Under normal circumstances, I would consider it ludicrous to argue against a guy hitting .327/.402/.531/.933 winning an MVP award. The 20 HR and 87 RBI certainly strengthen the case for Buster Posey at least being in the conversation. He plays the most demanding position on the field, and he accounts for 5.5 WAR this season on a team leading its division by 5.5 games.
Then again, an argument can be made that he does not even rate as the best catcher in the NL. Yadier Molina has put together a career year, and he deserves as much consideration as Posey does (if not more). Yadi’s line of .321/.373/.505/.877 with 18 HR and 65 RBI falls just short of the offensive pace set by Posey, but the debate does not end there. Posey gives the Giants 5.8 oWAR but just 0.1 dWAR. Molina gives the Cardinals a more balanced 4.1 oWAR and 2.2 dWAR.
One of these players provides a lot of offense and happens to play catcher. The other plays catcher and happens to provide a lot of offense. Say all you want about Posey, but you cannot avoid the incontrovertible truth that he has played 22 games at 1B for a total of 163.0 innings. He also has 3 games as a DH under his belt. Molina has 984.0 innings at catcher and just 9.0 innings at 1B. Posey hits primarily from the #4 spot in the San Francisco lineup. The bulk of Molina’s plate appearances come in the #6 spot – typically accompanied by a light hitting middle infielder as lineup “protection”.
Posey has already had 159 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. Molina? 109. To Posey’s credit he’s hitting .355/.447/.548/.995 with runners in scoring position. Then again, Molina hits .340/.407/.532/.939 in the same situation. With 2 outs and RISP, Posey bats just .208/.387/.354/.741, and he’s a .313 hitter “late and close”. With 2 outs and ducks on the pond in scoring position, Molina gives the Cardinals .320/.393/.520/.913, and he’s a .338 in “late and close” situations. Posey wins the battle in a tie game with an OPS of 1.164 to Molina’s .848. The end result is a 33 to 19 RBI advantage for Posey who also happens to get far more opportunities in that situation (145 pa to 100).
One of these guys throws out base stealers at a 45% clip. The other is Posey (29%). The league average is 26%. Molina has yielded just 32 stolen bases this season. Posey has given away 80 bonus base passes. Naturally, many more attempts have been made against him, but throwing out just 32 of 112 seems a bit low for an “elite catcher”.
Of course, the debate between Posey and Molina basically could amount to a moot point. Andrew McCutchen has basically carried the Pirates all season and has given them a legitimate shot at finishing the season with a .500 record or better. If you believe that the MVP must come from a playoff contender, then maybe you should just take your elitist attitude out of my sandbox. If any player in the NL has been more “valuable” to a team than McCutchen, then I have yet to see him play. Cutch carries a .966 OPS for a team that doesn’t have another regular within 100 points of that.
When the debate points bring you to a logical conclusion, I believe the following to be true:
- Posey would not have quite the production numbers he has if not for Melky Cabrera hitting .363/.401/.547/.948 in the #3 spot this season (before getting suspended for being a really bad cheater).
- Molina would not merit consideration without being in a stacked lineup with a bunch of .800+ OPS guys.
- The Pirates would be on the way to the team’s 20th consecutive losing season if not for McCutchen accounting for 6.2 of the team’s 13.3 WAR provided by batters.
Maybe we should change the discourse to focus on Cutch instead of the guys who catch.