San Francisco Giants 2017 Player Review: The Catchers
By Justice delos Santos
The San Francisco Giants didn’t have a great 2017, but our season grades sure roll on. Here is a look at our catchers.
With most of the team’s positions in a state of flux following one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the San Francisco Giants can take solace in knowing they have the league’s premier catcher in Buster Posey. Boasting a laundry list of a resume stretching back to 2010, Posey has provided the Giants with much needed stability as every facet of the team stands subject to renovation.
While Posey’s presence behind the plate has been consistent, the backup position has been a revolving door of sorts as the Giants have searched for a steady bat. Following a solid season at the plate, Nick Hundley may wind up as San Francisco’s reserve for the team’s short-term future.
By the end of last season, many fans and critics alike began to ponder if Buster Posey was already
losing his inevitable battle with Father Time. San Francisco’s franchise cornerstone was at the center of the team’s eye-opening brand of baseball in the first half of 2016, earning what was then his fourth All-Star appearance, but as the Giants fell into the doldrums in a classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so did Posey’s offensive production.
Posey sputtered to the finish line last season in what was one of the worst complete halves of baseball in his career up to that point. The rough stretch of offense during the backend of 2016 coupled with turning 30 at the beginning of this past season didn’t bode well for Posey’s future as the question of whether the former MVP could return to his All-Star form was legitimate. Over the course of 568 plate appearances in the 2017 season, Posey emphatically proved why he’s still an elite offensive backstop.
As San Francisco’s trainwreck of a season ran its course, Posey provided fans with a glimmer of hope as arguably the only Giant to meet expectations. The catcher ended his seventh full season in the bigs with another Posey-esque slash line, batting .320/.400/.462 with a wRC+ of 128, all of which were improvements compared to his 2016 season in which he hit .282/.362/.434 with a wRC+ of 115.
This past season wasn’t quite a career-year for Posey, but rather a year of seconds as he recorded the second-highest on-base percentage and walk rate (10.7%) along with the second-best WAR and wRC+ among qualified catchers. For all the second-place finishes he turned in this season, both in comparison to himself and his contemporaries, Posey led all catchers in batting average and on-base percentage by a wide margin, finishing 42 points ahead of J.T. Realmuto in the former and 44 points ahead of Wilson Contreras in the latter.
While Posey may have finished atop the leaderboards in the aforementioned offensive categories, advanced analytics did not favor the backstop’s work with the leather in his hand this year. Posey led catchers last season in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) with 12 en route to winning his first Gold Glove and ended 2015 with a three-way tie for first with 9 between Wilson Ramos and Caleb Joseph.
This season, however, was a stark change of pace as Posey ended with the season with -1 DRS, another second for the catcher as this was only the second time in his career he has harmed his team defensively. Of note, in the two seasons Posey had a DRS total in the negatives at catcher, he had a DRS total in the positives as a first baseman.
Furthermore, Posey was no exception to the Giants’ well-documented inability to join the home run boom. A season after recording a career-low 14 long balls, Posey managed to set another career-low with a mere 12. Posey has never fallen under the moniker of a power hitter despite touching the 20 plateau multiple times and stuck with his contact-oriented ways as baseball further entered the era of the three true outcomes. Among all catchers, Posey ended the season in a four-way tie for the 21st most dingers among catchers.