5. Mike LaValliere (1987-1993)
If one was to base this list strictly on career Wins Above Replacement, Mike LaValliere would not have made the list. He actually places seventh all time on the Pittsburgh Pirates career catching WAR list with a 12.7, between George Gibson and 19th century backstop Doggie Miller. That number seems oddly low, given his actual value for the Pirates.
LaValliere’s contributions to the success of the early 1990’s are not easily quantified statistically. Offensively, he was decent, producing a .278/.363/.351 batting line, hitting 13 home runs while drawing 243 walks against 158 strikeouts. In fact, in his career, LaValliere never struck out more than 37 times in a season.
Where Mike LaValliere truly shined was behind the plate. He won a Gold Glove in 1987, leading the National League with a 45.2% caught stealing rate and 15 total zone runs saved. He even shined in the more traditional statistics, ranking second in fielding percentage and fourth in double plays as a catcher.
That defensive prowess continued throughout his tenure with the Pirates. During his seven years in Pittsburgh, Fangraphs considers him to be the third best defensive catcher in Pirates history with a 23.0 dWAR. Truly, Mike LaValliere was a defensive asset, and managed to be a solid performer at the plate. Regardless of his overall WAR rankings, LaValliere deserves a spot on this list.
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