This is the fourth in a series of articles about candidates for the Illowa League Hall of Fame.
Now we move on to the first player in our series who seems like a real slam-dunk first ballot Hall of Famer. Over 15 years, Mike Piazza was the best offensive catcher in the IAL by a long stretch. He stepped into a key role immediately with the Posse, hitting 22 homers and driving in 83 runs as a rookie in 1994, and stayed dominant for the first decade of his career – after which he was merely very good, hitting 23 homers with a .272 batting average in his second-to-last season in 2007.
Piazza ranks highly in a number of offensive categories, even setting aside the fact that he was a catcher: 16th in HR with 416, 18th in RBI with 1,257, and 30th in hits with 1,891. When you compare him to other catchers though, his dominance is obvious, he ranks first in every major category except hits, runs, and doubles (Ivan Rodriguez leads in those three categories).
Piazza’s best season was 1998, when he hit .358 with 35 homers and 135 RBI. He hit 30+ homer nine times, and drove in 100+ six times. Although his numbers (especially batting average) tailed off towards the twilight of his career, he remained one of the best starters at his position right up until the second-to-last season of his career. I don’t see any way that he doesn’t make the Illowa League Hall of Fame.