Hail to the Buster, the Buster, the Buster!
Hail to the Buster, the Buster Po-sey!
With singles and doubles and triples and homers!
Hail to the Buster, the Buster Po-sey!
“Hail to the Buster” was a song Florida State fans came up with to serenade their Golden Spikes award winning catcher during his at- bats. Such is the talk amongst Giants fans these days of one baby-faced rookie named Gerald D. Posey, better known as Buster. Although they haven’t quite learned the tune just yet, maybe they should call Tony Bennett or Huey Lewis in.
While the San Francisco Giants have never won a World Series, they have produced some of the greatest players to ever play the game, including the greatest of them all Willie Mays (shut up with your Babe Ruth talk, he played before the color barrier came down). Posey looked very good during his first month up from Fresno this year, but didn’t necessarily show anything that would cause people to start comparing him to Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Clark, or Bonds, other than the fact that the Giants haven't produced an All-Star position player since Ronald Reagan was President.
But during the month of July he’s looked like the right-handed version of Joe Mauer, except better. Posey’s current numbers for the month of July include an 18-game hitting streak, .469 average, .511 on-base percentage, and an .815 slugging percentage, numbers usually reserved for Barry Bonds and video games.
Recently, Posey passed Orlando Cepeda for second on the list of longest hitting streaks by a San Francisco Giants rookie and now only trails Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. As Posey continues to decimate National League pitching, his rookie season is approaching rarified air and is beginning to be compared to the rookie seasons of former Giants greats like McCovey.
Because Posey spent the first few months of the season in Fresno—either so the Giants could avoid Posey obtaining “Super 2” status or because he wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues or because Brian Sabean is the worst GM in baseball, depending on who’s story you believe—it’s a little difficult to compare his rookie season thus far to former Giants greats, but still a worthy endeavor.
Here’s a look at how Posey’s numbers stack up against other Giant greats in their rookie seasons
Player \ Year \ G \ AVG \ OBP \ SLG \ OPS \ HR \ WAR
Buster Posey \ 2010 \ 48 \ .371 \ .407 \ .579 \ .986 \ 8 \ 2.2
Willie Mays \ 1951 \ 121 \ .274 \ .356 \ .472 \ .828 \ 20 \ 4.3
Orlando Cepeda \ 1958 \ 148 \ .312 \ .342 \ .512 \ .854 \ 25 \ 4.0
Willie McCovey \ 1959 \ 52 \ .354 \ .429 \ .656 \ 1.085 \ 13 \ 3.3
Jim Ray Hart \ 1964 \ 153 \ .286 \ .342 \ .498 \ .840 \ 31 \ 5.6
Gary Matthews \ 1973 \ 148 \ .300 \ .367 \ .532 \ .899 \ 12 \ 4.0
Will Clark \ 1986 \ 111 \ .287 \ .343 \ .444 \ .787 \11 \ 1.9
Barry Bonds* \ 1986 \ 113 \ .223 \ .330 \ .416 \ .746 \ 16 \ 3.4
*Bonds played his rookie season in Pittsburgh.
As you can see, Jim Ray Hart’s rookie season in 1964 still stands out as the best rookie season for a Giant in the last 60 years, but through roughly the same number of games Posey’s numbers are comparable to that of Willie McCovey. Unlike McCovey, Posey doesn’t have the luxury of being in the same lineup as Mays and Cepeda, but he also doesn’t have to play at Seals Stadium or in the pitching-dominated era of the late 50’s and early 60’s.
The other thing that is noticeable about Posey’s numbers in comparison to other Giants greats is that he is trailing most everyone on the list in terms of HR’s, except Will Clark, and doesn’t project to pass them or in some cases come close in his rookie season. Not to worry, Posey as a hitter is much closer to Will Clark than he is to Willie Mac, with gap to gap power and the ability to take almost any pitch the other way.
While Posey may not compete for home run crowns, he may very well compete for batting titles and is currently outpacing everyone on the list in terms of batting average, some of whom he is outpacing by a huge margin. While Posey doesn’t project to be as great a player as Mays or Bonds, his average is .097 and .148 higher than their rookie averages respectively.
Baseball, however, isn’t a purely offensive game. Defense matters, after all wasn’t it Benjamin Franklin who said, “every run saved is a run earned?” Up until this point, Posey’s defense has been excellent. Thus far Posey has thrown out 43 percent of runners trying to advance, and is yet to allow a passed ball. What’s more is that the Giants starting pitchers, with the exception of Madison Bumgardner, are not exactly the best at holding runners on, which makes Posey’s CS percentage all the more impressive.
It remains to be seen whether Posey will enjoy the same type of career that Mays, McCovey, or Bonds did, but right now he’s on track. However, while some great players enjoy rather pedestrian rookie seasons—Clark, Bonds—other pedestrian players enjoy great rookie seasons, so it’s important to remember that while rookie seasons are good indicators of what’s to come, they’re not perfect. Just ask Pablo Sandoval.