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  • Writer's picturemjdietz17

HoF: Yea or Nay? Buster Posey

In this series, we’ll continue looking at active or recently retired players with a borderline Hall of Fame case and whether or not we believe they will make the Hall. Some important things we’ll reference are Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, the ‘Rule of 2,000’ and previous Hall of Fame voting trends. If might help to brush up on some of those things if you are unfamiliar with any of those things.


Yesterday, we considered Joe Mauer’s candidacy and determined he is a likely HoFer. Today we’ll look at Buster Posey.


San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey
Does Buster's resume 'Posey' a problem for HoF voters?

If you already read our take on former Twins hitting savant, Joe Mauer, you may be expecting a similar opinion on Buster Posey. After all, Posey and Mauer are the only two catchers to win a batting title since World War II and both men have MVP awards at a position where only a handful of players have ever won one. Not only that, but Posey also owns a Rookie of the Year award and (oh, by the way) three World Series championships with the San Francisco Giants. His trophy cabinet is the envy of almost every professional ball player.


So case closed, right? Not exactly.


As good as Posey’s first five seasons were, which included those three titles, the ROY and MVP, the rest of his career has been rather mediocre. Similarly to Mauer, and is often the case with catchers, injuries have taken their toll. They robbed him of a large chunk of his 2011 season when he was taken out on a home plate collision and missed the rest of the season (ushering in the 'Buster Posey Rule' regarding home plate collisions). And in recent years, he has dealt with nagging leg injuries as well as concussions. Now, in 2020, he has opted out of the MLB’s shortened season due to concerns over COVID-19.


Which is unfortunate for Posey’s Hall of Fame chances, frankly, because Buster really does need to add to his resume in the twilight of his career if he has a chance at Cooperstown. Even at the catching position, the HoF voting block isn’t going to throw away their criteria en masse for a player with one really great season, a few other solid ones and three World Series rings.


We mentioned the ‘Rule of 2000’ when discussing Mauer, and that’s been a very real barrier to entry for the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame. Neither the BBWWA, nor the Veteran’s Committee, has elected a player from the post-1960 expansion era with fewer than 2000 base hits. Ever. If 3000 hits is considered a guaranteed ticket to the Hall, having fewer than 2000 hits is the direct opposite.


Posey is incredibly unlikely to accumulate 2000 hits in his career. As of today he sits at 1380, leaving him at least five seasons short at his post age-30 pace of 125 hits a year. Seeing as he won’t take the field again until he turns 34 years old and Father Time is undefeated, it appears Posey will have to buck conventional wisdom if he’s going to make a successful case. Then again, if there's a position to buck conventional wisdom it's probably at catcher.


So let’s say that we can make a case without reaching 2000 hits, what does that look like? Obviously Posey has the ROY, the MVP award and the batting title. And let's not forget those three World Series rings… He's unquestionably the most decorated catcher of the 2010s in terms of taking home all of the major awards.


His career slash line of .302/.370/.456 is not quite as dazzling as Mauer’s, but it is still very good for a backstop. And Posey has a good deal more innings at the position than Joe does (and counting) with a much smaller percentage of his game action coming at 1B or DH. Posey’s MVP season of 2012 is also only the second time in MLB history a catcher has led the league in bWAR (Gary Carter, 1982), so the scarcity of that accomplishment is another feather in his cap.


Defensively, Posey has more than held his own. His career 33% caught stealing percentage is 5 points higher than league average for the years he's played and his 121 Defensive Runs Saved rank third behind Yadi Molina and Russel Martin for the most since 2000. In fact, Posey would surely have more than just one Gold Glove if it wasn't for Molina's stranglehold on the award in the NL since 2009.


So Posey has been solid on defense, has as many All-Star appearances as Mauer (6) and taken home every trophy one could take home. You could also argue he was robbed of nearly a full 'peak' year in 2011 when he only managed 45 games due to that horrific leg injury at home plate.


Maybe he is the guy to buck conventional HoF voter logic.


Except, outside of 2012, Posey’s offensive performance has been more ‘All Star’ level than ‘Hall of Fame’. Posey does rank 15th among catchers in JAWS, but given there are only 16 backstops currently enshrined in Cooperstown the ranking isn’t all that impressive compared to, say, right fielders (25 total electees).


Posey’s WAR7 (total bWAR in Posey’s best seven seasons) places him 9th among backstops all-time which gets him a bit closer, but in his remaining four seasons he’s only managed 5.2 bWAR or 1.3 per season (2.0 bWAR is considered “replacement” level). When Posey has been good, he's been a borderline HoFer. When he hasn't been good, he's been pedestrian.


In a lot of ways, Posey’s career reminds me a lot of Thurman Munson, the former Yankees catcher who's career was tragically cut short when he died in a plane crash during the 1979 MLB season. Munson also won a ROY, MVP and multiple Word Series titles with the Yankees over an 11 year career, albeit one which was over way too soon.


Look at Posey and Munson's careers and you'll see a very similar story:

Munson holds a slight edge in bWAR and counting stats, whereas Posey has a better slash line today. I think if Buster plays a few more seasons, these things will even out and their final career numbers could end up being even closer. If Munson was not elected to the Hall, with his untimely death cutting his career short, I question whether or not Posey can make his case if he plays more years and has similar statistics. The man Yankees fans called 'Tugboat' never received more than 15.5% in his time on the ballot and the BBWWA is usually loathe to make an exception for a player who looks strikingly similar to one they've already denied years prior.


It stands to reason Posey will likely face a similar uphill battle.


Buster Posey’s peak was certainly Hall worthy but besides his Peak7, his career has barely moved the needle in terms of resume building. For as much hardware as he owns over his career in just 11 seasons, he lacks the necessary counting stats in things like base hits, home runs and RBI to get noticed on a HoF ballot which will always contain 15 to 20 other really good players.


For baseball fans who followed the sport in the 2010s up to today, it might sound odd when we say squarely that Buster Posey is NOT going to be a Hall of Famer. For a player who accomplished so much in his first five seasons, at one point he simply felt like a lock due to his dream beginning at an offensively challenged position. But Posey hasn’t done enough in the years since 2015 to build even a marginal case. If anything, he's gone in the wrong direction, barely being below replacement level outside of his Peak7 years.


Buster Posey will go down in MLB history as one of only a handful of catchers to win an MVP award and a batting title. And he will likely be among the even fewer to do so and not make the Hall. He will be remembered as a three-time World Series Champion with the Giants. And he will be remembered for an unbelievable MVP season in 2012. But barring a never before seen career resurgence at age 34, Buster Posey will not be giving a speech in Cooperstown.


Verdict?


Buster Posey: Hall of “Pretty Darn Good Before Age 30”


Got a player you'd like to see get the Hall of Fame: Yea or Nay - treatment? Email us at 3playpodcast@gmail.com and we'll tackle their case in an upcoming article.

Thanks for reading!

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