Baseball Almanac, Stolen Base Leaders, Baseball-Almanac.com

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Updated Friday, Jun 10, 2011