Somewhat lost in the long line of disappointments from the San Francisco Giants' 2013 season was the disappearance of catcher Buster Posey following the All-Star break.
The drop-off in production was especially surprising because it came after Posey's 2012 MVP campaign, when the Giants catcher exploded during the second half, a time when catchers' performances are often diminished thanks to the wear and tear of the job.
After that magical half (.385 AVG, 1.102 OPS), however, Posey came back down to earth with a .244 average and a rather abysmal .643 OPS, including just nine extra-base hits following the 2013 All-Star break.
|Season||Pre All-Star Break Stats||Post All-Star Break Stats|
The second-half fall-off, while surprising because of Posey's caliber as a hitter, is also entirely understandable. In 2010 and 2012, the Giants played a total of 31 extra games following the regular season thanks to their World Series runs, meaning Posey played an additional one-fifth of a season over the course of the last four seasons.
Additionally, Posey spent the majority of 2011 rehabbing his torn ankle ligaments, further adding to the grueling workload he's dealt with throughout his career.
Lots of Panda Weight talk at Giants media event, but Posey went the opposite direction. With full offseason, he put on 10 pounds of muscle.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) January 31, 2014
Though Pavlovic says Posey would never connect his slump to the rigors of being a starting major league catcher, Posey did apparently admit in September that he needed to work on his strength.
Posey admits he didn't have the second half he wanted last year. 2013 in general "left a bad taste in our mouths." #sfgiants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) January 31, 2014
There's no telling just how much effect the added muscle will have on Posey's performance in 2014, but it's certainly a positive sign. It can only improve the Giants catcher's durability and could even add some power to the catcher's offensive repertoire. (Posey's career isolated power of .179, according to Fangraphs, is above average, but far from elite.)
Another factor that could work in Posey's favor would be the emergence of a viable backup option at catcher. Hector Sanchez hit just .248 in 2013, and he has only 15 walks in 401 career plate appearances, but the backup catcher has also shown some promise in the past. (He batted .280 in 2012.)
If Sanchez can establish himself as a respectable producer in the lineup, that could allow Posey to receive more time at first base, thus helping to preserve his legs to a certain extent. However, if Sanchez continues to struggle to reach base with any amount of consistency, Bruce Bochy will have little choice but to keep Posey behind the plate and leave Brandon Belt in the lineup.
While playing first base in 2013, Posey hit .365, but that number dropped 81 points (to .284) when he resumed his regular catching duties. Coincidence or not, the more days off the better for Posey.
What will be Buster Posey's level of production in 2014?
It would certainly be nice for Posey to repeat his 2012 performance, but until he can once again prove his ability to perform for the entire season, it's more reasonable to predict he'll be somewhere in between his 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
With that being said, if there were one player on the Giants who would be most likely to exceed expectations, it would probably be Posey. Thanks to his overall consistency and his slew of accolades, if anything, Posey has shown there's little reason for us to doubt him.
Furthermore, any performance in between the last two seasons would be spectacular, especially for a major league catcher. Now that he's added the muscle and had a long offseason to recuperate, all that's left for Posey is to actually go out and perform.
The Giants' playoff hopes depend on it.