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Buster Posey is Historically Good


One season ago, Buster Posey was involved in a nasty collision at home plate that left him with a broken leg. After getting a preview this year of what San Francisco’s backstop is capable of doing in his upcoming peak, we now know that not even major injuries are going to keep the 25-year-old from putting his name among the best catchers in the history of baseball.

Okay, that probably sounded a little hyperbolic, but I’m serious: by the time he’s finished playing, people may well be asking if Posey is the best hitting catcher of all-time. He’ll never be renowned from a defensive standpoint — most reports seem to have him as a somewhat average defender — mind you, but when you get adequate defense and premium offense at the most important position on the field, you take it without even thinking of complaining. In fact, you do the opposite of complaining: you heap endless, embarrassingly awestruck praise onto the player instead. Forgive me for doing exactly that in the coming paragraphs.

Thanks to the sensational season Posey is currently in the midst of, he’s already been worth 10.8 WAR (all stats courtesy of FanGraphs) for his career, and he won’t turn 26 until the end of next year’s spring training. He’s hitting .327/.403/.535 with 19 homers and 80 runs batted in. He’s working walks in 11.7% of his plate appearances. He’s posting a wOBA of .398 with an wRC+ of 154. All those marks are easily career highs, and they likely represent the new standard of expected production going forward. That’s a pretty high bar to set, and one no other catcher in baseball is capable of touching.

The scary part is that even at 25, Posey is already showing up pretty high in wRC+ when compared to other catchers — any catcher that ever played, I mean. Take a look for yourself: his career mark of 135 trails only some guy who was born in 1849 and had a very short career (perhaps it was interrupted so he could fight in the Battle of Little Bighorn), Mike Piazza, and uh, Gene Tenace. Ignore that last name; it subtracts some of the hard-hitting style I was trying to go for. Just remember that Posey barely trails Mike Piazza, a truly great hitter, and you know all you need to know. And if you should decide to compare those two, by the way, remember that Piazza was a catcher in name only, whereas Posey can actually handle the position.

Or you can look at it this way: FanGraphs has the legendary Johnny Bench atop the all-time catcher leader board in terms of WAR with 81.6. If Posey, who won’t have any trouble out-hitting Bench but is not in the same category defensively, can average 5.0 WAR a year through his age-35 season in 2022 (a tall task, but not one he isn’t capable of achieving considering how good he already is), he’d rank 10th on that list with somewhere around 60.0 WAR. Obviously, if his peak gets even more ridiculous than the level he’s already at — a distinct possibility — he could reach even higher marks at that point, but given the physical demands of the position, let’s be reasonable. If he still has anything left past 35, he could conceivably work his way up even higher and crack the 70.0+ territory, reaching the vaunted top-five region along names like Yogi Berra and Ivan Rodriguez.

Honestly, I’m a huge believer in Posey’s bat, and I think he’ll wind up being considered a better hitter than all of the big names I’ve thrown out there in this post with the possible exception of Piazza. The real question when it comes down to measuring his true greatness as a catcher, however, is probably how long he’ll actually stay at the position. Obviously, projecting a decade of future production is pointless for the most part anyway, but should Posey remain entrenched behind the plate in San Francisco (or with any team, for that matter), it’s hard to envision a scenario in which he does not go down as one of the game’s best at the position.

Can’t get enough of Spencer? Check out his work at StanGraphs and follow him on Twitter at @shendricks221.