Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cochrane an obvious choice for Philadelphia Athletics All-Time Team

Philadelphia Athletics catcher Mickey Cochrane - All-Time Best Team
The Philadelphia Athletics have several offensive positions where there's no question about the best player in franchise history - catcher is one of those positions and Mickey Cochrane carries the title.

A fiery backstop from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Cochrane was acquired by Connie Mack and the Athletics from Portland of the Pacific Coast League in 1924. He immediately made an impact, hitting .331 during his rookie campaign in 1925 while placing 10th in MVP balloting. He went on to play nine seasons in Philadelphia, proving to be a vital piece of Mack's second dynasty.

Gifted with success at the plate, Cochrane also was a wiz defensively. He had a fantastic arm and knew how to properly call a game.

“Hardly ever shook him off,” said Athletics hurler Lefty Grove. “If Mickey was living today, he’d tell you I only shook him off about five or six times all the years he caught me. Funny, before I’d even look at him, I had in my mind what I was going to pitch and I’d look up and there’d by Mickey’s signal, just what I was thinking. Like he was reading my mind. That’s the kind of catcher he was.”

Cochrane's average WAR per year while in Philadelphia is 4.52, third best of those included on the Athletics All-Time Team trailing just Frank Baker (6.03) and Jimmie Foxx (5.68)

Like so many other players under Mack, Cochrane was sold following the Athletics second dynasty run. He went on to put up fantastic numbers in Detroit before leading the Tigers to the Fall Classic in 1935.

The tier below Cochrane houses a pair of catchers in Wally Schang and Frankie Hayes, both legitimate candidates for the spot of second best in team history.

Schang spent six seasons in Philadelphia and was widely considered one of the best backstops of his era. He came before Cochrane, debuting with the Athletics in 1913. Over six seasons he hit 18 home runs to go  with a .264 batting average and a 128 OPS+.

Hayes is an intriguing players because he spent 11 years in Philadelphia and assumed the catching duties when Cochrane was shipped to Detroit. He also joined Mack and some other Athletics' teammates on a barnstorming tour of Japan in 1934.

Schang and Hayes both put up similar numbers, but Schang has a better wOBA and wRC+. Schang also played in a pair of World Series' with the Athletics, taking it home in 1913.

The Verdict
Cochrane is the starter, no doubt. He is a Hall of Famer and arguably one of the best catchers in baseball history. An argument can be had on both sides of Schang and Hayes though as a backup, but Schang putting up a better WAR per year (2.45 vs. 1.44) and winning a title trumps Hayes.
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BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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