By Father Gabe Costa
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Joost “Luke” Demoes is our guest blogger this week. In this installment of By The Numbers, he makes a very interesting comparison.
One of the beauties of baseball is that the sport has remained relatively unchanged since play began in the late 19th century. This allows us to be able to compare players from the past to those who are still active. Often times we use this to try to determine who is the “best hitter of all time” or the “most dominant pitcher.” But we can also use this to simply draw comparisons between two players from different eras, and sometimes, we can find some unusual and uncanny similarities.
An intriguing example of this can be found by comparing Hall of Famer Willie Mays and Buster Posey, the current catcher for the San Francisco Giants.
Mays began his baseball career in 1951 with the New York Giants and played as a center fielder in the major leagues for a total of 22 seasons, collecting career statistics that would be enviable even among today’s steroid-plagued game. He currently ranks fourth on the career home-runs list with 660 dingers and 12 on the career hits list with 3,282 hits.
His 338 stolen bases made him the first player to hit over 300 home runs and steal 300 bases in a career, and the only player to ever have done so with over 3,000 career hits. For at least one season, Mays led the National League in batting average, slugging percentage on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, triples, home runs and stolen bases. In addition to his success at the plate, Mays was also a spectacular fielder. He won 12 Gold Glove Awards and ranks first with 7,038 putouts as a center fielder. It is no surprise then that Mays won the 1951 Rookie of the Year, two MVP awards (1954 and 1965) and played in the All-Star game 24 games, a record tied only by Stan Musial. As Ted Williams put it, “They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.”
While Mays’ place in the history books has been well established for many years now, Posey is just now making his mark on the game. In three seasons with the Giants, Posey has established himself as one of the premier catchers in the major leagues. He won the Rookie of the Year in 2010 before going on to win the National League MVP Award in 2012, the same year he was also elected to the All-Star Game, won a Silver Slugger Award and led the league in batting average. Defensively, Posey has caught for a San Francisco starting rotation that includes Cy Young winners Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito, and on June 13, 2012, he caught Matt Cain’s perfect game — the 22nd in the history of baseball and the first in Giants franchise history.
To top it off, Posey has won the World Series twice with the San Francisco Giants — the first in 2010 and most recently in 2012.
Although both of these players have played remarkably well, it is the manner in which they accomplished their achievements that creates unique similarities.
Mays and Posey both won the National League Rookie of the Year Award while playing for the Giants. And their stat lines for those seasons were eerily similar: Mays had 59 runs, 127 hits, 68 RBIs and 20 HRs; Posey had 58 runs, 124 hits, 67 RBIs and 18 HRs.
But after doing so, they both missed most of their second season in the majors. The Army drafted Mays to serve for most of the 1952 and all of the 1953 season while the Korean War was going on. Posey only played 45 games in 2011 before having his season cut short following a collision at the plate. This time off affected neither player, as they both came back from their respective breaks to win the National League MVP award and win the World Series, again with similar statistics: Mays had a .345 batting average with 195 hits and 110 RBIs; Posey had a .336 batting average with 178 hits and 103 RBIs.
While comparing a center fielder to a catcher is unusual, the similarities between Mays and Posey are exceptional enough to warrant a closer look at the pair’s careers. Although Posey already has one more World Series ring than Mays, Mays was still able to establish himself as one of the game’s best players. After beginning his career in the majors so similarly to one of the game’s greats, it will be interesting and exciting to see what Posey will do in the coming years.
Is this a ridiculous comparison, or does Posey have a realistic chance to be the next “Say Hey Kid” in San Francisco? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…