Roundtable: Is Posey a Hall of Famer?

November 4th, 2021

’s retirement announcement on Thursday sparked a lot of Hall of Fame chatter -- is the All-Star catcher and three-time World Series champion headed to Cooperstown? gathered to discuss.

Alyson Footer, moderator/editor: First question is the most obvious question: Is Buster Posey a Hall of Famer, and if so, is he a first-ballot Hall of Famer? He'll first be eligible in 2027.

Mark Feinsand, executive reporter: Yes and yes. I actually don’t think it’s much of a question.

Sarah Langs, reporter/producer: He is indeed a Hall of Famer, and I think he should be a first-ballot HOFer based on his résumé -- including some intangible factors. Will he be first-ballot? That I am less sure of -- just based on how we see voting tend to go. But I look forward to everyone telling me to stop being a pessimist (a rarity for me!) … or realist!

Maria Guardado, Giants beat reporter: Yes, I believe so. Sure, his counting stats might be a little light, but he basically checked every single other box imaginable, and it's hard to overstate just how important he's been to the Giants over the last 12 years. His arrival ushered in the golden era of Giants baseball, with three championship titles in five years -- not even Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Barry Bonds managed to do that in San Francisco.

Feinsand: Posey has an NL Rookie of the Year Award, an NL Most Valuable Player Award, and he was one of the most important players on three World Series champions. His stats might not look like “Hall of Fame” numbers, but I think catchers are judged a little differently when it comes to overall numbers.

Footer: So we’re all in agreement he’s headed to Cooperstown. I think the only reason this is a question is because he won’t have the longevity as a “typical” Hall of Famer. What specifically stands out to you in terms of his candidacy? For example, for me, winning three rings, while playing the most taxing position on the field, and rightfully earning the status as the best player at his position throughout his prime are all big ones.

Feinsand: Players with résumés like Posey’s don’t necessarily need to have the longevity. That comes into play more with guys like Craig Biggio, whose overall numbers warrant HOF consideration because they never had those huge standout seasons.

Langs: Exactly. Posey’s career OPS+ is tied for second highest among players to catch at least 1,000 games, and again, an MVP and ROY who guided three championship teams -- one as a rookie.

Feinsand: See, this is why I like Sarah being here. She can put those numbers into context. Second-highest OPS+ for any catcher ever? If that’s not a Hall of Famer, I don’t know what is.

MLB also changed a rule because of him. How many players can say that??

Langs: I also wonder if the "typical" begins to change. We’ve already seen bits of that -- and I’m not saying any Hall of Famer is more or less deserving. But we have relievers now, primary DHs, so the perception is already beginning to broaden.

Feinsand: Posey finished his career with a .302/.372/.460 slash line (.831 OPS) while producing stellar defense behind the plate. There really isn’t much you can criticize him for other than the number of years he played, and obviously his decision to sit out the 2020 season is unlikely to be a factor for voters, all of whom lived through the same pandemic.

Guardado: I think the three World Series titles are the big one. He had this remarkable ability to elevate the performance of everyone around him. Just look at how the Giants performed when they lost Posey in 2011 to the horrific ankle injury and when he opted out in '20 -- they weren't the same without him. Same goes for when he was compromised with the hip injury for a couple of years.

Langs: Highest OPS+, min. 1,000 career games at catcher:

Mike Piazza: 143
Buster Posey: 129
Mickey Cochrane: 129
Bill Dickey: 127

Footer: This chart in Jay Jaffe’s FanGraphs examination also speaks volumes. Players with at least 1,000 games caught, 1,500 hits and 120 OPS+: Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza, Bill Dickey, Gabby Harnett, Mickey Cochrane, Posey, Jorge Posada and Ernie Lombardi. The only two on the list not in the Hall are Posey and Posada. That presents quite a case for Posey, no?

Guardado: Yeah, and I think Posey was also the superior defender to Posada, right?

Langs: Definitely, at least by metrics we have now -- he was a great framer, something we gained the ability to quantify during his career.

Feinsand: Posey was far superior to both Posada and Piazza behind the plate.

In some ways, I think his case will also be helped by the fact that he retired early and was an All-Star in his final season. If it was about compiling numbers, he could have hung on. But he went out as an above-average player on a 107-win team.

Langs: His .304 batting average in 2021 would be tied for sixth highest in a final season in the Divisional Era. I think going out on top helps cement this.

Highest BA in final career season in Divisional Era (1969), min 400 PA:

2000 Will Clark: .319
2016 David Ortiz: .315
1995 Kirby Puckett: .314
1972 Roberto Clemente: .312
1999 Dave Nilsson: .309
1979 Lou Brock: .304

Buster Posey hit .304 in 2021, so he’d join the list.

Feinsand: When the Giants got off to their amazing start this season, I had several people around the Giants telling me that the biggest difference was Posey. His work behind the plate was superb, and he was like having a second pitching coach out there. His impact on the Giants has been incredible for more than a decade.

Footer: It seems like the team falls apart when Posey isn’t around. That’s … something.

Langs: And he put forth remarkable consistency when he did play. Our colleague Andrew Simon put this out earlier: From 2010-21, Buster Posey caught 96.4 percent of the Giants’ postseason innings. That includes 140 of 142 innings (98.6 percent) in the World Series. Absolutely being there when it counted.

Guardado: I think about the career seasons that Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Logan Webb had this year -- I'm sure Posey had a lot to do with that as well. Gausman specifically said he wanted to re-sign with the Giants to have the chance to work with Posey.

Feinsand: Puckett is an interesting comp. His career was cut short by glaucoma, and while he only played 10 years, his role on the two Twins title teams was a huge factor in his first-ballot election. The same should go for Posey.

Footer: So we'll have some older school folks point to his 1,500 hits and 158 homers and say, "nah." But that style of thinking is somewhat going away?

Langs: I think it should. But I also think that same crowd would be very motivated by the three titles.

Guardado: I think Hall of Fame voters have a lot more information at their disposal these days, including Jay Jaffe's JAWS metric, which has become a very helpful tool when considering players' cases for induction into Cooperstown.

Feinsand: I think so. To me, the first thing I think of when I assess a player’s HOF chances is: Was he the best player at his position for a period of his career? For Posey, that answer is a resounding yes. Like I said before, counting stats don’t hold as much weight when it comes to catchers, especially great defenders who won multiple World Series titles.

Posey only won one Gold Glove, but that’s because he had the misfortune of playing in the same era as Yadier Molina.

Footer: The Molina comps will come fast and furious over the next couple of years. As a side note, does this group feel that Yadi is also a Hall of Famer?

Feinsand: I think so, though I must admit, I wasn’t as certain until the past year or two when I really dug into it. Unlike Posey, who was the best player on those Giants teams, Molina’s titles came with some guy named Albert Pujols on the team.

Guardado: I think Yadi is probably a Hall of Famer as well. That longevity as a catcher is amazing.

Langs: I do think Yadi’s argument is so different -- I do think it’s longevity. I think he will get in for that reason.

Feinsand: Yadi doesn’t have the same offensive case as Posey, but his longevity and defense should get him in. Nine Gold Gloves at that position isn’t anything to sneeze at.

Footer: Let's end with this: Posey is a Hall of Famer and this group believes he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But realistically, how long do you think it'll take him to get in?

Feinsand: First ballot. He’ll have my vote, that’s for certain.

Langs: Oh boy. I think it depends a bit on how the ballot looks that year. If Pujols retires, I wonder if Posey, as the other newcomer on the ballot that year, becomes second ballot. If Pujols plays in 2022, I’d be more confident predicting Posey gets that solo spotlight and gets in the first time around. Again, I’d vote him first ballot if I had a vote, and think he should be first ballot (and I think if you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer), but I'm trying to assess based on trends we’ve seen.

Guardado: I grew up in the Bay Area, and I currently cover the Giants, so it's kind of hard to escape the echo chamber right now. Pretty much everyone around here believes he'll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but I think there could be voters in other parts of the country who might not feel the same way. I guess there's a chance he might not make it in on his first try, but I think he'll end up in Cooperstown eventually.

Feinsand: One other thing to consider ...

Players that have “clogged up the ballot” in recent years such as Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Curt Schilling will no longer be on the ballot when Posey first appears. That could help him get in, as it’s less likely that voters will want to put more than 10 players on their ballot.