You’ve probably seen it by now, but Rob Neyer and Jonah Keri have been going back and forth about whether or not Yankees’ catcher Jorge Posada is a Hall of Famer. Neyer says nay, Keri says ay. Fortunately, we can some fancy statistics to compare Posada to other Hall of Fame catchers. I prefer using wins above replacement, or WAR. If you aren’t familiar with it, head over to FanGraphs’ glossary, scroll all the way down, and read the seven part series explaining how the stat works. If you’re not in the mood to do that, then just trust me that it measures offense and defense relative to position.
Since FanGraphs’ WAR data only goes back to 2002, we’ll get it from Sean Smith’s wonderful Baseball Projection site, which has WAR data going back to 1955. There are 12 catchers presently in the Hall of Fame, but just three (Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, and Carlton Fisk) played their entire career after 1955, so they’re going to be our basis of comparison by default. We can also add Pudge Rodriguez and Mike Piazza to that mix because they’ll certainly be enshrined in Cooperstown at some point.
The graph below shows each players’ WAR by season, starting with the best. Year One is the best season of the player’s career, Year Two is the second best season, Year Three is the third best, and so on. Plotting the data this way allows us to see how the players compare at their best, at their worst, and everything in between. Enough talk, here’s the graph. Make sure to click for a larger view.
As you can see, Posada’s clearly a notch below the other catchers. His three best seasons (2000, 2003, 2007) aren’t as good as the three best seasons of the five other players, and in general he’s been less productive over the course of his career. This isn’t meant to discredit Posada at all. A catcher who’s worth just about three wins or better in 9 of his 13 big league seasons is an incredibly valuable player, but his career hasn’t met the standards set by other Hall of Fame backstops.
The beauty of WAR is that it allows us to compare the value of players who play different positions since it uses the appropriate adjustments. Thanks to this, we can see how Posada’s career stacks up to the newest Hall of Famer, Mr. Jim Rice.
Well well well, look at that. Rice has Posada beat at his peak, but Posada has the advantage at pretty much every point after that. Rice amassed 42.9 WAR in his 16-year career (0.3 more than Mike Cameron), good enough for 133rd all time. Posada was sitting at 41.6 WAR in his 13 seasons coming into the year, and despite his hamstring injury he’s zoomed past Rice by putting up another 1.5 WAR this year, leaving his current career total at 43.1. With another two seasons left on his contract, Posada will leave Rice in the dust in all likelihood. Now, WAR doesn’t factor in fearedness, but I suspect that wouldn’t change much since it’s a load of crap.
Personally, no, I don’t think Posada’s a Hall of Famer. Hell, I don’t think he’s any better than a borderline candidate to have his number 20 retired. Hall of Very Good? Absolutely. Hall of Fame? Nah.
What do you guys think, is Georgie a HOFer? Talk about that, or whatever else you want here. Just be nice.