6th Inning: Defensive Performance

Thurman Munson twice led the league in throwing out baserunners. Career-wise, he threw out  52% of baserunners.

In the post-season,  he is the only Catcher in the history of baseball to throw out at least 7 base runners CS in 3 different postseasons and the only Catcher to throw out at least 3 base runners CS in 6 different postseason series. And, in fact, he is second on the all-time list of postseason defensive CS with 24 in the 30 games he played in.

 

Thurman Munson’s Postseason Defensive Caught Stealing Performance

Year

Playoff Round

Opponent

Games

Defensive CS

Attempted

Steals

CS %

1976

AL Championship Series

Royals

5

5

10

50.0%

1976

World Series

Reds

4

4

11

36.4%

1977

AL Championship Series

Royals

5

4

9

44.4%

1977

World Series

Dodgers

6

4

6

66.7%

1978

AL Championship Series

Royals

4

3

9

33.3%

1978

World Series

Dodgers

6

4

9

44.4%

24

54

44.4%

Analytical Point 1: Thurman Munson is the only Catcher in history to throw out at least 3 base runners CS in 6 different postseason series.

Analytical Point 2: Thurman Munson is the only Catcher to throw out at least 7 base runners CS in 3 difference postseasons.

Analytical Point 3: With 24 Postseason CS Munson broke a 55 year old record held by Wally Schang, and then held the record himself for 26 years!

The all-time leader in defensive CS amongst Catchers is Jorge Posada with  33 which is only 9 more CS than second place Munson despite the fact that Posada played in 94 more games! Until Posada passed Munson in 2004, Munson had held the record of 24 career CS for 26 years.  The previous record holder by a Catcher was Wally Schang whose record of 21 postseason CS was established in 1923 and stood for a full 55 years until Thurman broke the record! In fact, on a CS per postseason game basis Thurman Munson’s 0.80 is higher than all but one every Hall of Fame Catcher (Ray Schalk) .

Most Postseason Base Runners Caught Stealing by Catchers All-Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Base stealing was a key component of the 40 teams that made the playoffs in the 1970s. Indeed,  Munson faced the top 3, and 4 of the top 6, in base-stealing productivity, including the famous 1976 Royals who had an unsurpassed 7 players with at least 20 steals during the season. These 76, 77, and 78 Royals teams were the early iterations of “Whitey-ball” and Thurman was ready… beating them each year just to make it to the World Series!

The Teams That Thurman Munson Faced in the Playoffs:

Rank for Regular Season (RS) Stolen Bases (SB) Among the 40 Playoff Teams of the 1970s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Munson needed to elevate his game to face a new level of attempted steals to WIN in the playoffs! It is also worth noting that Munson’s postseason Caught Stealing percentage of 44.4% (24 of 54) matches exactly his regular season CS% (427 of 960) even though teams in the postseason attempted to steal against him at more than twice the rate that they attempted steals against him in the regular season (1.8 attempts per postseason game vs. 0.75 attempts per regular season game). As much as Whitey Herzog, Sparky Anderson, and Tommy Lasorda tried to get the Yankees pitchers off balance by stealing with great frequency, Munson rose to the occasion and delivered!

The fact that he was able to do this while simultaneously delivering his .357 postseason batting average is an important element to fully appreciate the contribution that Munson made at the position in these critical games. 

As a side note, but interesting historical point, in the 1975 season with his 190 hits Thurman Munson came within 5 of George Brett’s 195 total for the year when he led the league in hits which is the closest a Catcher has ever come to leading his league in hits.