These pitcher-catcher batteries have had historic lifespans

September 15th, 2022

In baseball, the relationship between a pitcher and a catcher is one of the most important aspects of the game. Some, like Tyler Gilbert and Daulton Varsho, find a rhythm immediately, but ultimately, the ones who stick together the longest are often the most successful. The most memorable battery of the 21st century has been together for the better part of 15 years in St. Louis in Cardinals’ righty Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina.

When Wainwright and Molina took the field on Sept. 14, 2022, the duo became the most common regular-season battery since 1900 according to the Elias Sports Bureau, passing Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan. For Waino and Yadi, the achievement caps a long and successful tenure for the two, one that includes two World Series championships, 13 winning seasons and countless other accolades, as Molina is set to retire at the end of the 2022 season.

Here are the top five batteries by games played, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

1. Adam Wainwright & Yadier Molina: 325 games

Best Friends. Longtime teammates. And the most common regular-season starting battery since 1900. Wainwright and Molina grew up and may soon retire together in a Cardinal uniform. 

The pair has led the Cardinals to one of the most successful runs in franchise history. The Cardinals have finished with a winning record in every season besides one (2007) since their first full season together in 2006. St. Louis took home the World Series title that season (Wainwright pitched out of the bullpen), and again in 2011. Since 2006, the Cardinals have the third-most wins in baseball behind the Yankees and Dodgers.

The Waino-Yadi pairing is, by far, the most among active teammates. Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras have the second-most starts together with 105. They’re well ahead of their peers going back to the Divisional Era as well. At 270 starts, Steve Rogers and Gary Carter have the second-most since 1969. During the Wild Card Era (since 1995), Tom Glavine and Javy Lopez have the second-most with 232 games as a battery.

2. Mickey Lolich & Bill Freehan: 324 games

They started 324 games together, but their most famous start was Game 7 of the 1968 World Series. Lolich, the eventual World Series MVP, tossed a complete game with Freehan behind the plate, his third win of the series.

These two became regulars for the Tigers in 1963, playing 13 seasons as teammates in Detroit through 1975. The Tigers finished above .500 nine times during their tenure, including the World Series-winning 1968 season and AL East title-winning 1972 season.

Lolich is one of the most iconic Tigers ever. He made three All-Star teams in Detroit and finished second and third in Cy Young Award voting in 1971 and 1972, respectively. Freehan made ten straight and 11 total All-Star Games during his 15-year tenure in Detroit. Despite their impressive individual accolades, neither Lolich nor Freehan has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

3. Warren Spahn & Del Crandall: 316 games

A good portion of Spahn’s Hall of Fame career came with Crandall behind the plate, as the two were batterymates for 13 seasons on the Boston/Milwaukee Braves. With the three-time Gold Glove winner Crandall behind the plate, Spahn won his lone Cy Young award in 1957 and also two of his three ERA titles in 1953 and 1961.

Spahn and Crandall not only combined for 316 starts, but also combined for a whopping 28 All-Star selections between 1949 and 1963. The games for this battery could have been much higher, as Crandall served in the U.S. military in 1951 and 1952 during the Korean War. 

Their last start together came on Sept. 17, 1963, the 30th of Spahn’s 33 starts that year. Crandall departed to join the Giants following the season, while Spahn stayed for one more. He was left in good hands, though, as his main catcher for that season – as well as in his final three starts in 1963 – was nine-time All-Star and Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre.

4. Red Faber & Ray Schalk: 306 games

While Hall of Famers line this list, Faber and Schalk are the only battery to both be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Schalk entered in 1955, while Faber was inducted in 1964. Both were selections of the Veteran’s Committee. 

Faber, a two-time ERA title winner, spent every season from 1914 to 1928 with Schalk behind the plate in Chicago with the White Sox. Only 177 of Faber’s 483 starts came with someone other than Schalk behind the plate, with 83 of those coming after Schalk’s departure in 1929. 

The highlight of their time together came in 1917, when the White Sox won the World Series. Faber won three of the six games in the series, including the clincher, when Schalk led him to a complete game victory. Faber ended the series with a stellar 1.67 ERA across 27 innings in four games.

5. Don Drysdale & Johnny Roseboro: 283 games

There is, perhaps, no battery that enjoyed as much winning as this one. Debuting one year ahead of him, Don Drysdale pitched to Johnny Roseboro for 11 seasons as Dodgers (one season in Brooklyn and 10 in Los Angeles). 

Regarded as one of the best pitchers of his era, Drysdale won a Cy Young Award in 1962 with Roseboro behind the plate. Roseboro, an overlooked figure on the dominant late-1950s-1960s Dodgers, made five All-Star teams serving as the backstop for Los Angeles’ dominant pitching staff. 

Like Wainwright and Molina, the pair also had incredible postseason success, winning three World Series titles as Dodgers teammates.