As expected, Buster Posey won the NL MVP vote in a landslide, collecting 27 of 32 first-place votes.
1. His team made the playoffs. Of the other top candidates, only Molina's Cardinals reached the playoffs, and they squeezed in as the second wild card. Since the implementation of the wild card in 1995, only six MVP winners have come from non-playoff teams (Larry Walker in 1997; Barry Bonds in 2001 and 2004; Alex Rodriguez in 2003; Ryan Howard in 2006; and Albert Pujols in 2008). In an otherwise heated debate, tie goes to the guy with the better teammates. This was best exemplified last year, when Justin Verlander beat out Jacoby Ellsbury and Braun beat Matt Kemp.
2. The arc of the Posey narrative. Rookie of the year to gruesome season-ending injury to comeback season. It is a great story, although Posey's candidacy certainly went beyond that. The stats are impressive as well: A league-leading .336 average and 172 OPS+; second in the league in OBP and fourth in slugging percentage, despite playing in a tough hitter's park (17 of Posey's 24 home runs came on the road); solid defense behind the plate plus the flexibility to play first base; hitting .367 in the final two months, most of which teammate Melky Cabrera missed because of his PED suspension.
It's an award statheads and traditionalists can agree upon as Posey also led the NL in Baseball-Reference WAR:
It's rare for a catcher to rate so high in WAR. During the integration era (1947 on), only 22 catcher-seasons rated 6.5 or higher. Posey's 7.2 ranks seventh, which puts his season in historic context:
1. Mike Piazza, 1997 Dodgers: 8.5
2. Johnny Bench, 1972 Reds: 8.5*
3. Gary Carter, 1982 Expos: 8.3
4. Johnny Bench, 1974 Reds: 7.7
5. Joe Mauer, 2009 Twins: 7.6*
6. Darrell Porter, 1979 Royals: 7.4
7. Buster Posey, 2012 Giants: 7.2*
8. Gary Carter, 1984 Expos: 7.2
9. Johnny Bench, 1970 Reds: 7.1*
10. Carlton Fisk, 1972 Red Sox: 7.0
(* won MVP award)
Posey's adjusted OPS ranks second among all catchers since 1947, behind Piazza's 1997 season and just ahead of Mauer's 2009. Only Mauer (twice), Piazza and Jorge Posada (.338 in 2007) hit for a higher average. And none of those guys above added a World Series victory.
What does the future hold for Posey? In looking at his splits, he absolutely crushed left-handers, hitting .433 with a .793 slugging percentage, compared to .292 with a .440 slugging versus right-handers. Because he's unlikely to hit .433 again versus lefties, he'll have to pick up his production against right-handers to match his 2012 numbers in ensuing seasons.
On the other hand, he hit .385/.456/.646 in the second half, which is perhaps an indicator that he was getting healthier, stronger and better as the season wore on. (That second half did include a .423 average on balls in play, an unsustainable figure, so I wouldn't predict Posey to hit .336 again in 2013.)
Still, Posey has vaulted onto the short list of best players in the game. I don't see this as a fluke season, and in looking at those catchers on that list above -- Bench, Piazza, Carter, Fisk -- I see a player with Hall of Fame potential and the possibility of building a legacy as the leader of a -- dare we say -- three- or four-time World Series champion.