448 PA, .286/.359/.382, 5 HR, 2.9 bWAR
Buster Posey, like most of the Giants, had his worst season as a big leaguer. This speaks to his graciousness and leadership. He didn’t want to show up his less talented teammates, so he went down with his ship as a good captain does. If the Giants were going to die, they would die together.
It also didn’t help that he had hip complications and was physically incapable of hitting for power. It was the first season he slugged under .400, and he only hit one more home run than he did in his injury-shortened 2011. Even playing through pain, Posey made his sixth All-Star team though he declined to attend.
The good news is that the culprit behind Posey’s un-Posey-like performance has been diagnosed and surgically repaired. Though he might not be ready Opening Day, he should be back to his previous form. It’s not like a face of the franchise has ever had his career derailed by hip issues.
Role on the 2018 Team
It says something about Posey’s importance to the team that as soon as he left for the season, the Giants went on an 11-game losing streak.*
*Andrew McCutchen was dealt to the Yankees at the same time and losing their only other good hitter didn’t help.
But Posey held things together as best he could. Eno Sarris wrote about how he was instrumental in refining Dereck Rodríguez (subscription required). It can be difficult to quantify how a catcher improves a pitcher, but the things that Sarris laid out are pretty convincing. To paraphrase, Posey’s framing was key to getting more called strikes, but Posey’s game-calling was the big thing. With Posey behind the plate, Rodríguez became more confident with his changeup, throwing it every count.
It wasn’t just Rodríguez that Posey helped either. It was the whole staff. Catcher RA9 (runs allowed per nine innings when a catcher is behind the plate) probably doesn’t mean much, but Posey’s 3.90 was about a run lower than Nick Hundley’s 4.86. Much of that difference is probably attributable to randomness and Hundley generally catching worse pitchers, but part of it can be traced to Posey’s framing and game-calling.
Role on the 2019 Team
Mark Twain once wrote that nothing is certain but death and cries of pOsEy To FiRsT. Posey transitioning to first full-time is mostly the inane, collected fever dream of Brandon Belt dissenters. Posey is the best all-around catcher in baseball and moving him from the position would make the Giants worse. JT Realmuto might be a better hitter, but Posey has been the more consistent framer. Yasmani Grandal might be a better framer, but you’d never see Posey kicking the ball around like Grandal did this postseason.
However, with Posey’s hip surgery there will be a question of how he recovers. Jay Jaffe wrote an excellent piece over at FanGraphs speculating on what Posey’s future might look like. In it, he found that there hasn’t been a catcher that’s undergone hip surgery and come back the same. That sounds grim, but the four other catchers to have a similar procedure have been backups, nearing the end of their career regardless, or have had myriad other injuries. There hasn’t been a catcher that’s come back just fine after hip surgery, but there also hasn’t been one that has had their career ended directly because of it.
Unless his recovery goes catastrophically, Posey isn’t moving to first. I know that after watching the Giants the past two years, hoping for anything but the worst possible outcome is a tall ask, but Posey has to remain behind the plate.
Final Grade: A
Objectively, this was more like a B, but giving Posey anything less than an A is blasphemous.