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San Francisco Giants: What is wrong with Buster Posey?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 19: Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants sits in the dugout in the fifth inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 19, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 19: Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants sits in the dugout in the fifth inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 19, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey is struggling through the worst season of his career. What is going on with the six-time All-Star?

Buster Posey has already cemented his place in San Francisco Giants history. Three-time World Series champion, 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, and 2012 National League MVP are just a few of the many accolades on his impressive resume.

Since his debut, Posey has been one of the best catchers in baseball. He’s a .303 career hitter with four Silver Slugger awards and a Gold Glove on his mantle.

This season has been a different story.

The 32-year-old is hitting just .230/.295/.356 with three home runs and 18 RBI in 210 plate appearances on the year.

This would easily qualify as the worst season of Posey’s otherwise fantastic career. Before this year, the lowest batting average he has produced in a season where he played at least 50 games was .284, which happened to be last year.

He’s also currently mired in a brutal 5-for-39 slump with zero RBI and just one extra-base hit in 11 games since returning from a brief injured list stint on June 12.

That begs the question: What in the world is wrong with Buster Posey?

There are a few potential answers.

The most obvious reason for his struggles is injuries.

To put it simply, Posey has not been healthy since 2017. He spent all of 2018 dealing with a hip impingement and torn labrum that eventually led to season-ending surgery.

When the surgery occurred, it was also revealed that Posey wasn’t dealing with just a hip impingement and damaged labrum, but also with a microfracture in his hip,  as reported by The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly:

Since the surgery took place in late August, Posey spent the offseason rehabbing as opposed to preparing for the season in his normal manner. That altered approach to the winter is showing up in his slow start to the 2019 campaign.

Baseball is an ever-changing sport. In a day and age where analytics are widely used and even depended on, finding holes in a hitter’s swing has become easier than ever before. Many players are able to identify those holes and adjust their approach, with those tweaks often coming during the offseason. Posey did not have that opportunity this past offseason, which has put him a step behind the rest of the league.

At the same time, Posey has not stayed healthy enough this season to establish any regularity to his hitting. He has already had two stints on the injured list that were less than a month apart, disrupting any sort of rhythm at the plate.

The Giants are also not doing Posey any favors leading him hitting in the No. 3 spot in the batting order. He simply cannot be expected to produce at the level that a three-hole hitter is supposed to right now. He needs more time to adjust.

The eye test shows that he’s late on fastballs and the stats show a spike in his strikeout rate from 12.1 percent in his career to 16.0 percent this season.

The first step would seem to be moving Posey down in the batting order. That would allow him to get back up to game speed and even get into a groove in the box, without being so heavily relied on to produce for a struggling offense.

For Posey’s long-term health, a permanent move to first base may be in the cards as well. Being in the catcher’s squat for almost a decade definitely takes its toll, and rapidly progressing top prospect Joey Bart is destined to be on the 40-man roster sometime soon.

The Minnesota Twins made a similar move with Joe Mauer in 2014, and it may wind up being the right move not only for Posey’s longevity but for the overall future of the San Francisco Giants offense.

For a team that has been looking everywhere for an offensive spark, the Giants sure could use a productive Buster Posey. A temporary move to a lower spot in the lineup and an extended stretch where he avoids the injured list could be the formula to breaking him out of his current slump.

Next. Can the Giants pull off their own "Aroldis Chapman trade"?

However, if the struggles continue, a permanent move to first base may be the next step, opening the door for Joey Bart to seize the San Francisco Giants starting catcher gig in the near future.

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