Buster Posey Is Back in MVP Form
Allow yourself to think back to July 12th, the penultimate day before the beginning of MLB's All-Star break. The San Francisco Giants had already blown nearly a ten-game divisional lead in a matter of weeks. They were 8-23 over their previous 31 games. And their star catcher and former MVP, Buster Posey, was having the worst season of his career. Nothing was going right.
Bounce back to reality. As we sit here on September 4th, Posey isn't struggling any more. Nor are the Giants. They have won seven of their last nine games, averaging 7.22 runs per game over that span. This is largely due to the re-emergence of the catalyst behind their 2010 and 2012 World Series runs.
On July 12th, Posey was hitting .278/.335/.417 with nine home runs. With one game remaining before a long lay-off, it looked like Posey would head into the break cold. That's not exactly how it went down.
The Turning Point
With the Giants trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth, Posey strode to the dish with the bases loaded and two outs. If the previous two months were indicative of anything, this would not end well. Since May 5th, Posey had a .321 on-base percentage while slugging just .375 with a .305 weighted on-base average (wOBA). Then, Posey's season turned around with one (fittingly) giant swing.
Posey uncorked on a Vidal Nuno pitch, sending it flying over the fence for a grand slam. An inning later, Madison Bumgarner did his best Posey impression and hit a grand slam of his own. The resurgence was on.
Since then, Posey has been lighting it up. Starting with that game, Posey has hit .343/.385/.590 with a .422 wOBA over his last 192 plate appearances. This includes 10 doubles, two triples and 10 bombs. If that doesn't make you salivate, get your glands checked, home skillet.
In 35 games, Posey has nine games with at least three hits, four with at least four, and even one five-hit game. And this isn't a streak that it is about to finish running its course; Posey is still heating up.
From August 21st through September 3rd, Posey recorded 59 plate appearances. He reached base in 29 of them. This included 28 hits, six doubles, a triple, and six home runs. You think it's a coincidence that this run is parallel to the team's recent success? Not a chance. Posey is a man on fire, and there ain't nothing y'all can do to stop him.
With this 180 degree turnaround, it makes someone ask what Posey did to reverse course. There are several factors that account for this, but the first explanation would possibly sound a bit strange: he did nothing.
Back when Posey was mired in his slump, his line-drive percentage was at 24.8. Despite this, he had only a .267 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). We wrote back on May 28th about how this meant that Posey would eventually turn it around. Now, it may have taken longer than we thought, but it eventually happened.
Posey's line-drive percentage has stayed steady and still sits at 24.2. Basically, the dude just had awful luck earlier. When you're spraying frozen ropes all over the field but they're caught by the opponents, there's not a lot you can do. Posey just kept doing what he had been doing, and eventually he got his justice from the baseball deities.
The most interesting part of all of this is that Posey's aggressiveness has remained pretty much the same for both stretches of his performance. In the first half, Posey had a 7.9 percent walk rate with an 11.7 strikeout rate. In the second half, those numbers are 7.1 and 10.9 respectively. In fact, outside of his batted ball numbers, there isn't much that actually is different.
Posey ended the first half with a .285 BABIP. That has sky-rocketed to .362 since the break. To account for the increase in his power, Posey has seen his fly-ball numbers increase to 38.0 percent from 31.3 and his home-run-to-flyball-ratio increase to 15.8 percent from 11.8. Outside of that, everything else is pretty much the same.
What this means moving forward is that Posey will, in all likelihood, continue mashing down the stretch. Now, that doesn't mean he's going to keep up a nearly-.500 on-base percentage, but he doesn't need to. Our rest-of-season projections have Posey hitting .305 with a .846 OPS. That'll get the job done. The Posey that we have seen for the entire second half of the season will be more than enough to help San Fran lock down a playoff spot.