With the first wave of votes in, two perennial All-Star candidates are back atop the catcher rankings on the National League ballot. Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina, who has made the last seven All-Star Games, leads the voting. Behind him is the Giants' Buster Posey, a three-time All-Star himself in the past four seasons.
Neither, perhaps, is having as good a season as the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy, who leads all NL catchers in FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement, with 2.1 WAR. Lucroy enters play on Sunday with a .312 batting average, nine home runs, 30 runs scored and 28 RBIs, all among the top figures in the league, yet does not appear with the top five vote-getters at his position at the first ballot update.
With Lucroy's impressive season in mind, MLB breaks down the competition between the two current vote leaders, Molina and Posey, in the batter's box and behind the dish.
At the plate:
Molina, in his age-33 season, isn't putting up quite the offensive numbers he did a few years ago. The veteran is batting .257 in 2016, with a .338 on-base percentage, 12 doubles, one triple and 20 RBIs. He's walked 22 times and struck out 23.
Posey, though, one of the elite hitting catchers in baseball, is off to a relatively slow start. He has a .257 batting average, .316 on-base percentage, 11 doubles, a triple and 26 RBIs. Posey has 18 walks and 26 strikeouts.
With Molina and Posey's statistics similar in terms of contact hitting, the difference-maker is power. Molina, not a power hitter but once capable of double-digit-homer seasons, has only a single long ball this year. Posey, on the other hand, has eight so far, which separates him from Molina in terms of offensive production.
Behind the plate:
Both Molina and Posey have well-deserved reputations as excellent defenders, and their numbers for 2016, in general, continue to bear that out. For one thing, neither has made an error this season, making them the only two catchers with at least 300 innings behind the plate and a 1.000 fielding percentage. However, there are some distinguishing stats.
Not that many players run on Molina and Posey. But when they have this season, Posey has the edge in containing them. His 47 percent caught-stealing rate leads the NL -- Posey has thrown out nine of 19 would-be basestealers. Though Molina has led the league four times in that regard, in 2016 he's caught only five of 19 runners, a 26 percent success rate.
It's also a catcher's job to frame pitches, and going by the publicly available pitch-framing statistics tracked by StatCorner -- which compares balls and strikes called by umpires with specific catchers behind the plate to how pitches in those locations are generally called -- Posey again holds the advantage.
According to the StatCorner rankings, Posey has gotten his pitchers an extra 70 called strikes over the course of this season, the most in the Major Leagues, and his 1.80 per-game rate is best among NL catchers with at least 300 innings. Molina's pitch-framing is still good -- he's bought his pitchers 27 extra strikes, 0.57 per game, both of which rank fourth among those qualified NL catchers -- just not as good as Posey's mark.
Molina has established himself as one of the best all-around catchers in the game, but so has Posey. And in 2016, Posey's numbers -- including 1.3 WAR compared with Molina's 0.6 -- give him the statistical edge over his counterpart thus far.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on their computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 times.
Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages. No purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info.
Following the announcement of the 2016 All-Stars, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 12, watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.
The 87th All-Star Game, in San Diego, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.