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  • Comparing Joe Mauer and Buster Posey’s Hall of Fame Cases

    Cody Christie

    Buster Posey is set to retire, and speculation has already started about his chances at Cooperstown election. Since he played catcher in the same era as Joe Mauer, how do the two compare?

    Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports

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    On the surface, Joe Mauer and Buster Posey seem to have similar cases for Cooperstown. Mauer hit .306/.388/.439 (.827) while earning three Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, and six All-Star appearances. Posey hit .302/.372/.460 (.831) while earning a Gold Glove, four Silver Sluggers, and seven All-Star appearances. Both players won an MVP, and Posey won two fewer batting titles than Mauer. 

    JAWS is one way to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness as it averages their career WAR with their 7-year peak WAR. Mauer currently has the seventh-best JAWS total among catchers as he trails only Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fish, Mike Piazza, and Yogi Berra. Those are the best catchers in baseball history. 

    Posey doesn’t rank quite as well, according to JAWS, as he finished his career ranked 14th. This puts him below the average of the Hall of Famers at this position. However, other factors impact Posey’s candidacy. He was a three-time World Series champion, and that certainly plays a role in his Cooperstown case. 

    Mauer and Posey both have some unique characteristics for the voters to consider. Mauer is the only catcher to win three batting titles, and he topped the .400 OBP mark in six of his seasons at catcher. Posey finished in the top-20 for MVP voting in six seasons, including three in the top-10. Mauer finished in the top-20 in MVP voting in five different seasons with four seasons in the top-10. 

    Posey is in elite company when narrowing down his career to a six-year window. From 2012-2017, only Mike Trout had a higher fWAR total, and the next closest player is Josh Donaldson. Mauer’s best six-year stretch (2005-2010) ranks him as having baseball’s fourth-highest fWAR total behind Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, and Alex Rodriguez. He also played 70 fewer games than any of the players ahead of him on the list. 

    Another commonality between Posey and Mauer is that their careers ended earlier than some of the other greats at the position. Posey is walking away at age-34 after one of the best seasons of his career. After concussions, Mauer retired following his age-35 season, which forced him to become a primary first baseman for his final five seasons. 

    It seems like both players have a good chance of eventually getting inducted. Mauer becomes eligible for the first time in 2024, while Posey will be eligible in 2027. There will be plenty of talk about Posey being a Hall of Fame player as he rides off into the sunset. If that is the case, Mauer’s credentials should make him a lock for Cooperstown. 

    Do you think both Mauer and Posey will be elected to the Hall of Fame? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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    I have been seeing Mauer's name pop up more and more in articles about Posey.  That must be a help to him because it creates a recognition that could carry over to the HOF vote.  I would put both in as catchers.  Mauer was hurt by the concussion in more ways than changing position and it has to be considered when the vote is made.  It is not Mauer's fault that he could not continue catching until the end of his career.

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    I think they're both worthy.  Weirdly, Posey retiring now actually helps Mauer's case a little bit because they're pretty close comps for each other and there's definitely a lot of loud support for Posey already. If Posey had caught another two season and been decent, you would have more people using the excuse of "didn't play long enough at catcher" to exclude Mauer.

    Ten years ago, Mauer probably gets dinged for the concussion changing the trajectory of his career. With the voters being better educated on the meaning on that kind of injury, he's less likely to be "blamed" for it. Now, he's going to be seen as one of the great hitting catchers of all-time and an elite player. Plus, the national audience never had the same problem some locals did over him not piling up big RBI numbers (this is known as the "No one cares what Dan Barreiro thinks about baseball" rule).

    Posey has a great resume too. Tremendous bat skills (a little more power, a little worse of an eye at the plate, but otehrwise very similar to Mauer in many ways) and excellent defensively. Much like Mauer had one big season that was better than anything else and deservedly won the MVP. Similar challenges in missing significant time for injury, but always bounced back with another good season. The knock against Posey is going to be in the counting stats, where he doesn't have any significant ones to hang his hat on, but voters are less obsessed with guys with compilers now. For basically his whole career Posey was considered one of the top two catchers in the NL (and generally all of baseball), and most of that time he was the best catcher in his league (Molina might have edged him in 2013, but otherwise Posey was simply better than Molina no matter how many all-stars Molina grabbed). The 3 world series titles will help him get over the top, even if he wasn't particularly good in the postseason.

    Both great great player. Both easy hall picks for me.

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    Yes, both Joe Mauer and Buster Posey belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame. They dominated their position more than players such as Derek Jeter and many others ruled over their spots for their careers. I don't even think it should be close or a long discussion either; Mauer and Posey were clearly outstanding catchers for a significant time

    Catching cannot be compared to any other position in value. The rigors of the position and the enormous toll on the body are intense. Anyone who has caught one hundred games in a year can attest to the damage. The standards for longevity clearly are separate for a catcher. Yadier Molina has had a miraculous career and will also likely go into the Baseball Hall of Fame at some point. As amazing as Molina has been, both Mauer and Posey rank above him in lists of the great catchers. Jay Jaffe, who writes for Fangraphs, has a number of articles on Mauer and one on Posey just this week.

    The Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins  and the New York/San Francisco Giants franchises have been around for a long, long time. Mauer and Posey stand on top in those histories at their position. The fans were extremely lucky to have been witnesses to their careers.

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    Unfortunately this could easily turn into a one will, one won't situation. Posey not necessarily better, garnered more national fame for his World Series appearances. Mauer will probably need a lot more support drummed up on a national level.

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    I was hoping someone would write up the analysis - thanks Cody.  I question whether the value of the position - catcher - has increased in the Moneyball era; whether more catchers will be elected versus earlier eras.

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    I see really little daylight between the two players' resumes.  If one is in, the other is too.  If one is out, so is the other.

    I'm a big-Hall* guy, so both are an easy Yes for me.

    As an aside, bWAR would seem to give Joe a measurable edge over Buster, but a metric more like Wins Above Average has them as about equal across their careers.  WAR is a good enough tool for roster decisions, to consider what a player brings to the table compared to AAA fodder, but for Hall of Fame considerations I prefer to ask how much above-average they were over the long haul.


    * I'm sure I've said before, my version of big-Hall means to formalize the common notion of an Inner Circle within the official HOF, to make it easier for voters to include more fan favorites into the the Hall while allowing a measure of "purity" for the best of the best in that inner group.

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    Well I remember reading a lot of stuff that said that Mauer was kind of an outside candidate for the HOF.  But I've been reading a lot of stuff that says Posey is some sort of lock for the HOF.  To me if Posey and his 1500 hits is a lock then I'd think Mauer and his over 2100 hits should also be a lock.  If Mauer isn't a lock then no way should Posey be a lock in my opinion.

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    The only people who do not consider Joe Mauer a lock for the HoF are Twins fans who had a misunderstanding of his contract and felt betrayed by the concussions. **** happens and Mauer was about as tough as they come in sports. If I had a dollar for every time I read a comment from baseball fans across the country making derisive statements about the Twins fans lack of appreciation for Mauer, I could buy the most expensive truck on the market. 

    Mauer, Posey, and Molina should all be members in the HoF by the end of the decade. 

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    I think Mauer would have been a lock if he had retired (and therefore, forfeited his remaining millions) when he had the concussion. Like Puckett and Koufax (for example), there is a consideration for the lack of a lengthly career due to injury and forced retirement. Mauer was one of the best catchers that ever played the game.

    But......... he continued to play, and became an underwhelming bat at first base for many years, never made adjustments and became a feared power hitter (and he certainly had the size and and time to do it), and that will keep him out of the HOF. It might not be fair, as there is no doubt he was deserving as a catcher only, but the rest of the years count, too, and they are certainly not HOF caliber. My bet is that neither one gets in. But if I had a vote, I would vote for both. Molina, too.

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    5 hours ago, theBOMisthebomb said:

    I already have my hotel reservations in Cooperstown so I can witness the 2024 Hall of Fame induction of Joe Mauer. 

    Do they open the books for reservations that far in advance?


    One time someone told me to get reservations when they started taking them a year away from a wedding in a popular tourist place, i waited 6 months until the national park service opened their campsite reservations. I think i was the only one attending that wedding sleeping in a tent... Wonder if there is good camping near Cooper's town...

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    13 hours ago, Vanimal46 said:

    Molina, Posey, and Mauer are unquestionably the top catchers in baseball that we’ve seen in the last 20 years. All 3 should be represented in the HOF. Molina for his iron man longevity at the position, and the latter 2 for their utter dominance for multiple years. 

    I had a response quote of this, but it wasn't really accurate based on huge differences in WAR values. Also, I feel like catcher WAR has recently been heavily tweaked by Fangraphs? The WAR numbers I'm seeing seem to be much higher than Baseball Reference (driven by defense in many cases)

    I think Posey retiring now in what seems like a personal decision may cost him the HoF while Mauer will get in because of the concussion essentially forcing him out of baseball.

    Joe Mauer 52.5 fWAR, 55.2 bWAR. 1x MVP, 6x All Star

    Buster Posey 57.6 fWAR, 44.9 bWAR. 1x MVP, 7x All Star, 1 RoY, 3x World Series Champion

    Russell Martin with 55.1 fWAR and 38.8 bWAR. 4x All Star

    Brian McCann WAR is 54.5 fWAR and 32.0 bWAR. 7x All Star, 1x World Series Champion

    Grandal is still playin at a32 38.0 fWAR and 21.7 bWAR. 2x All Star.

    Posada is at 40.4 fWAR and 42.7 bWAR. 5x All Star. 5x World Series Champion

    Molina is at 55.6 fWAR, 42.1 bWAR. 10x All Star. 2x World Series Champion

    Honestly, with what feels like some dramatic tweaking recently, Joe Mauer should be an absolute lock. Posey with the awards is probably a lock as well... despite the much lower career bWAR. Only Mauer and Posey have the MVP cred of the group. Molina's 10 All Star appearances may get him in. Posada's 5 World Series Championships might get him in.

    McCann might have an outside shot, but Baseball Reference isn't kind to catcher value.

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    2 hours ago, DJL44 said:

    It took Ted Simmons a long time to get inducted. Mike Piazza took 3 tries and Gary Carter took 6 tries. I would hold off on any reservations.

    The first year on the ballot will probably say everything people need to know on their chances.

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    On 11/6/2021 at 10:47 AM, deanlambrecht said:

    Yadi Molina was the best of the three.  I think he easily deserves the HOF induction, and due to the truncated careers they had, Posey and Mauer probably don't make the cut.

    /flame away...


    Ok. Molina was the best defensive catcher of the three, but outside of his 3 season peak from 2011-2013, he never came anywhere close to Mauer's ability as a hitter. Molina only had 6 seasons where he was even a league-average hitter; Mauer only had one where he WASN'T. The last three seasons Molina has been basically as useful at the plate as 2021 Ryan Jeffers; even with a good rebound defensively, Molina had zero business being named to the all-star team this year and he's gotten way too much representation there based on reputation rather than performance. Whatever extra credit you might want to give Molina for continuing to catch at age 38 should be discounted by the fact that he's been below average as a starter for the past 5 years.

    Posey's resume looks fairly similar to Mauer and wins the comp to Molina as well. Excluding Posey's cup of coffee at age 22, much like Mauer he's been league average or better at the plater (by OPS+) every season he played but one.

    Molina's defense is great, but Posey & Mauer are so much better on offense that it's not really a hard call.

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    One of the most difficult things about catchers is trying to figure out how to grade their defense.

    When Mauer was healthy, he was elite at controlling the run game. Molina was legendary. Posey was good.

    Catcher framing and pitch framing was in its infancy when Mauer was in his prime, but as I recall, he was mediocre, often getting the high calls, but not the low ones. There's also significant deviation between the metrics on different sites. Overall, Posey would be legendary, Molina is average and Mauer was average, but didn't have the opportunity to hone the skill.

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    Mauer will get in easily. Probably second ballot. Depends on what the voters do with A-rod. I'm not sure I would vote for Molina (not a good hitter, only 42 bWAR, and I wouldn't vote for Omar Vizquel either) or Posey (only 44 bWAR and not enough counting stats). 

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    I think both Posey and Mauer are easy cases to get into the Hall because the Hall (ie. its voters) need to reevaluate what is expected from a "Hall of Fame catcher" because the threshold is too damned high. We commonly use 70 WAR as a HoF baseline and without looking I'm 98% sure no catcher has hit that threshold in the past 25 years. Maybe Gary Carter was the last to do it? He retired 30 years ago while his career started over 45 years ago (not looking at any of the stats, going from memory here).

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    3 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    I think both Posey and Mauer are easy cases to get into the Hall because the Hall (ie. its voters) need to reevaluate what is expected from a "Hall of Fame catcher" because the threshold is too damned high. We commonly use 70 WAR as a HoF baseline and without looking I'm 98% sure no catcher has hit that threshold in the past 25 years. Maybe Gary Carter was the last to do it? He retired 30 years ago while his career started over 45 years ago (not looking at any of the stats, going from memory here).

    Pudge Rodriguez got close to that threshold, but Piazza made it in with under 60 bWAR.

    Part of where it's going to get interesting is the difference between fWAR and bWAR when it comes to assessing defensive value. You've got huge differences between those two when looking at guys like Russell Martin and Brian McCann (as noted above); fWAR is very kind to catchers who stay back there their whole careers. I'm just not sure voters are going to look at Martin & McCann and see then in the same class as Mauer & Posey. Molina is an equally interesting case: he'll have a passionate fan base behind him, but so much of his value is tied to his defense, and fWAR would tell you that in many years McCann & Martin were just as good behind the dish. (It should be funny to hear outrage from Cards fans when someone says Martin was as good as Molina...)

    If there's a loud group that starts in with "these guys were all the same value" then it's going to get really interesting. Will the voters be willing to recognize 4-5 catchers whose careers overlapped to some extent? History says no, but catching is also recognized as being underrepresented in the Hall by many.

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