Maybe you didn’t immediately think of what effect the coronavirus-forced shutdown of baseball would have on the Hall of Fame chances for your favorite players, including San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. I didn’t.
But I don’t spend as much time thinking about Cooperstown odds as Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs. Jaffe is best known for creating JAWs, a formula that helps assess the Hall of Fame chances of players based on their career peak and longevity, compared to players who are already enshrined.
Starting last week, he began a three-part series that looked at how shortened or missing seasons have played a role in voters’ decisions in the past. Part one looked at the obvious reasons for missing chunks of playing time, such as service during wars or strike/lockout shortened years.
Mike Trout? Not much. Others? Maybe a little bit more.
So I thought I’d take a look to see what Jaffe said about Posey.
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Is Buster Posey a Hall of Famer?
Jaffe notes that Posey has already accomplished a number of things, including winning Rookie of the Year and MVP awards and starting at catcher for three World Series championship teams. He’s been a Silver Slugger four times, as well as a Gold Glove winner.
Posey would also have one of the highest peaks among catchers in the Hall of Fame, too, with 37 WAR during his seven year peak. He has 41.8 WAR for his career, to go along with a .302 batting average, 140 home runs, and 673 RBI.
One thing that Jaffe noticed in his research: while borderline players who lost time to wars eventually made it, those who lost time for other reasons did not. The Hall of Fame hurdles we think of (3000 hits, 300 wins, 500 homers) might be sure thing numbers, but lower plateaus like 2000 hits or 400 homers can still help make or break a player’s case, too.
This might matter for Posey, who is about to enter his age-33 season.
"(The) biggest concern with regards to his Hall chances is his hit total, as he has just 1,380. If he’s only averaging 125 hits per year, which is right about where our Depth Charts projected him this spring, that’s a five-season pace [to clear 2000 hits], and while the extended break may help to heal his weary body, that still means he has to be productive through his age-38 season."
That 125 pace, which falls about midway between his 2017 and 2018 figures, would put Posey at 2,005. So losing half the season could push that to age 39. Even for a catcher moving to a different position (Jaffe suggests first base, after Brandon Belt is no longer there), that might be a lot to ask. Posey hasn’t played a “full” year since 2017, topping out at 105 games in 2018 after a hip injury and 114 games last year. Joe Mauer retired after his age 35 season.
It’s safe to say the delay or shutdown of the season hurts Posey’s MLB Hall of Fame chances.