Buster Posey Making Strong Case For NL MVP

The Giants took it on the chin Tuesday night, losing 14-2 to the Nationals. But that didn’t stop catcher Buster Posey from adding to the spectacular numbers he’s posted since the All-Star break: .457/.531/.787 with seven doubles and eight home runs in 113 plate appearances. His wRC+ over that time is an astounding 248. Simply put, he’s been the best hitter in baseball in the second half, and it’s not particularly close. Mike Trout — regularly regarded as “the best player on the planet” — has accumulated 2.3 WAR to Posey’s 2.6 over the past 30 days, and that’s with Posey’s catchers-legs base running and lower defensive rating.

For the season, Posey’s batting .332/.406/.547 with 19 home runs. His 158 wRC+ ranks fourth in the National League, behind Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen, and Ryan Braun. He’s accumulated 5.0 WAR, good for fifth in the league, behind McCutchen, David Wright, Braun, and Michael Bourn. And again, Posey takes a hit for his base running.

McCutchen is likely considered the front runner for the National League MVP. His offensive numbers are gaudy: .362/.422/.609 with 23 home runs. His league-leading wRC+ sits at 175. The Pirates’ center fielder has accumulated 5.9 WAR, and that includes a negative defensive rating which is hard to understand if you, like me, regularly watch him roam the outfield for the Bucs. But McCutchen has cooled off a bit in the second half, at the same time Posey has amped it up. McCutchen’s second-half line sits at: .347/.427/.525 with four home runs.

If not for his knee injuries, Votto likely would have battled McCutchen for MVP honors to the end of the season, with their respective teams chasing the same National League Central title. But Votto’s been on the disabled list since just after the All-Star break and may not return until September.

Wright was in the discussion, too, particularly in the first half when the Mets were playing surprisingly competitive baseball. But New York’s season has taken an ugly turn in the second half even though Wright has continued to post very good numbers. Braun is having an almost identical season to 2011, when he beat out Matt Kemp for the National League MVP crown. But like Kemp’s Dodgers last season, Braun’s Brewers are not contenting this year. The seasons McCutchen and Posey are having for contending teams, coupled with his somewhat controversial win last season, likely knocks Braun out of the race.

Posey’s unearthly production in the second half has fueled the Giants’ re-invigorated offense. And that has helped keep San Francisco either tied for, or in sole possession of, first place in the National League West since the end of June. And Posey has done all of this while playing the most demanding defensive position on the field and quarterbacking the Giants’ very good starting rotation.

Posey’s played in 104 games to date. Only 81 of those have been as catcher; he’s played first base in the other games, save for three when he served as the designated hitter during interleague play. We’re likely to see a similar catcher-to-first baseman ratio for the Giants’ final 46 games, as manager Bruce Bochy works to keep Posey’s bat in the lineup while also giving his legs a rest. At this point, it’s easy to forget that Posey’s in his first season back after suffering a brutal and season-ending injury to his left ankle and lower leg last May. And while that’s more of a factor for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, I’d be surprised if some voters didn’t take that into account.

If Posey continues to produce as he has through the Giants’ first 116 games, he’d end the season with 6.94 WAR. That would land him on the list of Top 30 seasons in WAR by a catcher in the last 50 years. Johnny Bench’s 1972 season with the Reds tops that list at 10.2 WAR. Bench won the MVP that year, as he had in 1970, the third-best season by a catcher since 1962 (8.7 WAR). Bench’s 1974 and 1975 seasons are also on the list, but he didn’t win MVP honors either of those seasons, losing out to Steve Garvey and teammate Joe Morgan, respectively. The Reds were in the postseason in 1970, 1972 and won the World Series in 1975.

Only three other catcher seasons in the Top 30 Since 1962 also resulted in MVP Awards: Joe Mauer with the Twins in 2009; Ivan Rodriguez with the Rangers in 1999, and Elston Howard with the Yankees in 1963. All three of those teams played in the postseason.

Mike Piazza has four seasons on the list (1993, 1996, 1997, and 1998). Gary Carter has three (1982, 1983 and 1984), and Joe Torre has two (1966 and 1970). None of the teams those catchers played for in those years made the postseason. None was awarded the MVP.

With a bit more than 25% of games still to be played, the competition for the 2012 NL MVP Award will be spirited.  Andrew McCutchen is in the lead but Buster Posey is making a strong second-half push. The Pirates and Giants are in a similar position, each vying for their division title, but also competing with each other for one of the two wild cards. Fasten your seat belt. It’s going to be an exciting ride.

We hoped you liked reading Buster Posey Making Strong Case For NL MVP by Wendy Thurm!

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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and NewYorker.com. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.

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lester bangs
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lester bangs

And Buster’s showing us how broken WAR is when it comes to catchers. Thanks Buster.

Thomas Grantham
Guest
Thomas Grantham

Please explain. I understand the defensive side, but specifically with Buster Posey, what do you mean?

Oren
Guest
Oren

As a Giants fan, I can say that Buster Posey has excellent defense. As well, he is definitely not fast, but usually can take an extra base and doesn’t actively hurt you on the basepaths. Offensively, his season and Johnny Bench’s 1972 season are comparable (Bench had a 155 wrc+ to Posey’s 158) – the only difference is fielding metrics (which are bad for most positions, but completely worthless for catchers) and baserunning metrics (which didn’t even exist in Bench’s time and seem to hate Posey more than they should). The difference because of these is 3 WAR, which is huge. I still think McCutchen should win the MVP if it were awarded tomorrow (even as a Giants fan), but I find it very hard to believe that with his ridiculous offensive numbers, Posey doesn’t have a higher WAR than he does now.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC

The problem is everyone “as a [blank] fan,” just about, thinks their catcher is great defensively.

Also, Posey should be dinged a bit for his offensive contributions because some of them come as a first baseman. I don’t think Bench did the same.

I’m not sure what you mean by “actively hurt you on the basepaths,” but if one guy is fast and one is slow, there is an actual difference in value there.

My echo and bunnymen
Guest

Buster Posey is hurting his value on the base paths in fWAR and rWAR too. Unless rWAR doesn’t include baserunning. His defense is considered average in rWAR and fWAR, so I think you may overrate his defense. On the eye test, he’s no Yadier or Cooch.

Oren
Guest
Oren

@TDKC, yeah, there is a bit of a bias there. However, comparing him to other catchers the Giants have had recently (Chris Stewart, Eli Whiteside, Hector Sanchez, Bengie Molina), I think Buster is a better defender than all of them, with the possible exception of Stewart. Now, those guys could just be way worse than average, but I’m not just saying that with no information.

I do agree that Buster should be dinged for his playing time as a first baseman, but that still doesn’t make up for the 3 win advantage that Bench’s 1972 season has. I’m not saying Buster is having that good a season, just that it’s probably closer than the WAR difference shows.

apistat
Guest
apistat

The problem is everyone “as a [blank] fan,” just about, thinks their catcher is great defensively.

I can guarantee you the Rockies don’t think this.

Pig.Pen
Guest
Pig.Pen

As a Nats fan watching Jesus Flores play I do not in any way shape or form think he is a good defensive catcher–hence Kurt Suzuki–so every fan does not in fact think that his catcher is good defensively. Most Nats fans would agree with me, but Fangraphs puts Flores’ RPP at 2.5 and his CPP at 33. Which me eyes tell me is terribly inaccurate and it’s not just me eyes, but Mike Rizzo must have agreed with me or else he wouldn’t have traded for a defense-first catcher like Suzuki.

jim
Guest
jim

@apistat

oh man, rosario and hernandez are sooo freaking bad

RoneFace
Guest
RoneFace

In 1970 Bench started 130 games at C, 17 in the OF, and 5 at 1B. There’s no way Posey is going to end up starting 130 games behind the plate or equal Bench’s total games played this season (in large part because of last year’s injury) but he’s also not going to benefit from spending a lot more time away from the plate than Bench did.

Rupert McTavish
Guest
Rupert McTavish

As a Manchester United fan, I can say that I have no idea who this Buster Posey chap even is.

Barry
Guest
Barry

Let’s not make too much of Posey’s stats as a 1st baseman. In the combined games that he played as something other than C (1b/DH/PH), he has 1 hr and 10 RBI, so the bulk of his offensive numbers are as a C.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC

Barry, why should that matter at all? If he stinks offensively at first base/DH, he is still depriving the team of good value. It all counts. Of course, since you cited RBI, I think you might just be new here.

williams .482
Member
Member
williams .482

I don’t fully understand what you mean. Can you elaborate?