Longtime Giants catcher Buster Posey officially announced his retirement Thursday following a 12-year MLB career which included three World Series championships, seven All-Star appearances and the 2012 NL MVP award. When a player of Posey's stature retires, the natural discussion flows toward whether or not he's a Hall of Famer and, hey, I love talking history. Let's do it. Here's a look at Posey's Hall of Fame case.
This is pretty easy. He's there. Posey is a career .302/.372/.460 hitter, which is good for a 129 OPS+ and wRC+. That is, over the course of his career he was 29 percent better than the average hitter. If he were a designated hitter or first baseman, that probably wouldn't be good enough.
Since I mentioned that, let's point out that for whatever reason, there's a small faction of fans who liked to call Posey a first baseman over the years as some kind of put down. It's total nonsense. In his career, he appeared in 1,093 games as a catcher, 229 at first and 31 at DH. He's a catcher.
Now that I've established that, Posey's career slash line is among the best ever for Hall-eligible catchers. Among players with at least 1,000 games in the majors who caught at least 50 percent of their games, he's one of just six to hit over .300 for his career. He's ninth in on-base percentage and 13th in slugging. OPS+ adjusts for ballpark and era conditions and remember that Posey played his home games in a cavernous park. He's third here behind Mike Piazza and Gene Tenace. Whammy.
We can loop in defense, too. During the course of Posey's career, the league average for caught stealing rate was 27 percent. Posey threw out 33 percent.
This is the place where Posey's body of work could come under scrutiny. Between getting just seven games in 2009 and 108 in his actual rookie year, then breaking his leg in 2011 and opting out of the 2020 season, he played in just 1,371 games across parts of 12 seasons. As such, he ends with 1,500 hits (nice round number, huh?), 293 doubles, 158 homers, 729 RBI and 663 runs.
Those will seem low to a lot of people.
Given how good he was on a rate basis, though, these rankings among catchers aren't terrible:
- Hits: 34th
- 2B: 25th
- HR: 40th
- RBI: 40th
- Runs: 40th
Again, consider how good he was on a shortened career, so sitting top 40 among catchers in all those things is very good.
Defensively, Posey never allowed more than five passed balls in a season and he did this while being an amazing framer (we'll get to that). He gave up just 27 passed balls in 9,291 2/3 regular-season innings behind the plate. That's one every 344 innings. For comparison's sake, Yadier Molina has long been considered the gold standard defender at catcher. He's given up one passed ball every 186 innings in his career.
Full career, cumulative measurements
With the short career, Posey is obviously a peak candidate and not a compiler. That's been established. So let's look at his peak. JAWS loops that in and Posey is 14th among catchers in history, behind 10 Hall of Famers, Joe Mauer (not yet eligible), Thurman Munson and Tenace. He's ahead of eight Hall of Famers (and Molina). WAR7 is the measure of the top seven WAR seasons (again, the peak) and Posey is 10th behind eight Hall of Famers, Mauer and Thurman Munson. He's better than the average Hall of Fame catcher here.
In baseball-reference WAR, Posey ranks 16th all-time among catchers. He's below the average Hall of Fame catcher, but catcher is pretty under-represented in the Hall, relative to several other positions.
Also, there's a twist here. Baseball-reference.com's WAR version doesn't loop in framing metrics. Fangraphs' WAR does and Posey was an amazing framer, stealing strikes for great Giants pitching staffs for years. In the Fangraphs version, Posey is eighth all-time among catchers, trailing Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra, Piazza and Joe Torre. He's ahead of Bill Dickey, Molina, Ted Simmons, Gabby Hartnett, Mauer and others.
Further, using Fangraphs WAR (again, it includes his framing value which was substantial), during Posey's career -- if we lop off the seven games in 2009 and start with 2010 -- he was the second most valuable player in all of baseball after Mike Trout. For real, even with the broken leg season and opting out of 2020, that's where he ranks. Those seasons are included and he's still second to Trout.
Posey won Rookie of the Year in the same season that he caught the final out of the first ever San Francisco Giants World Series title. He won MVP in same year he caught the second. He also won a third ring. The Giants went 11-2 in playoff series (including two wild card game wins) in which he was their primary catcher. He's a seven-time All-Star. He won four Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove. He won the batting title and led the league in OPS+ in 2012. Aside from the win, he had two other top-10 finishes in MVP voting.
I think we've established my feelings by now on the subject, but we can close with this one to bring it home.
Isn't there a "feel" component? When you talk about Buster Posey, doesn't he feel like a Hall of Famer?
He sure does to me. He's a Giants legend with zero off-field issues. He's been one of the most respected players in the game for a decade-plus. The only place he might be a bit lacking is in the counting stats, but there's overwhelming evidence everywhere else that he belongs.