Marcos Breton

Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

Buster Posey has the statistical prowess, defensive value and intrinsic leadership qualities of an MVP.

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Marcos Breton: Posey deserves to be N.L. MVP, no matter how you slice it

Published: Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:45 pm

In an era of math-based metrics where player value is quantified down to each pitch he hits or misses, Buster Posey tops them all.

Try this for a measurement of value: When Posey finishes a season, the Giants win the World Series. When Posey doesn't finish a season, the Giants miss the playoffs.

Or how about this: When Giants fans were restless a year ago at the supposed inactivity of the franchise after failing to reach the playoffs in 2011, the Giants brass responded by banking on the revitalization of Aubrey Huff and the return from injuries of Freddy Sanchez and Posey.

As we know – Sanchez and Huff contributed nothing and almost nothing to the Giants' 2012 World Series title. Meanwhile, Posey played like the MVP of the National League.

When the N.L. MVP is announced today by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Posey – the heart and soul of the Giants – is expected to join the list of legends who've won the award before him.

Among Giants to win the MVP, Posey would stand in the rarefied ranks of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent – all of whom are either in the Hall of Fame or should be one day.

Posey is also the right choice – for mathematical and emotional reasons.

In recent years, baseball has been transformed by the debate between metrics and emotion in evaluating player value. The science of studying baseball value, a sabermetrics movement once so maligned, has virtually gone mainstream. This is a good thing because it has promoted information over bias, though sometimes we go too far in dismissing the human element of baseball.

Posey is the MVP because he is Exhibit A for how a player can be statistically valuable while also being essential for human intangibles.

"As the catcher, Buster is handling a staff of 12 different personalities on our pitching staff," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said by phone Wednesday. "Buster is involved in every pitch. He is the guy who is back there handling the staff. How do you measure that?"

Here is how: The evolving metrics that judge defense show Posey to be valuable in ways that exceed Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates – considered Posey's competition for MVP.

Without getting too wonkish, Posey was above average to terrific in saving the Giants runs by blocking pitches and throwing out runners trying to steal. Posey was above or far above average in many defensive metrics, while Braun and McCutchen were not.

Bill James, the ultimate baseball statistician, developed a metric called "Wins Above Replacement" or WAR. FanGraphs defines it this way: "If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing? This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth +6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth +3.5 wins."

In WAR, offense, baserunning and defense are calculated. In this metric, only one player in baseball rated higher than Posey – Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.

Posey had a WAR rating of 8.0. He was worth eight wins by himself. Well, the Giants finished eight games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. West.

Without Posey, the Giants missed the playoffs in 2011 after winning it all in 2010 – with Posey as N.L. Rookie of the Year.

But there is also an emotional argument steeped in the romance that sets baseball apart from other sports.

Some wondered whether Posey's career was in jeopardy after his 2011 injury.

I was in Arizona last March during spring training and witnessed the first day Posey ran the bases, and to say an entire organization held its breath is an understatement.

Posey makes his teammates better.

"Posey uses the whole field when he is hitting and other players feed off of that," Bochy said.

The Giants also feed off of Posey's stoicism and quiet ferocity where every game and situation gets his full attention and limitless effort.

Kids and women wear his jersey. Posey is completely unaffected by the commotion he causes.

In other words, he is a player who can carry a franchise on his back, win games and sell tickets.

Combined with the numbers, that makes Buster Posey the MVP.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton, news columnist

Marcos Breton

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I'm supposed to connect the dots on issues, people and relationships that cause things to happen or prevent them from happening in our region. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a voter in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, I have voted for Barry Bonds - twice. I am a native of Northern California. I am the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Phone: 916-321-1096
Twitter: @MarcosBreton

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