Catcher’s Week: Buster Posey
This past Thursday, catcher Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants announced his retirement from the MLB after one of the best seasons in his 12-year career.
That brought about “Catcher’s Week”, a time I’m taking to evaluate 7 catchers’ cases for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Without further ado, let’s talk about San Francisco Giant lifer, Buster Posey.
Buster Posey’s Career and Stats:
A four-sport player in high school, Buster Posey was committed to play baseball at Florida State University after a senior season where he was named the Georgia player of the year by Gatorade and Louisville Slugger (as well as All-American honors from EA Sports and Baseball America). He was also drafted in the 50th round of the 2005 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, though instead opted to attend college. This turned out to be the right decision for Posey as he won the Johnny Bench Award, the Collegiate Player of the Year Award, the Dick Howser Trophy, and the Golden Spikes all in his junior year.
Buster Posey now qualified for the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, and while holding the distinction as the top catcher in his class he was selected 5th Overall by the San Francisco Giants. He would make his professional debut in High-A in 2009, be selected up to Triple-A by the summer, and in September was called up to the MLB roster. He would make his MLB debut on September 11th, 2009 going 0-1 after coming into the game as a defensive substitute in the 8th inning of a 10-3 Los Angeles Dodgers win. That would begin a 12-year career for Buster Posey during which many accolades to be achieved.
Over that career, Buster Posey would go on to be an MVP (2012), a Rookie of the Year (2010), 7-time All-Star, 3-time World Series Champion (2010, 2012, 2014), 4-time Silver Slugger, 1-time Gold Glover, and 1-time Batting Champ.
Statistics wise, Posey finished his career with a .302/.372/.460 triple-slash (.831 OPS/129 OPS+/129 wRC+). Over the 1371 games in his career (5607 PA’s and 4970 AB’s), Posey would go on to collect exactly 1500 hits, 158 Home Runs, and 729 RBI’s along a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 540:721. Defensively, Posey played 1093 games at catcher, 229 at first base, and 31 as a DH. In his 9291.2 innings at catcher, Posey had a .995 fielding percentage, +116 DRS, and +128.8 framing. As a first baseman, Posey had a .995 fielding percentage, -3 DRS, and a +5.6 UZR over 1693.1 innings.
Combined over the course of his career, Buster Posey had a +44.9 bWAR (Baseball Reference), a +57.6 fWAR (Fangraphs), a +55.2 WARP (Baseball Prospectus), and a +40.7 JAWS (Jay Jaffe). Now, these metrics are both favorable and unfavorable to Buster Posey. He doesn’t stand out among catchers already in the Baseball Hall of Fame as he’s below the average bWAR (+44.9 to +53.8) or JAWS (+40.7 to +44.3), though his WAR7 is above average (+36.6 to +34.8). However, we do know that bWAR gives less credit for defense than its contemporary WAR’s (like fWAR and WARP). Posey collected just 4 Black Ink (leading his league in a statistic; average HOF ~27), 44 Gray Ink (top-10 in a league in a statistic; average HOF ~144), 79 in Hall of Fame Monitor (average HOF = 100), and a 38 in Hall of Fame Standard (average HOF = 50).
The Case For Buster Posey’s Induction into the BBHOF:
A big knock against Buster Posey is (and will be) his short career, relative to his fellow catching peers who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And, there is a relatively sound logic behind this: players who don’t have long careers often do not put up the numbers that we look towards as the “hall of fame standard”. (Hence why Posey lacks in HOFm and HOFs.) When looking at the length of catching careers in the MLB, Buster Posey ranks 197th with his 12 seasons played, though to be fair, Posey ranks 72nd in games played (thanks to many journeyman catchers who hang around for a while).
However, I don’t quite understand this line of thinking. The Hall of Fame itself sets qualifiers when it comes to a required length of a career: 10 seasons. If a ballplayer was a fantastic player during his career and set the standard of excellence for his time what should it matter how long he played? Meeting the requirements should never be an excuse to downgrade a player’s consideration from the Hall of Fame (Though to be fair, even that season requirement has some flaws: for example Posey’s 2008 “season” of 7 games counts towards that 12-years and Hideki Matsui qualified for the BBWAA ballot after his 10th MLB season was over just 34 games in 2012.)
Long story short, Buster Posey meets the requirements for us to consider his Hall of Fame case. With 12 seasons played in the MLB, he would rank with 20 other MLB players who played between 10 and 12 seasons in the MLB, and not all of these players were the Sandy Koufax’s of the world. Kirby Puckett played just 12 years in the MLB, as did Bruce Sutter. Neither of these guys are going to be found in the “inner-circle” of the Hall of Fame, but they are Hall of Famers who had shorter careers. (Note: The 20 players above obviously does not include Addie Joss who played just 9 seasons, but was inducted as a player.)
So, with his career longevity put into perspective, did Buster Posey have a worthy enough career to be a true Hall of Famer? Yes.
Now, bWAR does not give Buster Posey enough credit for his defensive value, but his +44.8 bWAR does rank up there with his contemporaries when we consider the value they provided while predominantly playing catcher. (See my article on Joe Mauer from yesterday) However, this point can be even better made when Posey gets credited with an additional 11+ WAR from both Fangraphs and Baseball-Prospectus, thus leading to a 55+ WAR because his defense- and framing specifically- was more heavily weighted. Jay Jaffe considered Buster Posey’s case about a week ago and included a great chart for his JAWS metric when also adding in an evaluation for framing and came to the consensus that Posey was truly worth more than the average Hall of Fame catcher.
Is everything about love (for Buster Posey) and his WAR? Well, no, but it’s the strongest case for Posey as he was the premier all-around catcher from the 2010’s. Let’s also keep in mind that Buster Posey was one of 12 catchers to win an MVP award (going back to 1931), one of 5 catchers to win a batting title, had a .300+ batting average and a .850+ OPS (both 15th among all catchers), was 10th among all catchers in WAR7 and 14th among all catchers in JAWS, and he was the backbone behind 3 Giants World Series teams from 2010-2014. In a sport trying to destroy the ability for a team to be a dynasty, Buster Posey’s Giants did the opposite.
He’d be one of (very few) Hall of Famers inducted as an offensive player with less than 2000 hits. It’s long been a convention in the MLB that has held firm with how the Hall of Fame vote has gone on. However, I’m happy to buck this trend for him. He retired before he became a shell of himself and after his 7th All-Star season. He left me wanting more as a casual fan of his from across the USA, and that will only play to better encapsulate his “shorter” career being so great.
When Buster Posey gets onto the 2027 Hall of Fame ballot, I will gladly be checking his name for the IBWAA.Embed from Getty Images