#45 - BOB BOONE, C
The greatest Catcher in the history of the franchise came as a free agent signing having won a world series with the Phillies in 1980. Bob Boone caught 143 games in 1982, his first season with the Angels - he was 35 years old and unfazed. That led the league. He would lead the league in games caught each season thru 1986 and was third in the league with only 127 and 121 games caught in 1987 and '88 respectively - and missed all of April ‘87 in a contract fight with the club.
The defensive stats back up Boone - He ranked first or second in the AL in Caught Stealing % in five of his seven seasons with the Angels. He was first in Total Zone Runs five times as an Angel. And in good old met and potato stats like Assists and Putouts, he was right at the top of the AL in every season he put on an Angels uniform.
Boone's staying power, though, was his zen-like pitch-framing ability, something that certainly can be broken down statistically but was apparent to the naked eye. Boone kept his catcher's glove so centered and waited for the ball to move thru the strike zone before beginning to make a stab at it and then, once the ball was on the leather he would scoop it in only a little less quickly then he returned the glove to the center of the strike zone. An umpire's dream, he easily got more strike calls on the black of the plate than any backstop in baseball history. After regular observation of this as a fan watching on television (although we were lucky to have three games a week televised back then), the real magic of Boone came in his absence. Other catchers just seemed lopsided, sloppy, dull and too willing to assure the home plate umpire that the pitch in question was indeed a ball. Boone was like a prosecuting attorney and every pitch he caught was a plea to the judge that what we were seeing was indeed a strike against the defendant at bat.
All this adds up to Bob Boone leading the Angels in Defensive Wins Above Replacement. He holds the franchise record of 14.5 dWAR. He did that in seven seasons with 3,391 Plate Appearances as a measure of time played. To put that into perspective, Jim Fregosi and Darin Erstad had 11.5 and 10.5 dWAR respectively with more than 2,300 PA each.
Three of Boone's single season dWAR marks show up in the team's single season top marks. His 968 Games Played is the tenth most in club history. His 90 Sacrifice Hits is the most in Angels history. It is interesting that this, Boone's greatest offensive accomplishment, involved making an out. The greatest Catcher in Angels history would never be mistaken for Mike Napoli at the plate.
Boone's 12.1 WAR ranks 27 th in club history. So if you notice that 14.5 dWAR mentioned earlier, you can see that Boone's total offensive output for the club was in the negative territory. Measured by OPS+, the stat where 100 is baseline for a league-average player in a season, Boone was only above average once - his OPS+ of 110 came when he was 40 years old and playing in his final year as an Angel (he finished his playing days with two seasons in Kansas City, for whom he eventually managed). Other than that 1988 anomaly he usually was in the 60s or 70s - his second best offensive season was his first as an Angel - he had an OPS+ of 78. His OPS+ for his Angels career was 71. Compare to Jeff Mathis - another no-bat Catcher. Jeff had an OPS+ of 50 in his tenure as an Angel. Proof anyone looks good next Mathis - and Mathis was in his peak years and never had the grueling playing time Bob Boone did.
So Bob ends up ranking #45 on our countdown - he guided two teams to a division title but was the man who called for the forkball from Donnie Moore when the team was one strike away. And so we never got to see him celebrate on the field, but we did get a glimpse of what the greatest friend an Angels pitcher ever had looked like in action.