Year Inducted: 1984
Some players develop a reputation as being defensive stalwarts that advanced numbers don’t always recognize. Roberto Alomar was renowned as a great defensive second baseman, winning an astonishing 10 gold gloves despite many analytic numbers pegging him as a somewhat negative defender. Derek Jeter has a similar story, winning 5 gold gloves while having a career value of -147 runs. Rick Ferrell is one such player.
Ferrell was certainly not a poor defender by any stretch of the imagination. Fangraphs has him rated with -3 fielding runs over an 18-year career, so he was mostly average. Of course, an average fielding catcher has a lot of value, so when his position is factored in he was worth roughly 50 runs above average defensively. That’s not too bad. To be fair to Ferrell, a large part of his low fielding scores may be due to his years with the Washington Senators, where he would routinely have double digit passed balls in a season. It’s not necessarily all his fault, however. Washington was famed for having a rotation in that time period that featured four pitchers who threw the knuckleball, a notoriously difficult pitch for a catcher to receive due to its near-random motion. Outside of those years, he was a fairly solid defender.
Offensively, he hit .281/.378/.363 for a wRC+ of 98. He collected 28 home runs, 324 doubles and 45 triples among his near 1700 hits. His .378 OBP is very good for a defensive oriented catcher, and helped him be an almost league-average hitter, but it’s evident that he wasn’t a great hitter. What hurts Ferrell the most is that he played at the same time as several other Hall of Fame catchers. Mickey Cochrane and Bill Dickey played at the same time as Ferrell and both were excellent offensive catchers and good defenders. Also playing at the same time was Ernie Lombardi who was also a very good offensive catcher despite not being a great defender. Ferrell’s placement suffers by being at best the 4th best at his position in his career.
Ferrell had a very similar career arc to Ray Schalk. Both were very good defensive backstops that didn’t do enough offensively to make them great Hall of Fame players. However, like Schalk, Ferrell was a baseball lifer. After retiring in 1947, Ferrell began working in many roles inside the game, mostly with the Detroit Tigers. He worked as both a coach and scout, then moved into the front office. While there, he served as Director of Scouting before being promoted to General Manager and helping the Tigers to their two most recent World Series Championships in both 1968 and 1984. When he retired in 1992, more than 60 years had passed since he was first called up to the Major Leagues. Anyone that works in baseball that long, in that many roles, deserves recognition as a Hall of Famer.
Stay tuned for the next update, the final player in the 200’s.
On deck 7/17/16 This Hall of Fame catcher was famed for being Christy Mathewson’s battery mate.