Buster Posey: The Money Lies with RBI for Giants MVP Catcher

Mark ReynoldsCorrespondent IISeptember 27, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants hits a sacrifice fly that scored Angel Pagan #16 of the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of their game against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park on September 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Wednesday night, Buster Posey became the first San Francisco Giants player to drive in 100 runs since Barry Bonds did it back in 2004. As Jeff Kent once said, the money lies with RBI.

During baseball's Moneyball era, RBI have been replaced with newer, fancy-sounding metrics like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS).

RBI have been labeled as a counting stat that tell us more about the number of opportunities a player has to drive in runs than anything else. It's a context-dependent metric that doesn't particularly help with individual player evaluation.

That said, it's still pretty cool that Posey has driven in 100 so far this season. However, that number really tells us that Melky Cabrera (.396 OBP), Marco Scutaro (.386), Angel Pagan (.341) and Pablo Sandoval (.343) did a solid job setting the table as the primary hitters in front of Posey this season.

Posey, always humble, told the assembled media after reaching the milestone last night, "I think an accomplishment like that can't be done without your teammates, their speed, moving runners along. It has a lot to do with guys getting on base and doing the right things."

More than the RBI, Posey's ridiculous .355/.446/.536 batting line with runners in scoring position tells us more about his ability in clutch situations. According to Baseball Prospectus, Posey has driven in 18.6 percent of the runners that have been on base when he has come up to bat—good for 10th best in baseball among players with 350 plate appearances.

Posey should be the National League MVP based on his ability to hit in the clutch, and on traditional stats like RBIs and batting average (.331, 2nd in NL).

He also has a solid case based on advanced metrics like WAR (6.6, fifth in NL), weighted On-Base Average (.400, 3rd in NL), and defense (4.2 runs saved, 7th among catchers).

Then, there are the intangible factors. As a sports fan, my favorite athlete has long been a former catcher named Tom Brady, the now famous quarterback of the New England Patriots. Brady's combination of elite talent, preparation, intelligence, focus, work ethic, leadership and humility makes him one of the most compelling athletes to watch.

Unlike Brady, who only has to bring those intangibles to the field once a week, Posey brings those same attributes to the baseball field every single day for six months through the unbearable grind of a long baseball season.

Watching Posey's genius at the plate four times every day—and his tremendous catching ability behind it—is similar to watching a great artist or musician perform their craft.

His serious, stoic persona betrays his respect for the game. The Giants' fun-loving group has taken to doing a series of hand gestures, including shooting pretend arrows at each other from the dugout to the base paths. Baseball is meant to be an entertaining game, but these type of extracurricular activities can be an annoyance to some.

For Posey, that nonsense doesn't appear to be part of his game. When Brandon Crawford threw out a runner at home plate last Friday night, he told Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area that he went through the Giants full arsenal of hand gestures to Posey.

“Yeah, I tried to do all the stuff,” said Crawford, with a sly smile, “because I know Buster hates it.”

Buster Posey hates look-at-me celebrations, and it's hard not to love that.

Buster Posey is the National League's unquestioned MVP regardless of whether you prefer the traditional numbers, advanced stats or intangible factors like hitting in the clutch and leadership.

Not only does he approach the game with respect, he plays it better than just about anyone else on the planet.