Posey’s Better….Really?

Last night during Game 1 of the Braves-Giants NLDS, San Francisco fans jeered Atlanta Braves rookie Jason Heyward with the chant “Posey’s Better!” in reference to San Francisco’s Buster Posey being the superior rookie. Frankly, I thought it was kind of rude. Georgia gives you Posey, and you give us Rice-A-Roni. Thanks. There is no doubt that Posey is a phenomenal young baseball player, but let’s not sell Heyward short.

Instead of taunts, let’s look at the performances of the two players this season to see what they provided for their respective big-league this season.

Player 		Positions 	PA 	Batting Runs 	Def. Runs Saved
Buster Posey	C(73%)/1B	443	15.7		5
Jason Heyward	RF		623	26.6		10

With the bat, Heyward produced more runs; with his glove he saved more runs; and he played 40% more than Posey. Simply put, Jason Heyward gave more value to his team than Buster Posey did in 2010, and it wasn’t really close. Using the method that I explain in my new book, I estimated that Heyward’s performance was worth approximately $14 million compared to Posey’s $9 million. Given that there has been so much discussion about who should be the NL Rookie of the Year, how is it that Heyward has such a big lead?

Then main difference between the two players is that Heyward played more. While the J-Hey Kid was taking an early lead in the Rookie of the Year sweepstakes, Posey was in Triple-A Fresno. And the value of runs is increasing, not linear, so the marginal runs added by Heyward were more valuable. Whether that’s Posey’s fault or nor, it’s still value that Posey didn’t contribute.

You might argue that Posey played the tougher position of catcher. Well, he did, part of the time. About three-fourths of his defensive innings were played at catcher, a tougher position than right field. But when he was first called up, he played first base, a less valuable position than right field. And while right field may be relatively less important than catcher, Jason Heyward played it excellently saving ten runs more than the average right fielder. Buster Posey wasn’t as good between his two positions.

Now, past aside, is Buster Posey better than Jason Heyward? An affirmative answer is certainly defensible. But, if you’re going to be jerks about it, this is the kind of analysis that you’re going to get from a bitter Braves fan. So, don’t be surprised if Turner Field welcomes Gerald Demp “Buster” Posey back to Georgia with a classic “GER-ald…GER-ald.” Nah, we’re too nice for that.

12 Responses “Posey’s Better….Really?”

  1. Mitch says:

    What’s your source for defensive runs saved? Given the uncertainty surrounding those metrics (especially for catchers), understanding the source is critical.

  2. Marc Schneider says:

    I understand the idea that, in judging the ROY, you look at who produced the most total value for the team during the year. It’s clearly Heyward. But, if you look at who is simply the better player right now, it might well be Posey. And Posey seems to be getting better while Heyward is struggling. I don’t think that necessarily portends anything for the future, but, at this particular moment, I think Posey is the more valuable player.

  3. JC says:

    BIS’s Defensive Runs Saved reported by Baseball-Reference. The best defensive metric out there, by far.

  4. Mitch says:

    I think you would get an awful lot of argument when you say “by far” for DRS being > UZR or TZ.

  5. Billy R says:

    Great analysis as always. But c’mon. As a former Atlanta resident I have perspective on Braves fans or lack of there.

    For TV audience to hear the fans in Fulton County, woops, Olympic Park, sorry, The Ted, you probably want a sell out. Given that game 3 is not sold out yet, I’m not holding my breath. If it aint SEC football, I’m afraid the good folks of GA can’t be bothered.

    We’re not jerks, we’re just loud.

  6. Tom O. says:

    Having been at the game last night, “GER-ald” would be a nice retort to the “Larry” chants.

  7. trantor says:

    There is a lot to disagree from this brief analysis.

    Posey is not just a catcher, he is a rookie catcher, who lead his team to the playoffs. A rookie catcher who called his staff to a 1.8 ERA during a pennant chase, while hitting cleanup. Re-read that sentence as Posey’s contribution to this team cannot be overstated. They were a .500 team without him, and 20 over .500 with him. How does that add up to a 5 def. runs saved? His predecessor, while over the hill as a hitter, is “acclaimed” as one of the best staff handlers in the majors. Posey managed the staff of young pitchers even better.

    Posey caught for clutch, hit clutch and played every game during the stretch, very rare for a modern catcher. It cost him quite a bit off his batting average (>.320 until the last couple weeks), but he still finished over .300.

    Posey carried the team in July, with his 20+ game hitting streak.

    Posey out hit Heyward by 30 points, had a superior OBP, SLG and OPS. Its not close, Posey is clearly the ROY, despite management holding him in AAA until nearly June.

  8. Jose says:

    This is such a great rookies debate. What is it in the AL? Neftali Feliz v. Austin Jackson? Yea, these guys are both awesome to watch, and both deserving of a ROY award. I gave the edge to Posey, too, because of the catcher spot. Those metrics are great, but I believe I read it on a post here a while back: those metrics are just tools to better evaluate what we see. In no way can we attribute ROY to just the analysis above (and I’m not claiming that anyone did).

    Posey absolutely became the heart of the Giants, and was responsible for the great staff in SF (although, just a thought, if you have such a great staff, why is Posey getting so much credit for catching it?)

    Either way, the impact and the numbers are quite split depending on how you look at it. And when the numbers prove a major stalemate, you have to look at as many ancillary factors as possible. Where did he do it? What did he mean to the team? What could we have expected if the amount of games played were neutralized? Records with/without the player. Etc. etc. Posey simply holds more of those ancillary factors. It’s not Heyward’s fault, it’s just to Posey’s credit.

  9. dar says:

    It was just a chant. Not something that should cause a supposedly professional wise guy to distort sophisticated metrics by applying counting stat methodology to them. It’s inkstained wretch level stupidity to declare Heyward “better” because he played two more months than Posey. The argument is: Heyward is better because Brian Sabean is stupid.

    In fact, Heyward may be better; his obp, especially for a rookie, is astounding and more so in combination with his other prodigious skills. Yet Posey has been consistently excellent, the heart of his team, and clearly the superior over the past two months — and in the playoffs so far — by every measure, counting stats included.

    So it’s a faceoff between two excellent athletes. Should be a pleasure, not an event that provokes a guy who makes a point of promoting his own big giant brain into foot stamping — especially when that foot is jammed so tightly into his mouth.

  10. BMarty says:

    No one should sell Heyward short but Posey is better. Posey with -114 ABs (compared to Hayward) has as many HRs and only 5 less RBIs. You still have to remember he is a rookie Catcher compared to RF and is commanding one of the best pitching rotations, pen in the league. Defense at 1st he has a .995 FPCT, .991 as a Catcher compared to .976 for RF for Heyward.

  11. JC says:

    Sometimes, the appropriate response is to shake your head and sigh.

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