13 Days Till Opening Day: Buster Posey’s 2015

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I feel like fully half the things I’ve ever written about baseball have been about Buster Posey, and I equally feel like that’s only half as many things as I’ve wanted to write about him (his name with hearts around it on my school binder doesn’t count.) He’s the best catcher in baseball and the best player on the Giants for five years running, and neither of those things will change this year. I don’t really expect the Giants to contend in 2015, not because of any odd-year bullshit but only because it isn’t a very talented roster, but I do expect Posey to perform at a near-MVP level and be an absolute joy to watch.

He gets compared to Jeter a lot, which isn’t entirely unfair, but which I think misses the point: Jeter was the face of the game’s most popular franchise and he collected plenty of rings, but the wholesomeness and flawless character was a media creation which only worked because he was so boring. He gave them nothing, so they created a hero ballplayer character they would’ve loved to read about as kids. In reality he was a conniving playboy who was always more about Jeter than about the Yankees.

Buster Posey isn’t a media creation. He really is as boring as he seems. He’s a handsome and articulate small-town Georgia boy who married his high school sweetheart and then had twins. It’s digusting. The only way he’d be comparable to Jeter would be if he were to cut the brakes on Andrew Susac’s car to keep him from taking over catcher and eventually moving Posey off the position.

Also straining the Posey/Jeter comparisons is the fact that Posey is a great defensive catcher and one of the best hitters in the game at any position, which means he’s one of the most valuable players in the game. It remains to be seen how much another deep postseason run will affect his power output (by the end of the World Series he could barely walk to the mound to celebrate), but he’ll still be good for at least 20 homers, and hopefully over 30 doubles, a mark he couldn’t manage last season (he hit 28.) It’s clear the power he showed in his MVP season—a ridiculous .549 slugging percentage—won’t be matched again.

The only potentially troubling sign from his otherwise stellar 2014 campaign was a much, much lower walk rate compared to years past: 11.3% in 2012, 10.1% in 2013, all the way down to 7.8% in 2014. This could be a statistical outlier, a concerted change in approach, or a sign of an aging Posey losing his great eye. The only problem with the latter theory is that walk rate is considered an “old player skill”, meaning it can improve with age, and he’s coupled that low walk rate with the lowest strikeout rate of his career, in a league that saw more strikeouts than ever before.

It’s probably nothing, and I expect the walks to return in 2015. Buster’s going to have a very solid year, something like his 2013 (where he likely felt the effects of 2012’s deep run), where he lost some power. I predict a .305/.380/.450 line, assuming the league’s offense doesn’t rebound because umpires stop calling the extremely low strike. I also hope that Buster only plays about 130 games this year, typical catcher stuff, because Belt has such a great season at first base that they won’t sit him against lefties and let Posey play instead. Probably unrealistic.

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