Sometime last week, as I was getting dressed, I noticed that my Buster Posey shirsey had holes in it. The holes weren’t even at normal spots for wear and tear, around the collar or under the armpit. The holes were right on the back, one underneath the “2” and the other underneath the “8,” as if the fabric were disintegrating. I lamented this fact to my partner, and she replied, “How long have you had that shirt?”
“Six years.” I bought the shirt during his MVP season.
“T-shirts don’t last forever.”
I mourned for the shirt, certainly. Those things are like 30 friggin’ bucks. But it also made me realize, more so than the Giants selecting a catcher with their first pick, that Buster Posey isn’t a rookie or even a young player anymore. He’s a crusty vet with greying sideburns. He turned down going to the All-Star game mostly because his back was killing him, and because he’s been there, done that.
He’s had to play through injury, and last night, he came out of the game after feeling light-headed following a foul-tip to the face mask. The Giants are optimistic that he will avoid going to the concussion DL, but where have we heard that before.
It may be that I’m still firmly entrenched in Cubs Twitter, but I see a lot of people throwing around that Willson Contreras is the best catcher is baseball. Lately, I’ve been seeing JT Realmuto’s name getting brought up, too.
Posey is having a down year, but you know what? He’s still better than every other catcher in baseball.
Francisco Cervelli is having an unexpectedly great year. Willson Contreras has an OPS 100 points higher than Posey. Yasmani Grandal refuses to go away. JT Realmuto is going to get some down-ballot MVP consideration. Oh, and I guess Cardinals fans still think Yadier Molina is the best catcher in baseball, which is adorable.
With each of these players, there’s either a major hole in their game, they’re doing something unsustainable, or they haven’t done it as long as Posey has. Posey may not lead in one particular category, but he is the most complete catcher in the majors.
Contreras is a great hitter, but he’s a terrible catcher. He’s consistently near the bottom of the framing runs leaderboard, and he can’t block balls and his game calling is suspect.
Posey has accumulated more WARP (56.1) than Molina (54.5) in six fewer seasons and he’s four years younger.
Francisco Cervelli is basically this year’s Tyler Flowers without the framing.
That leaves Realmuto and Grandal who have been better than Posey this year, but you don’t have to go far back to see that Posey been the best overall. Since 2016, his combined 16.8 WARP is the most among catchers and the distance only grows the further you go back. It’s not as if Grandal or Realmuto are spring chickens either. Grandal is 29 and Realmuto is 27, so they might have a couple more seasons of putting up this kind of value before regressing like Posey.
While he may not be topping the framing runs leaderboards anymore, Posey is still a great framer. He’s definitely not hanging out at the bottom like Willson Contreras. The only catcher above him who have been better a better hitter than him this is Yasmani Grandal, and I’m not convinced is this good of a hitter. Let’s put it this way: Posey is putting up his second-lowest wRC+ of his career in 2018, and it’s just a point below Grandal’s career average. Grandal might be the better framer, but I would bet on Posey’s bat going forward.
JT Realmuto might be a better hitter than Posey in the years to come, but Posey is the better defender even after his framing numbers fell off the table.
Posey is the active leading catcher in WARP, and it’s hard to imagine that any active catcher will overtake him. Not Grandal, not Realmuto, and certainly not Contreras. Posey is the once and future king. Long may he reign.