As the Giants slowly watch their October aspirations fade away, their two best active hitters are also seeing a pair of awards slip from their grasp.
That’s not to say Buster Posey or Matt Duffy were locks, or even leaders, in the senior circuit’s Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year races, respectively, but both were arguably pacing the pack late in the second half.
That doesn’t mean their chances have faded completely, though. A couple helpful reminders of their performance to date…
“Why Buster Posey is the NL MVP” — ESPN.com’s Scott Spratt, dated Aug. 29.
“Duffy leads NL Rookie of Year race” — SI.com’s Cliff Corcoran, dated Aug. 20.
The arguments in support of both shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s watched both players with a keen eye.
Posey’s big boy numbers (17 HR, 82 RBI) are dwarfed by several of his competitors (see: Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt). The same could be said of Matt Duffy (10 HR, 66 RBI), who has less than half the home runs of Kris Bryant, and has driven in 20 fewer runs.
But that’s just half the battle.
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Whenever he’s been in the squat, Posey has been a defensive juggernaut. Per ESPN.com, Buster’s been the MLB’s best defensive player at arguably the most important position on the field (though I’m sure Arenado and Brandon Crawford would have something to say about that).
More important than defensive WAR, however, has been Posey’s ability to get the most out of the rag-tag rotation that’s followed Madison Bumgarner this season. Without his expert game-calling, San Francisco’s postseason hopes would likely already be null and void. Even with a couple dozen clunkers from Matt Cain, the Tims, and others, the Giants staff’s ERA (4.06) sits just outside the top 10.
Duffy’s defensive efforts—at a new position, no less—have been similarly brilliant. Per Fangraphs, Duffy has been a top-five third baseman by all defensive measures, including runs saved (7). He’s far ahead of Bryant in this regard, and arguably better than Jung-Ho Kang, his other major competition (though, to be fair, the Korean’s defensive numbers are skewed by playing a lot of games at short).
Finally, let’s not forget that both Duffy and Posey take half their at-bats in one of the toughest locales in baseball. Looking at their park-adjusted offensive metrics, as Corcoran did in his feature, reveals much-improved numbers for both.
Ultimately, though, there are simply stronger overall candidates if you consider how these awards are typically decided. Voters tend to take the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” approach, overvaluing postseason implications for a regular season award (weird, right?). For these reasons, on top of actual production, Posey and Duffy find themselves on the outside looking in.
If you’re arguing for Posey’s defensive value, and ignoring the Giants’ inability to make the playoffs, then you would have to consider putting the Rockies’ Arenado above him. The latter could apply to the Diamondbacks’ Goldschmidt as well. All three, however, find themselves behind a behemoth of a regular season for Harper, whose putting up a line (.336/.467/.657, 9.0 WAR) that’s almost Barry Bonds-esque, and perhaps even Cespedes despite his late entry into the conversation. A top-five finish is a worst-case scenario for Posey, with a top-three tally being the best he can he hope for.
With a thinner field than what his teammate’s up against, Duffy could realistically give Bryant a run for his money, but what the Cubs are doing this season should give the latter the edge. I do see Duffy finishing ahead of Kang, though, despite his late surge and the Pirates’ 2015 success.