Milwaukee Brewers: Greatest Catchers In Franchise History

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Last month the Milwaukee Brewers made a trade for catcher William Contreras, acquiring him from the Atlanta Braves, marking arguably the highest optimism the Brewers have had since Omar Narvaez was named an All-Star in 2021.

Prior to that the Brewers had Yasmani Grandal for one season in 2019 perform well, 2.4 WAR behind the plate. In 2017, Manny Pina had his best season as a Milwaukee Brewer, posting a 2.6 WAR. The Milwaukee Brewers have had four different starting backstops in the past six years.

The Brewers are hoping to get some consistency for the future of the position with William Contreras, but let's look at the best catchers from the past.

Greatest catchers in Milwaukee Brewers history: Honorable mention

There have been some absolutely great seasons at catcher from players donning Milwaukee Brewers uniforms over the years, albeit in short stints that make them hard to declare them the top players the Brewers have had behind the plate. One being the aforementioned Yasmani Grandal who spent just one season in Milwaukee. A season that helped drive up his free agency value. In 2019 with the Brewers Grandal hit 28 home runs, the most by a catcher in Brewers history.

Jim Sundberg is another one year wonder for the Milwaukee Brewers, similarly to Grandal he played just one season in Milwaukee but was selected as an All-Star in 1984. Sundberg slashed .261/.332/.399 and had an OPS of .731.

The Pineapple, Manny Pina deserves a nod as he spent six season with the Brewers and while none of them leapt off the page, Pina was a consistent, dependable and likeable player by both fans and teammates and adopted himself to whatever role was required of him, whether as a starter or as a backup.

Going back to the Milwaukee Brewers in the infancy of their franchise the Brewers got a few solid seasons from Ellie Rodriguez. In three seasons from 1971-1973 Rodriguez batted .255, got on base at a solid .357 clip but sported a low .306 slugging percentage, indicative of the times as in the 1970s baseball was more about getting on base than hitting for power. That didn't stop Rodriguez from making the 1972 All-Star game however. In 1972 Rodriguez had the third highest WAR season a Brewers backstop has ever had at 3.8, behind two players who will appear on this list later. Rodriguez slashed .285/.382/.352 for a .734 OPS that year. The 123 OPS+ Ellie Rodriguez posted would be the highest of his career.

Darrell Porter would be the Milwaukee Brewers next starting catcher following Rodriguez's three seasons with the team. Darrell Porter spent the first six seasons of his 17 year MLB career as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. In that time Porter finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1973 and was a one time All-Star the following year in 1974.

Looking at his numbers, Porter certainly could have been an All-Star in 1973 as well when he had one of the best single seasons by a Brewers catcher. In 1973, his rookie season in which he played 117 games, Darrell Porter hit 16 home runs, drove in 67 runs and slashed .254/.363/.457, good for an OPS of .820 and a WAR of 3.6, according to baseball-reference. Porter did have a 3.7 WAR in 1975. Those two seasons mark the fourth and fifth highest wins above replacement for a Brewers catcher in franchise history.

Charlie Moore was the next Milwaukee Brewers starting catcher after the departure of Darrell Porter to the Kansas City Royals. Moore played nearly his entire career as a Milwaukee Brewer, he spent 14 of his 15 MLB seasons in Milwaukee. Moore slashed .261/.319/.355 in his time wearing a Brewers jersey from 1973-1986. Moore lands as an honorable mention due not to his overwhelming power, he hit just 36 home runs in 14 years, but due to his longevity as a member of the Crew.

Last but certainly not least, a guy who was hard to leave out of the top three, BJ Surhoff. Surhoff played nine years as a Milwaukee Brewer, the longest tenure of any Brewers backstop. Despite not having any All-Star appearances, Surhoff did have a fantastic 1995 season when he slashed .320/.378/.492 for an OPS of .870, although that season was great, Surhoff only played 18 games at catcher in 1995. What impresses me most about Surhoff's tenure with the Brewers is that he never struck out more than 49 times in an entire season as a member of the Brewers.