Coming into the season, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward was the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year. But Heyward has succumbed to injury, and other names have popped up in the forefront of the Rookie of the Year discussion.
Among them, Buster Posey, the San Francisco Giants catcher with a red-hot bat. Currently riding a 19-game hitting streak, Posey has been the lynch-pin that the offensively anemic Giants so desperately needed.
"He's been a big shot in the arm for us," manager Bruce Bochy said of the 23-year old Georgia native. "There's no getting around it. We think a lot of Buster. We are not surprised by what he's doing."
"He's got discipline at the plate," Bochy said. "He's a patient hitter. He's got one of those swings that the bat stays in the zone a long time. He gets inside the ball well and he can handle the pitch in and away. Those guys who have that type of swing, they are going to find a way to get the good part of the bat on the ball. That's what Buster does."
On the season, Buster is batting .368 with eight home runs and 33 RBI. For a 10 game period from July 2nd to July 11th, Posey set National League rookie records for home runs, RBI, and hits over such a stretch.
"I'm just playing ball, trying not to think about it too much," said Posey.
In fact, the buzz Posey is generating in the Bay Area should be expected. The Johnny Bench and Golden Spikes Awards winner signed for a then-record $6.2 million out of Florida State.
But now that he's reached the majors, Posey remains focused on just getting the job done.
"The thing that a lot of us did when we were younger is you try to come up and press and do more than we are capable of, try to hit home runs," Giants teammate Freddy Sanchez said. "But him, since day one he's come up with the same approach at the plate. He stays inside the ball great. Everything he hits is to right-center. When you go to right-center, especially with the type of power he has, there are a lot of hits that way."
So, is the Giants hitting machine a favorite for Rookie of the Year?
Well, Ryan Braun, winner of the 2007 Rookie of the Year Award, was called up in mid-May that year, and went on a hitting tear that lasted all season. So, there's no reason he can't be placed in the discussion.
How does he compare to other candidates?
Well, right now, the favorites are Jaime Garcia and Stephen Strasburg, both pitchers. It's hard to compare pitchers and hitters, but right now, Posey could be the best hitter on his team, and one of the top run preventers as well. His WAR is 2.2, which compares favorably to Jason Heyward's 2.5 mark over the entire season, and Stephen Strasburg's 2.1 mark, over a longer period of time than Posey.
Since July 1st, when Bengie Molina was traded to Texas to make room for Posey behind the plate, the rookie has put up stellar numbers both offensively and defensively. His .459 batting average and .788 slugging percentage are second to none for the month of July. He's also been one of baseball's premier backstops, throwing out 43 percent of runners attempting to steal, compared to Molina's 23 percent.
Posey has also handled one of baseball's best pitching staffs well. Giants hurlers have a 3.11 ERA with Buster catching, but only had a 3.46 ERA with Molina behind the dish.
"He's been great," Cain said. "It's been a pretty smooth transition. Sometimes it takes a little time to get on the same page. But he's been real adaptive, so I give him a ton of credit for wanting to catch on fast. He put a lot of effort into that."
Is he the Rookie of the Year? Not quite yet. But the Giants are glad to have him.