Buster Posey’s return from a horrendous season-ending injury last season has been nothing short of sensational. The collision at home plate with Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins drained any hopes the San Francisco Giants had of defending their 2010 World Series championship. One play put the opportunity for the Giants to even make the playoffs well out of reach.
Concerns arose as to whether Posey could even return to baseball the same player. (Cousins has not been the same since either, having grown up dreaming to play for Giants.) He was the rookie catcher who put down the fingers for the best pitching rotation in baseball. The future of the Giants was dangling in the wings of a kid who was not even 25 years old at the time. But he battled as the organization and fans expected he would.
Fast forward to today and Buster Posey is at worst the second favorite to win the National League Most Valuable Player award behind Pittsburgh Pirates phenom Andrew McCutchen.
McCutchen has put together an impressive season for the struggling Pirates, currently leading the league in average (.344) and runs (91) because Giants star Melky Cabrera will be removed from contention after his season ended as a result of his positive PED test. McCutchen’s 24 home runs and 80 RBIs are impressive as well.
But Buster Posey’s numbers stack up very well against the Pittsburgh outfielder. His .329 BA, 19 HR and 83 RBI are just as good as McCutchen considering he plays half his games at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. Don’t forget that Posey has been absolutely tearing it up as of late. In the month of June, he hit .381. Last month he probably cooled off a bit, right? Well yes, if you consider .371 a drop to mediocrity.
Posey and McCutchen are very even statistically, and the final stretch of games could determine the fate of the MVP trophy. But if they remain on even footing as they are now, the MVP trophy will likely be in the hands of the first San Francisco Giant since none other than Barry Bonds. Why?
For one, it's rare that an MVP award is given to a player whose team does not make the playoffs. Barry Bonds’ 2004 season and Larry Walker’s 1997 season are two prime exceptions as both had absolutely incredible years. McCutchen isn't on that level nor is he far and away the best player in the National League.
Contrastingly, Posey has propelled the Giants into playoff contention. Although he had some help from Melky Cabrera up until his suspension, Posey is the threat in the middle of the order that helps the Giants put runs on the board—something they have perennially struggled to do.
Combine that with his scorching hitting of late and sportswriters will remember that Posey was a difference maker in a postseason run while McCutchen was on a Pirates squad that finished behind two teams in their division.
Nobody has forgotten the extreme odds Posey was facing this season. The Giants were hoping for more than a mere shadow of their catcher who had fallen to injury in 2011 and instead got an MVP candidate.
In the end, the award is for most valuable player. The Giants won the World Series with Posey, failed to make the playoffs without him and are on their way back to October baseball because of him.
Check out Bases and Baskets for more Giants commentary including a discussion of Barry Bonds Hall of Fame opportunity in 2013.