Buster Posey is in a bit of a funk, and certain subsections of the fan base have revealed themselves to be ungrateful and impatient. There have been calls for Posey to be moved from the top of the lineup, and there were also rumors that some bad actors booed our lord and savior. While I didn’t hear them when I went back and listened to the television and radio broadcasts, this is extremely disappointing. I didn’t think I had to say this: If you’re ever thinking of booing Buster Posey, yeet thyself into the cove.
Most recently, Posey has been occupying the number three hole, and he’s also hit clean-up and batted second this year. Posey admittedly hasn’t been in the Giants four best hitters this season, so if he were just some random rookie, a solid defensive catcher with an 81 wRC+, he would have already been moved to the bottom half of the order, but that’s just looking at this season which is still a fairly small sample.
Posey has remained where he is in the lineup because of pedigree, but he’s earned that pedigree. He has a Rookie of the Year, an MVP, and four Silver Sluggers on his mantle to go along with six All-Star appearances. He’s Buster Posey, and he can hit wherever he damn well pleases. (Sorry for doing a cuss Mr. Posey.)
Any discussion of batting order should be prefaced with a reminder that batting orders don’t matter as much as we think they do. The main purpose of a batting order is to give fans an easy way to second guess the manager.
The secondary purpose is to make sure the best hitters get the most at bats, but those gains are mostly seen over a wide sample. If a career clean-up hitter is having a couple bad weeks, it doesn’t do much good to move him down. By the time you start seeing gains, he’s probably got his swing back.
When Bruce Bochy was asked about moving Posey out of the three spot, he didn’t seem interested in shaking things up with his longest tenured player.
Bochy, asked about Buster Posey batting third through his struggles: “With a guy like this, he’s still ... He’s such a good hitter. Two nights ago he squared it up every at-bat. You know what? These guys are who we will win with, and I’m staying with them.”— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) August 27, 2019
The game that Bochy was talking about was the game against the A’s when Posey had two balls hit over 100 mph that both went for outs. Posey is definitely off—his four strikeout game on Sunday was the second of the season and the second of his career—but when he has made solid contact lately, it hasn’t fallen in.
Aside from a slump through June, Posey has hit the ball like a competent major league hitter, but he’s been the victim of bad luck. His .282 BABIP is 39 points lower than his career average, and while his .323 xwOBA would be his lowest in the Statcast era, but it’s still above average.
The jump in strikeout rate and drop in walk rates are the most alarming. A 16 percent strikeout rate is still 26 percent better than average, but it would easily be Posey’s worst mark in a full season. Likewise, his 7.7 percent walk rate would be his worst since his rookie year. It’s not hard to find reasons why these numbers gone the wrong direction. Posey is swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone and he’s whiffing more in general.
Posey’s overall chase rate isn’t much higher than it was in 2015, but Posey has been especially vulnerable to offspeed pitches this year.
These are causing him to go way out of the zone more than he has before. Looking at his chase rate by attack zone, Posey is more likely to swing at pitches in the chase and waste zones, and he’s been more aggressive on pitches in the shadow region.
There are reasons to be concerned about Buster Posey as a hitter, but those problems aren’t going to be solved by dropping him down in the order especially when it’s a reaction to a recent slump. Posey was getting good results as recently as the first week of August, so a few bad weeks where balls aren’t falling aren’t enough to lose faith in a franchise player.