Was Buster Posey’s peak enough to give him a spot in Cooperstown?

Today we’ll continue our series looking at how a lost or shortened 2020 season could have an impact down the line on Hall of Fame cases. For this installment, we’re looking at Giants‘ catcher Buster Posey. A few years ago, it looked like Posey was well on his way to Cooperstown. 

Has he since appeared to hit his decline. But does it matter? Let’s take a look. 

Posey made an immediate impact after his MLB debut. He took over as catcher as a rookie and won Rookie of the Year in 2010 while the Giants won their first World Series since moving to San Francisco. Two years later, he won the MVP and they won it all again. In 2014, he finished sixth in MVP voting while the Giants hoisted their third World Series title in five years. He was arguably their most important player through the run if you balance the impact on all three titles. 

There’s no doubt the peak was there. Posey has the MVP and Rookie of the Year trophies. He has four Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove with six All-Star appearances. He won a batting title in 2010. 

For his career, Posey has hit .302/.370/.456, good for a 128 OPS+. Those slash rates are exceptional for a catcher, especially one playing his home games in cavernous Oracle Park. 

On the counting side, he might be a bit light. Posey has 1,380 hits, 270 doubles, 140 homers, 673 RBI and 595 runs. 

However, bear in mind Posey’s position. This isn’t like us discussing Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt or Freddie Freeman at first base. Catcher is such a strain defensively, sometimes offense takes a back seat. Posey rates out well behind the plate, and for a long time worked well with excellent pitching staffs. 

In terms of JAWS, Posey sits 16th among catchers all-time. It’s below the average Hall of Famer at the position. Among the players above him, only four aren’t in the Hall of Fame: Joe Mauer (he should go), Thurman Munson (he has a pretty good argument), Gene Tenace and Bill Freehan. 

Posey’s case isn’t yet complete, of course, but it’s possible he’s hit his decline and that could hurt. He’s been banged up a bit these last two years and here’s what has happened to his slash line compared to his 2017 season. 

2017: .320/.400/.462
2018: .284/.359/.382
2019: .257/.320/.368

That’s a catcher heading to his age-33 season with almost 8,500 regular-season innings behind the plate. Uh oh. 

For the 2020 season, SportsLine projected Posey to hit .266/.333/.385 with 96 hits, 20 doubles, seven homers, 35 RBI and 39 runs in 96 games. We’re probably not going to see that many games, either.

Further, Posey is only signed through 2021 with a club option for 2022. Given the decline, it’s entirely possible that’s it for his career. He’s on record saying he doesn’t want to play anywhere else. We also just saw the Giants let Madison Bumgarner walk in free agency. 

Where are things headed with Posey? It’s hard to tell right now. Nothing seems certain in the sports world. If I had to wager, though, I’ll say Posey’s incredible peak along with the MVP and being one of the faces of the Giants through three World Series runs means he’s headed to Cooperstown one day. 

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