Last night on Giants Outsiders, one of the Grants (I think it was the one on the right) suggested that Hunter Pence might get a start tonight against the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu on account of Pence’s 12 hits in 29 career at bats against him. The other Grant (I think it was the one on the left) suggested that might not be the case because the Hunter Pence who faced Ryu all those times before was not the same Pence playing in 2018.
Bruce Bochy still thinks that old Pence is in there, though, and he’s starting in left field tonight. Not talked about but what should be equally considered as you settle in tonight to watch the third game of the series is that Buster Posey’s career against Hyun-Jin Ryu is pretty grand in its own right. That means if the Giants somehow manage to pull off a sweep it could very well come thanks to Posey’s bat.
Ryu himself is coming off the 60-day disabled list after heading there back in May. You might vaguely remember a player’s groin muscle tearing clean off the bone — that was Ryu. I can’t fathom the pain or the rehab involved with something like that, but he’s making his first start at the big league level following that injury and in addition to Pence, he’ll be greeted by Posey, who has a .916 OPS in 35 career plate appearances against him.
Here are all the pitchers against whom Posey has at least 35 career plate appearances against, sorted by OPS:
9. Zack Greinke | 55 PA | 13 hits (0 home runs) | .607 OPS
8. Clayton Kershaw | 115 PA | 25 hits (3 home runs) | .621 OPS
7. Patrick Corbin | 63 PA | 16 hits (0 home runs) | .714 OPS
6. Gio Gonzalez | 36 PA | 10 hits (1 home run) | .826 OPS
5. Jhoulys Chacin | 36 PA | 12 hits (1 home run) | .859 OPS
4. Jorge de la Rosa | 49 PA | 12 hits (2 home runs) | .904 OPS
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu | 35 PA | 10 hits (1 home run) | .916 OPS
2. Ian Kennedy | 53 PA | 17 hits (1 home run) | .923 OPS
1. Clayton Richard | 40 PA | 12 hits (2 home runs) | .917 OPS
Not bad in a limited sampling. But there’s more to it than just the career numbers. Since the All-Star Break, Posey has posted a not awesome but not disastrous .320 / .363 /.360 with 0 home runs and his last extra base hit was on August 2nd (one of only three he’s had since the break). However, his Statcast data shows that his average exit velocity (89.2 mph) is up over last season (88.5) and his hard hit % (balls hit at 95 mph or more) is also up from last season at (35.2%).
I’ve highlighted where that ranks him among all the qualified players in MLB:
Buster is fine not just “for a catcher”, but he’s generally fine for a hitter of his ilk. The lack of home runs has been a combination of bad luck and hip pain and you wonder if facing off against a guy he’s done well against over time who’s just returning from a lengthy injury might not be the perfect player to mash some extra base hits against. We’ll find out in just a few minutes...