For reasons lost to time, my favorite player as a kid was Duffy Dyer. My thoughts turned to Dyer again earlier this week when Jim posted his musical ode to Jerry Grote. My opinion has always been that Grote was overrated, and not just a little. You hear repeatedly that he was the second-best catcher in the NL at the time, behind only Johnny Bench. That never passed the smell test for me. At the very least, Manny Sanguillen and Ted Simmons had a better claim to that feat.

You never know what guys are like in real life. But, no doubt due to my Dyer fandom, my impressions of Grote were always that he was a “get off my lawn” guy, even as a young man. Probably those opinions were shaped by his 1966 Topps card as much as quotes attributed to him where he comes across as a grumpy hard ass.

Regardless, it’s time we look at the stats available to see how Grote and Dyer rate. Offensively, Grote was not very good but Dyer was worse. But it was defensively where Grote was supposed to be a star. So, let’s look at the numbers put up by the Mets’ pitchers when each of these catchers were behind the dish. Dyer caught one game in 1968 so let’s focus on the 1969-1974 seasons and see how they did in those six years.

Dyer

Year Innings ER AB H 2B 3B HR BB HBP SF
69 165.1 38 578 113 17 5 6 44 2 3
70 395.2 147 1463 356 63 9 43 151 6 7
71 419.2 140 1541 351 59 13 32 154 9 7
72 814.2 298 3030 736 125 11 69 289 15 26
73 444.1 171 1668 413 50 13 36 165 7 13
74 333.2 114 1251 316 33 9 18 125 9 10
Totals 2573.1 908 9531 2285 347 60 204 928 48 66

Grote

Year Innings ER AB H 2B 3B HR BB HBP SF
69 918.2 292 3347 745 138 26 69 335 19 23
70 1064 414 3947 904 164 30 92 424 20 35
71 1042.2 347 3854 874 136 28 68 375 31 28
72 530 187 1964 459 76 18 46 178 12 15
73 684 212 2542 593 104 8 51 221 9 15
74 793 289 3011 782 122 24 50 254 14 26
Totals 5032.1 1741 18665 4357 740 134 376 1787 105 142

Here are those numbers expressed in career (69-74) ERA and triple slash lines:

DD – 3.18, .240/.310/.353
JG – 3.11, .233/.302/.347

For a guy who made his reputation on defense, there’s not really a whole lot separating Grote and Dyer here. If you think – so what – the same pitchers performed remarkably similar, let’s take a look at the 2019 Mets. Mets pitchers had a 3.79 ERA and a .688 OPS when Tomas Nido was catching, compared to a 4.34 ERA and a .746 OPS when Wilson Ramos was the backstop. Well, you might say, that’s an extreme case. Everyone knows Ramos isn’t much of a defensive guy. Okay, let’s look at the 2017 Mets, which primarily featured Travis d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera. The numbers with d’Arnaud were 4.80 and .780, respectively. They were 5.21 and .822, respectively, for Rivera. These differences were much larger than what we saw with Grote and Dyer.

Grote caught just shy of twice as many innings as Dyer in this span. The exact advantage is 1.95557 but that doesn’t mean that they caught the same pitchers a proportional amount of time. The biggest star was Tom Seaver and Grote was behind the plate for 1,039 innings for Seaver while Dyer logged 434.1 innings. Grote caught Seaver 2.4 times as much as Dyer. Jerry Koosman was right in line with their overall numbers, with Grote catching him 1.998 times as often. Jon Matlack is an interesting case. When he first came up in ’71, Dyer caught him 3X as much. Then in ’72, the only year where Dyer caught more than Grote, he still held an edge. But the next two years, Grote leaped ahead, with a final total of 375 innings for Grote compared to 283.1 for Dyer. Grote caught 342.1 innings for Jim McAndrew, while Dyer had 252.2 innings – meaning Grote caught him 1.35 times as often. With Gary Gentry, Grote held a 546.1 to 175.1 (3.1X as often) innings edge while with Ray Sadecki it was Grote 303.1 and Dyer 253.1 (1.2X as often.)

What would the overall numbers look like if Dyer caught Seaver and Gentry proportionally more often than Grote, rather than holding that edge with McAndrew and Sadecki?

Well, what about other areas of catcher defense? Dyer had 14 PB, 95 WP and threw out 39.8 percent (99-249) of opposing baserunners. For Grote, it was 28 PB, 149 WP and 40.1 percent (149-371) of opposing baserunners. The main difference is wild pitches and those are much more dependent on the pitcher than the catcher.

Just to state the obvious, Grote was better than Dyer. But that’s because Grote had an 80 OPS+ in the 1969-1974 period, compared to a 70 OPS+ mark for Dyer in the same span. But no one is ranking Grote up with Bench because of his offense, as Bench had a 135 OPS+ in the same period. If you’re going to say that Grote was a great defensive catcher, you should put Dyer in that exact same category because the overall difference between them was negligible.

Dyer played seven more seasons after he left the Mets, despite being a lousy hitter. Obviously, he was valued in the game for his defense, yet that value was never properly measured by fans of the time. Or now. You still hear today about Grote and his “impact” on the pitching staff but never hear the same thing about Dyer.

It didn’t make sense to a kid at the time and it doesn’t look any better 45 years later.

10 comments on “Comparing the defensive results of Jerry Grote and Duffy Dyer

  • Chris F

    Wes Westrum: “He was about the finest young receiver I have ever seen”

    Grote excelled behind the plate, throwing out 44 percent of attempted basestealers in his first three seasons. He went all of 1968 – over a thousand innings – with just one passed ball.

    Seaver: “He’s the best catcher a pitcher would want to throw to”

    Matlack: “He would come out to the mound, and you might have first and second and one out, and whoever you were facing, he’d relay to you exactly what had happened the previous at-bats, pitch by pitch by pitch, exactly where the guy hit the ball…”

    Lou Brock: “For quickness in getting rid of the ball and accuracy, I’d have to pick Grote”

    https://www.amazinavenue.com/2014/6/2/5695828/top-50-mets-of-all-time-30-jerry-grote

    https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/a68fb617#_edn1

    I really liked Duffy too, but, there’s no doubt Grote was the real deal behind the dish. You advocated for Nido based on Noah’s performance – but keep in mind, the staff had 100% confidence throwing to Grote. I think he was Yadier Molina before there was Yadier Molina.

    • Brian Joura

      You’ve done a fine job illustrating Grote’s reputation. But reputation does not necessarily equal reality. Which one’s more important – reputation or actual production? Wilmer Flores had a reputation as a great clutch hitter, after all…

  • JImO

    Grote also played several more seasons after he departed the Mets. Didn’t he have some World Series heroics against the Yankees? But in any case, I loved both these guys. They were both great Mets. I’ve seen Duffy Dyer for President t-shirts on line and I have considered buying one. I also liked Ron Hodges too but he was a notch below Grote and Dyer.

  • TexasGusCC

    While we are talking about the difference in catchers, I recall how pathetic Javy Lopez was as a receiver but that didn’t stop Maddox, Glavine, Smoltz, Avery and Millwood from doing their jobs well. Leo Mazzone preached first pitch strikes and in and out pitching, and Cox preached work quickly; as I recall the Braves won a few divisions in succession. The problem isn’t Nido vs. Ramos, because for that half of a run difference defensively, it’s mighty hard to not see a half a run better offensively when Ramos played. Plus, we have already talked about the aces that Ramos previously caught without problem, but those guys put the ball where it was supposed to go.

    I wasn’t a Mets fan until the late 70’s, so I can’t speak to Grote/Dyer or even Tom Seaver, because he was gone soon after I understood what it meant to touch all four bases. But, if their contemporaries picked Grote over Dyer, or a Grote over whomever, I think they’re more of an authority than us.

    • Rich Hausig

      Great point about Javy Lopez. How about mr. Stonehands himself, Jorge Posada? He got better later in his career but he was terrible. His pitchers didn’t mind.

  • Mike W

    I liked Grote and Dyer. Other peers to consider are: Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson, Darrell Porter, Gene Tenace, Bob Boone, Joe Ferguson and Ray Fosse.

  • Dennis M Spellman

    Most of the comparison & Grote’s defensive superiority is because Grote was the starting catcher. The starter always get more time catching & more accolades but it was definitely that made the pitchers better because of the perceived quality of his catching abilities. I am probably older than you but I saw almost every game both played & I think Grote was quite a bit better defensively than Duffy Dyer. (Although Duffy Dyer has a cooler name) I don’t think Grote or anyone else is in the conversation with Johnny Bench at that time.For that matter in any era since that time there aren’t many you could put up against Bench as an all around player. Maybe Pudge Rodriguez, Yadier Molina, Buster Posey & the first ten years of Joe Mauer. Just my opinion!

  • Rob

    These guys were a bit before my time but remember Charlie o’Brien as elite defender and cather to the stars.

  • Hobie

    Duffy Dyer is definitely a cooler name. If that’s even a consideration then there’s gotta be story about a team with both a Goosen & Gonder on the roster.

  • NYM6986

    Most impressed by both having expertise throwing out runners. When your catcher does that you can live with a softer bat since stopping runners from scoring is often vital but often unappreciated.

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