Buster Posey: Can He Turn into the National League Version of Joe Mauer?
It is not often catchers make any fan say, "Wow!" Usually catchers like this have a bust of themselves in Cooperstown.
So when a catcher like this comes along, you have no choice but to take notice.
When two come along, there is no choice but to compare them.
This is where Joe Mauer and Buster Posey come in.
Mauer has been the epitome of catching prowess since his rookie year in 2005. Hits for average, hits for power, great arm and handles a staff as well as anyone in the game.
He is the gold standard, for now.
Posey is the new kid on the block and being heralded as the best Giants position player of any kind to come out of the farm system since Will Clark.
High praise but well deserved to this point.
To examine these two phenoms, we will break down each part of their game.
How do their numbers stack up? Well, let's see.
Batting average - Joe Mauer
Both have an amazing ability to hit the ball anyway they want.
They have level swings that allow them to inside-out the ball, go back up the middle or drive the ball.
But for this we are talking about batting average.
In Mauer's first full season in Minnesota, he played in 131 games and batted .294.
Posey in year in first full year? Okay, he hasn't played a full year but the phenom is batting .339.
This seems like it would translate well for his career.
But you have to look deeper into the numbers. Mauer had 489 at bats that year. Posey is currently at 286.
As the season has gone along, Posey's average has steadily decreased as the league becomes familiar with him. No surprise.
The surprise to learn is his strikeout rate. Posey strikes out just under 13 percent of the time.
Mauer was just above 13 percent.
More contact means better chance of getting a hit.
However, after Mauer's first season, he has gone on to win three batting titles. In fact, Mauer hit .347 his second season.
No sophomore slump. Mauer wins this category.
Power - Buster Posey
Posey has played in 76 games and has 10 home runs.
Joe Mauer has hit over 10 home runs only twice in his career.
During Mauer's first season, he hit nine home runs. The following season he hit 13.
His nine home runs in 489 at bats means he hit a home run every 54 at bats.
Posey hits one every 28 at bats. He hits them nearly twice as often as Mauer did.
Posey has shown, in his college and minor league careers, to be more of a run producer than Mauer. According to Baseball-Reference.com, in a 162 games, Posey would be on pace for 95 RBIs.
Joe Mauer has done than once. It also was not until his fifth full season.
Power goes to Posey.
OPS - Buster Posey
The ultimate weight of a batter's effectiveness is measured in... OPS.
Yes, that ever important on-base plus slugging statistic.
Posey's OPS is currently .886.
Mauer's OPS during his rookie year was .783.
Buster has Mauer beat by more than .100! As impressive as that is Mauer improved from .783 to .936 his second season.
This is the challenge. Mauer went from top rookie to top catcher within a year.
Posey has proven he has the ability. He now has to put it into action.
With a .375 on-base percentage, Posey has proven he is willing to take pitches and be patient. That plus the power mentioned in the last slide, his OPS should continue to grow.
Arm - Push
Like a rightfielder, the most intimidating part of a catcher is their arm.
When you think of strong arms, you think of Pudge Rodriguez in his prime, Benito Santiago from his knees.
Joe Mauer has led the league in base runners caught stealing once (2007) and carried a caught stealing percentage of 43 percent during his rookie year.
To be fair, Posey has only caught 35 percent of base stealers.
But when you look at Posey's amount of time behind the plate, he has not had the repetitions as of yet. He also has a pitching staff that does not hold runners well (Lincecum, Sanchez, etc.).
Also, Mauer's career throwing out runners? Thirty-seven percent.
There is time and this doesn't determine a clear winner.
Defense - Joe Mauer
Joe Mauer has two Gold Gloves. He won his first in his fourth season.
In his first season, he yielded a .993 fielding percentage with five errors and six passed balls.
Buster Posey has yet to let the ball pass him. But he has committed five errors in far fewer chances than Mauer did.
Mauer has never caught more than 140 games in a given year. In fact, he has only caught more than 120 once.
In the long run, Posey will probably end up playing more games behind the plate than does Mauer, getting more opportunities to succeed or fail.
Mauer is kept healthy due to the DH in the American League. The more rest he gets, the better he is behind the plate.
Final Evaluation - Buster will be better
If you asked any sensible person, "Who is the best catcher in baseball?" they will, very quickly, say, "Joe Mauer."
Two time batting champ, two-time Gold Glove winner, four-time All-Star, American League MVP.
But Mauer did not have the impact Buster Posey has had since arriving in the big leagues. He is one of the biggest reasons for the Giants turnaround this season.
At the beginning of July, the Giants were stumbling along and were in danger of dropping to .500.
After that, Bengie Molina was traded, officially making Posey the starting catcher. Since then, the Giants are 31-20.
Not only has he handled the staff, he has been as offensively efficient as a hitter can be.
He has the plate presence of Mike Piazza and the defensive awareness of Rodriguez.
The combination of the two makes for a much brighter, if possible, outlook than Mauer had in 2005.
I know it is earlier to declare anything about a 23 year old rookie but he is about as polished a rookie could be.
In any case, Posey will be one of the best, if not the best, catcher in baseball for a long time.