The defending World Series champions came into AT&T Park in San Francisco this week and took two close games from the Giants, and that means it is time to wrap up this brief look at some of the myth-making nonsense in the Bay Area. The Hall of Fame credentials for Manager Bruce Bochy and pitcher Madison Bumgarner have been dismissed, and now it’s time to look at catcher Buster Posey—the poster boy of the post-Bonds era in S.F.
Posey’s career data presents a more-compelling argument for Cooperstown than either Bochy or Bumgarner, yet there are still some major issues with his statistical production. If he stopped playing today, he’d be a borderline HOF candidate, but Posey would probably get in due to sentimentality and whatnot. He has two major awards going his way—the 2010 Rookie of the Year and the 2012 MVP—and those are discussed below.
Yet Posey really only had one major season, that 2012 campaign, and that creates a suspect situation considering the circumstances. In no other season has he led the league in any offensive category, and his 2016 Gold Glove is undeserved as well (see below). Finally Posey has hit just .248 in 53 postseason games, so he clearly hasn’t stepped up much in the playoffs, despite the Giants winning three World Series on his watch. So why and how does he factor into a Cooperstown discussion?
First thing first: The 2010 ROTY award never should have gone to Posey. Playing in just 108 games, Posey earned 3.9 WAR that year, far behind Atlanta’s Jason Heyward (6.4 WAR). Why were voters blinded by Posey at the time, when sabermetrics were well in vogue by that time? There is no reasonable rationale for giving Posey that award over Heyward. Furthermore, Posey hit .417 in July 2012, and in the other 81 games, he hit a mere .267 overall. So, he basically earned the award for one month’s play, which is pretty ridiculous. History already shows this vote to be very wrong, even if Posey did have a better career than Heyward (which is irrelevant and was unknown at the time, of course).
Now, the MVP award: Posey famously got hurt in 2011, and experts called it a career-threatening injury. Somehow, though, he came back and posted the best numbers of his career in 2012 (slash line: .336/.408/.549 for a .957 OPS). Posey hasn’t come close to repeating those numbers since then. His next-best batting average? .320 in 2017. His next-best OBP? .400 in 2017. His next-best SLG? The .505 mark from his rookie year. His second-best OPS in his career came in 2010 as well (.862). So basically, the entire 2012 campaign was an anomaly, especially at age 25.
Coming off an injury, there’s no doubt Posey received some nice meds from the doctor. If the average person breaks an ankle, s/he gets steroids from the doctor. Sure, Posey got something better than the average person. Also, 2012 was the year that a fellow Giant got busted for PED usage. Coincidence? Who knows? We will never know, but it’s pretty fishy, considering the injury and Posey’s subsequent inability to come close to those “MVP” numbers.
So the mythos of Posey is based on those two awards, the three World Series titles, and his alleged “clutch” leadership. The two awards are suspect; Posey was a mediocre contributor to the championships. His lifetime batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position? A mere .274 overall. His lifetime average in late, close ballgames? The same .274 overall in those situations. Forgive us for asking, but where is the clutch performer?
Oh, and that 2016 Gold Glove? It wasn’t even close to being deserved, either. Posey finished the season with 0.2 dWAR as a catcher, which was good enough to finish merely fourth in the National League among qualifying catchers.
Sure, Buster has a pretty face, and he showed up just in time to ride the myths to titles and adulation, but he’s a borderline HOF candidate at best, bolstered by suspect awards and even more-suspect championships mostly earned by other players on the team. Why has he been so popular to the point of myth making by both fans and media?
Good question, because most of it is very undeserved. Sad to say, he will probably make the Hall of Fame someday, just because he was nice looking and in the right place at the right time. Oh, to be so lucky in life!