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Will Buster Posey Return to MVP Form in the Clutch of NL Race?

Aug 3, 2014; New York, NY, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28)  is greeted by San Francisco Giants third base coach Tim Flannery (1) after hitting a two run home run during the seventh inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Jacob ShaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2014

Consider, for a moment, Buster Posey's career arc: National League Rookie of the Year, World Series ring, season-ending injury, NL MVP and another Wold Series ring. That's a lifetime of highs and lows—more than a lifetime for many—crammed into a scant four full seasons.

Now, Posey is in his fifth full MLB season and the San Francisco Giants need him more than ever.

Buster's having a decent year. Entering play Wednesday, he was hitting .286 with 13 home runs and 57 RBI. Not bad, especially for a catcher.

The Giants, though, aren't looking for decent or not bad. They're looking for exemplary. They're looking for an MVP.

In the midst of a tight NL West race with the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco is desperately looking for a spark.

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 04:  Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants looks on from the bench during the game against the New York Mets at Citi Field on August 4, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence and a resurgent Pablo Sandoval have buoyed the offense. But with injuries to key contributors—Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt—the Giants' bats have faltered.

As of Tuesday, San Francisco's .243 team batting average ranked 11th in the National League, per ESPN.com, and its early power surge has sputtered out.

A patented Posey hot streak could go a long way toward curing the Giants' ills.

Remember, this is the kid who came up in 2010, started hot and mostly stayed hot. The kid who led the Orange and Black to their first championship in the San Francisco era and did it with a cherubic smile and aw-shucks demeanor that seemed too good to be true.

Except it wasn't. After suffering a horrific, ankle-shattering injury during a home-plate collision in 2011, Posey bounced back like few players in history by hitting .336 with 24 home runs, winning an MVP trophy and securing a second championship.

Maybe Posey set the bar too high. The accomplishments and accolades he accumulated before his 26th birthday rival those of any player in the history of the sport.

Which means a good season isn't good enough. The Giants, and baseball at large, expect greatness.

“I’m getting asked that a lot,” skipper Bruce Bochy said in April, after Posey limped to a 3-for-38 start, per Steve Corkran of Giants Extra. “I’ll keep saying the same thing: He’s human. These guys go through their bumps in the road. They’re going to have an occasional hiccup. That’s just the way this game is."

Here's how ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick sums it up:

It's unrealistic for any big league team to expect a single player to 'carry' the offense for weeks on end. That's especially true of catchers, who have to deal with the physical rigors of the position and the time and energy required in handling a pitching staff. But Posey, 27, has the talent and demeanor to multitask with the best of them. The Giants showed their faith in him when they signed him to a nine-year, $167 million extension in March 2013.

Crasnick's right that the catcher position takes its toll. It's the rare backstop who maintains his offensive prowess; that's what makes guys like Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk and Mike Piazza such anomalies.

He's also right that Posey has the skill to cement a place on that list. He's done too much in too short a time to be counted out.

A future move to first base, where Posey sees regular action, is a possibility, to save his legs and keep his bat in the lineup. For now, though, the Giants need Buster behind the dish and at the heart of their offense.

“I don’t care how talented you are, you’re going to go through it." Bochy told Corkran. "He’s going through his little thing right now but he’ll come out of it.”

And he has. Posey's numbers have gone from dreadful to perfectly respectable. Now, the Giants are hoping he'll make the next jump—to otherworldly.

If he does, San Francisco could have a shot at its third championship in five years. A dynasty in the making.

That may sound far-fetched, especially with former Giants ace Matt Cain out with season-ending surgery and the high-spending Dodgers leading the way.

Then again, far-fetched and Posey's career arc go hand in hand.

 

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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