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Buster Posey and the case of the year-long slump

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It was probably something Bugs Meany did.

just missed it
just missed it
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Here are stats. Let's talk about them.

Split G PA H 2B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Last 365 days 146 583 142 23 15 57 70 .277 .350 .409 .759


Those stats belong to Buster Posey, who is in the middle of another slump. Over the past year, he's been a valuable player. Those are nifty stats for a catcher, especially a catcher who's generally sound behind the plate. But they're not MVP stats. They're not cleanup-hitter numbers. This isn't the Buster Posey we're used to.

Come baaaaaack, Buster. Come back.

There are reasons not to be nervous. If you did the same 365-day split from a year ago at this time, his OPS would have been a million. Literally a .1,000,000 OPS. And if you figure great players can have an average season mixed in at some point without meaning anything other than "that's baseball," there's no reason to worry.

There are reasons to be nervous. Catching is tough work. It's horrible on the body, and for every Carlton Fisk who lasts into his 30s without slowing down with the bat, there are 1,000 Rick Wikinses, who stand up in front of the team one day and say, "Gentlemen, I have decided to stop hitting" before taking off in a jetpack powered by their own flatulence and never returning.

(Just picture it. Also, the jetpack makes the sounds you would expect.)

Now, Posey is clearly more Fisk than Wilkins, but the point stands. There doesn't have to be a reason for catchers to stop hitting other than "their bodies don't do the things they used to." So when Posey has a down year by his standards, it's going to make folks overreact. Specifically, me. It's going to make me overreact. Are his back issues related to catching and the tools of ignorance? Seems likely, but I don't know.

I'm not smart or talented enough to break down the differences in Posey's swing, or graph out his declining bat speed (which is just a hypothetical, not something that's actually happening, I hope), but I can regurgitate data. This caught my eye:

Swings at pitches out of the strike zone
2010: 26.4%
2011: 19.5
2012: 25.4
2013: 23.7
2014: 30.6

That's a huge jump. It doesn't have to mean anything other than "Posey's slumping." His head's not right and the slump is making him anxious.

It doesn't have to mean nothing, either. If his everything is tired because he's a catcher, maybe he's cheating more and starting his swing sooner.

Everything else is the same. The indicators are better, even. He's hitting more fly balls (good). His line-drive percentage is the second-highest of his career (also good, if imperfectly calculated). And for the first time in a full season, he has good clutch numbers (huh). Pitchers aren't pitching him differently, other than throwing a little harder.

I'm of two minds:

  1. This is probably just one of those things, a streak from a streaky player that will be superseded by a much better streak

  2. The Giants are in first place and have the best record in baseball without Buster Posey going bonkers. Wait until he does. WAIT UNTIL HE DOES.

I hope he does. He probably will. But it's been a long time since we've seen the real Posey. Hopefully, there isn't some stupid M. Night Shyamalan twist at the end, it turns out he's been good instead of great the whole time.