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Buster Posey hopes to return to catching in 2012
In less than one full season Buster Posey became the face of the San Francisco Giants franchise. He won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2010 and became a team leader for the Giants.
Posey came up in late May of 2010 and went on to hit .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI. He also handled the top pitching staff in baseball and earned the trust of stars like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson.
Posey was off to a bit of a slow start but had begun to swing the bat better when got was hurt. At the time, he was hitting .284 with four home runs and 21 RBI over 45 games.
We have all seen the hit by Scott Cousins on the play at the plate that resulted in Posey's injury. It was gut-wrenching to see Posey's leg get mangled as he fell backwards following Cousins' blow.
Although the collision could have been avoided, by the rules of baseball Cousins' play was legal. The ball was going to beat him home, and although Cousins could have slid to the outside of the plate, he felt his best chance to score was to dislodge the ball from Posey.
The throw actually short-hopped Posey and he did not make the catch. Posey tried to lean back to get a better angle on the bounce. This move of perhaps eight to 12 inches made him an easy target for Cousins.
One thing that is rarely mentioned is the throw from right fielder Nate Schierholtz, who has a strong and accurate arm. It was a relatively shallow fly ball and Schierholz caught it flat-footed. I do not believe he expected Cousins to attempt to score.
Outfielders are taught to come in on the ball as they catch it to build momentum and get more on the throw. This is a fundamental skill that Schierholtz has displayed many times. However, on this play, he had no momentum toward the plate as he made the throw.
The question in my mind is that if Schierholz expected Cousins to go and used better fundamentals, maybe his throw would have been stronger and would not have short-hopped Posey. This could have enabled him to catch the ball and avoid the collision, or at least brace himself for it.
After the Posey injury, there were many calls to change the rule regarding home plate collisions. A few years ago, baseball did change the rules pertaining to contact at the other bases. Runners were no longer allowed to just plow into fielders, which used to occur so frequently at second base.
Unfortunately, I do not expect Major League Baseball to alter the current rule at home plate. Although the Giants were up in arms about the collision, there is too much sentiment that "this is the way it's always been."
Although a rule change makes sense, it is very unlikely. The often glacial pace of Commissioner Bud Selig will see this issue fade away unless we see a player suffer a broken neck or some other catastrophic injury.
Meanwhile, the Giants have had to endure this injury and 12 others. In addition to Posey, Freddy Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Fontenot, Brandon Belt, Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Darren Ford, Mark DeRosa, Barry Zito, Brian Wilson, Santiago Casilla and Jonathan Sanchez have all spent time on the DL. Posey and Sanchez are likely lost for the season.
With the string of injuries the Giants have endured, it is amazing they have weathered the storm and retained first place with a 44-34 record. The Giants have scored fewer runs than any team in baseball but are somehow 10 games over .500.
The starting pitching of Lincecum, Cain, Vogelsong and Bumgarner has been very good. The Giants bullpen has also been outstanding. Led by closer Brian Wilson, they have been the most consistent unit on the team and arguably the best in baseball.
Manager Bruce Bochy deserves tremendous credit for keeping the Giants on track, given the hitting woes and injuries this team has dealt with.