Buster Posey's decline this season has been one of the more surprising stories of the 2011.
Coming into the season, many national writers and analysts declared that Posey, the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year, was the best overall catcher in all of baseball.
While he remains one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, his offensive production has taken a serious hit in 2011. Posey comes into today with a slash line of .244/.336/.361 and only six extra base hits (four of them home runs).
Looking at the batted ball rates and advanced metrics, there are some reasons for concern, but also room for optimism.
Let's look at some of the negatives. Posey's ISO has dropped from .200 to .118, and as I mentioned earlier, he has only six extra base hits this season. That ranks 20th out of 27 catchers who have had 80 or more plate appearances. Additionally, Posey ranks 20th among catchers with a wOBA of .319 and a wRC+ of 96.
Posey's fly ball percentage has increased slightly (33 percent to 34 percent), but his ground ball rate has increased from 48.6 percent to 52.6 percent because of a drop in his line drive rate (18.4 percent to 13.4 percent).
Strikeouts have also plagued Posey's numbers this season. His strikeout rate has increased from 13.5 percent to 19.3 percent
However, some of these numbers will improve over time. The increase in ground balls can explain a small dip in Posey's BABIP of .266, but that number is still below average, so expect his average to increase over the coming weeks.
His plate discipline numbers show that the strikeout rate should improve as well once he becomes a little more aggressive in the strike zone. Posey's contact rate of 83.9 percent is slightly higher than last season's 83.5 percent. Posey has swung at less pitches this season. His swing rate has dropped to 40.7 percent compared to 46.8 in 2010.
Posey's better plate discipline has improved his walk rate from 6.8 percent to 10.2 percent, but I believe that number will drop slightly if he wants to improve his strikeout rate.
Posey's power numbers are troublesome, but they should improve over time. He still is posting a 12.5 percent HR/FB ratio, only down 3 percentage points from his 2010 ratio.
The numbers have not been kind to Posey in 2011, as his offensive production has taken a serious hit during the first two months of the season. Don't expect Posey to keep hitting this poorly. He has too much talent, and I still expect him to reach the 20 home run plateau. His average may not get to .300, but there is still time to turn it around.