WAR and OPS+ Leader

Buster Posey led the NL in WAR (both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs; all further cites are to the B-R version). He’s just the 3rd catcher ever to lead his league in WAR (7.2), joining Johnny Bench (7.1, 1970) and Gary Carter (8.3, 1982). No American League backstop has ever led his league in WAR, and no catcher has ever been the MLB WAR leader.

Posey’s 7.2 WAR tied for the 7th-best ever by a catcher. The #1 figure was 8.5, shared by Bench ’72 and Mike Piazza ’97. Half of all 7-WAR years by catchers came from Bench (3) and Carter (2) combined; Joe MauerDarrell Porter and Carlton Fisk join Piazza and Posey with one apiece.

Posey is also the 3rd catcher ever to lead his league in OPS+, joining Mike Piazza (1995, ’97) and Joe Mauer (2009). Posey’s 172 OPS+ (tops in both leagues) was the 2nd-best by a catcher in modern history, trailing only Piazza’s 185 from 1997 (and tied with Mike’s 172 in ’95).

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ROY & MVP

Both Posey and Bench won Rookie of the Year in their 2nd season and MVP in their 4th. The other catcher to win both awards, Thurman Munson, was ROY in year 2 and MVP in year 8.

The full list of catchers to win ROY, with their rookie WAR and career WAR:

(Did I miss anyone? Is it really true that none of the first 40 ROY awards went to a catcher?)

And here are the catchers who’ve won MVP Awards, with their age and WAR in the MVP year(s):

(The first four catchers to win MVP pre-dated the ROY Award, but it’s highly doubtful that any would have won it if it had existed. Only Cochrane played more than half-time in what we would consider his rookie year, and while he was outstanding, the hypothetical 1925 ROY probably would have gone to Earle Combs.)

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First 4 Years

Among all catchers in MLB history through their first four seasons, Posey ranks 10th with 12.1 career WAR. He’s the 19th catcher with 12+ WAR through age 25, including 19th-century stars Buck Ewing and Fred Carroll. (Ewing lasted a dozen more years and made the Hall of Fame; Carroll was finished at 26.)

Among the 175 catchers with 200+ games played in their first four years, Posey trails only Mike Piazza with an average of 5.9 WAR per 150 games (tied with Carlton Fisk).

With 12.1 career WAR, Posey is already more than halfway to making the all-time top 50 among catchers. (Chris Hoiles currently ranks 50th with 22.1 WAR.)

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Looking Ahead

Although catching will always be a perilous profession (as Posey can attest), since the advent of decent protective gear, elite young catchers have proven surprisingly durable and productive. Among the 22 retired catchers since 1920 who notched 8+ WAR and 1,000+ PAs in their first four years (see table below):

  • They averaged 38.2 career WAR (after 10.9 in their first four years). Their career WAR averaged 3.5 times that of their first four years.
  • 19 of the 22 had career WAR at least double that of their first four years (all but Rick Wilkins, Jody Davis and Clay Dalrymple), and 14 of 22 at least tripled their early returns.
  • 13 of the 22 reached at least 30 career WAR. (Only seven other catchers in this span reached 30 WAR.)
  • 12 of the 22 amassed 20+ WAR after their first four years.
  • They averaged 4.1 WAR per 150 games in their first four years, 3.2 WAR/150 thereafter, and 3.4 for their career.
  • 15 of 22 played at least 1,000 games after their first four years.

It is worth noting that two of the five most productive players from that group spent the majority of their “after” years at another position (Craig Biggio and Joe Torre). Posey has logged 19% of his career innings at 1B, but he caught more this year (post-shattered ankle) than in his first full year, and he was 4th in the NL with 114 games caught.

Retired catchers with 8+ WAR and 1,000+ PA in first 4 years, since 1920:

Rk Player WAR OPS+ PA From To Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG Tm
1 Johnny Bench 17.5 125 1963 1967 1970 19-22 486 1787 254 502 101 8 87 326 139 303 .281 .330 .492 CIN
2 Mike Piazza 16.3 151 1592 1992 1995 23-26 389 1455 232 469 62 2 92 304 122 243 .322 .375 .557 LAD
3 Roy Campanella 15.7 135 1883 1948 1951 26-29 482 1657 257 484 85 9 95 324 211 183 .292 .375 .526 BRO
4 Thurman Munson 12.6 114 1708 1969 1972 22-25 423 1501 190 415 57 13 24 150 166 189 .276 .353 .380 NYY
5 Jim Sundberg 12.4 83 2018 1974 1977 23-26 576 1741 184 419 66 8 18 171 203 276 .241 .321 .319 TEX
6 Mickey Cochrane 12.0 115 2004 1925 1928 22-25 511 1690 291 523 75 32 36 239 226 66 .309 .393 .456 PHA
7 Manny Sanguillen 11.9 110 1653 1967 1971 23-27 425 1574 191 493 70 20 19 207 52 137 .313 .336 .419 PIT
8 Butch Wynegar 11.8 93 2356 1976 1979 20-23 577 2024 244 518 85 6 31 250 268 202 .256 .344 .350 MIN
9 Carlton Fisk 11.1 130 1126 1969 1973 21-25 282 1018 146 274 51 10 50 138 90 194 .269 .336 .486 BOS
10 Rick Wilkins 10.9 114 1367 1991 1994 24-27 405 1206 163 317 66 4 51 156 137 294 .263 .342 .451 CHC
11 Rudy York 10.4 140 1357 1934 1939 20-25 344 1173 223 355 61 6 88 298 175 179 .303 .395 .590 DET
12 Gary Carter 9.9 113 1561 1974 1977 20-23 398 1363 180 363 57 5 55 196 161 231 .266 .343 .437 MON
13 Craig Biggio 9.5 104 1870 1988 1991 22-25 483 1667 210 454 74 9 24 153 162 243 .272 .339 .371 HOU
14 Bill Dickey 9.4 118 1410 1928 1931 21-24 379 1305 181 428 73 24 21 210 74 52 .328 .364 .469 NYY
15 Joe Torre 9.3 114 1247 1960 1963 19-22 337 1129 120 323 48 9 29 139 94 164 .286 .344 .422 MLN
16 Tom Haller 8.6 119 1194 1961 1964 24-27 344 1020 133 254 36 5 50 155 149 178 .249 .347 .441 SFG
17 Tony Pena 8.5 108 1347 1980 1983 23-26 363 1270 121 382 60 9 28 151 56 157 .301 .332 .428 PIT
18 Charles Johnson 8.4 97 1303 1994 1997 22-25 345 1128 122 272 55 3 44 143 147 275 .241 .331 .412 FLA
19 Jody Davis 8.2 104 1802 1981 1984 24-27 487 1631 166 427 81 7 59 251 137 312 .262 .317 .429 CHC
20 Clay Dalrymple 8.2 94 1565 1960 1963 23-26 476 1358 114 342 45 9 30 157 160 138 .252 .335 .365 PHI
21 Benito Santiago 8.1 96 1658 1986 1989 21-24 431 1562 173 413 73 7 47 193 68 295 .264 .296 .410 SDP
22 Lance Parrish 8.1 110 1495 1977 1980 21-24 384 1380 191 366 73 12 60 195 96 297 .265 .316 .466 DET
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used /Generated 11/21/2012.

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