San Francisco Giants: Should They Be Worried About Buster Posey?

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San Francisco Giants: Should They Be Worried About Buster Posey?
Ben Margot/Associated Press
Buster Posey has gone five games without an RBI and has only 29 this entire season.

The San Francisco Giants, at 43-24, have the best record in baseball. They lead the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West by 8.5 games.

The Giants have received good starting pitching and their bullpen is one of the best in baseball. Giants' manager Bruce Bochy is a master at getting the most out of his bullpen and does not get enough credit for his deft handling of the Giants' pitching staff.

Ben Margot/Associated Press
Michael Morse, (center), celebrates his walk-off hit against the Mets to give the Giants a victory.

Offensively, the Giants have received outstanding production from Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence and Michael Morse. With 13 home runs and 42 RBI, Morse leads the team.

Shortstop Brandon Crawford has been a very pleasant surprise with 35 RBI, second on the team.

The Giants also weathered a dismal start by third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who may have been worried about his contract status. Sandoval's contract expires following the 2014 season and that appeared to be weighing heavily on his mind.

However, at around the same time that first baseman Brandon Belt was injured, Sandoval has turned his season around. In the past 30 days, Sandoval is hitting .347, with an OBP of .367 and OPS of .951.

Over this hot stretch the "Kung Fu Panda" has found his smile and effervescent personality. He has six home runs and 20 RBI over the past month.

The one player that has struggled has been Buster Posey. His average for the season is down to .264, with an OBP of .328 and OPS of .729. Posey has eight home runs and 29 RBI.

These numbers tell only part of the story, however. Posey has missed games due to nerve irritation in his back and one has to wonder if that has anything to do with Posey's lack of production.

Posey wants to catch, but the big question is whether that has impacted his health and therefore his hitting. Whether the back issue is limiting Posey's offensive production is something that must be considered. 

With Belt out, the Giants' best overall lineup has Michael Morse at first base, Posey behind the plate and either Gregor Blanco, Tyler Colvin or Juan Perez in left field.

USA TODAY Sports
Expect Hector Sanchez to see more playing time in the coming weeks.

Backup catcher Hector Sanchez has had some big hits this year, but he is still only hitting .224 and he has an OPS of .611.

Defensively, Posey is superior to Sanchez and with Morse at first base, the Giants have replaced a weak outfielder with a very good one.

In Posey's case, the stats don't lie. In the past 30 days, with 84 at-bats, Posey is hitting just .214, with an OBP of .222 and OPS of .508. He has just one home run and 10 RBI, while striking out 15 times, against only two walks.

All stats are courtesy of mlb.com.

Posey's low RBI total is particularly significant because he is the third hitter in the Giants' batting order and gets plenty of chances. Five players have more RBI in the past 30 days than Posey.

At times, it is noticeable that Posey is getting frustrated. It often seems he is letting good pitches to hit pass by, or he is just barely missing them. Then, he is often falling behind in the count and swinging at the pitcher's pitch.

The lack of walks in comparison to the strikeout total is indicative of Posey's troubles. He is also not using the entire field as has been his practice in the past. Posey has rolled over on many pitches, hitting ground balls to shortstop or third base.

Even when he is hitting the ball hard, it seems to be finding a glove. He has hit several balls to the warning track and again, one must wonder if his bad back has robbed him of some power and bat speed.

Posey is grinding hard to pull himself out of this prolonged slump. The first thing he can do to help himself is to take the outside pitch to right field. Utilizing the entire field and not trying to pull the ball as much will help Posey come out of this funk.

Although they probably won't admit it, this is cause for concern among the Giants' brass. Posey came into spring training in the best shape of his career, as he felt he wore down in the second half of 2013.

However, after a decent start to this season, the back issue flared up and the extended slump has occurred. Look for manager Bruce Bochy to give Posey more rest by playing him at first base or having him sit out altogether. 

Next week, in a quirk of scheduling, as the Giants head out on the road, they will have two days off. As long as the plane flights do not cause a flare up in Posey's back, which has been a problem on other road trips, these extra days off should help to keep him fresh.

After a poor second half of 2013 and now the struggles Posey has had in the first half of 2014, the Giants have every right to be concerned.  

Fortunately, the team is playing well and has been able to overcome Posey's lack of offensive productivity. If that were not the case, moving Posey down in the batting order might be an option. However, right now, with the team playing well, Bochy will likely not make that move.

 

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Buster Posey was NL MVP in 2012.

Although the odds are that Posey will snap out of his funk and begin hitting the ball with authority again, the seeds of doubt are creeping in.  

Only time will tell if Posey can at least approach his MVP level performance of 2012, when he also won the batting title with a .336 batting average and .957 OPS. 

In 2012, Posey had 24 home runs and 103 RBI. However, in only 10 fewer at-bats in 2013, Posey had only 15 home runs and 72 RBI. 

As long as Posey's back does not flare up again, expect to see an improvement. He is too good a player to be struggling like this for too long. 

However, it is unlikely that Posey will approach the level of success he had in 2012. Catching takes its toll on a player's body and we are already seeing some of that with Posey.

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