Absolutely nothing. Here’s why…
The average batting line in the National League in 2010 was .255/.320/.399 (average/on-base percentage/slugging) for a .719 OPS, the isolated power (ISO) average was .144. But if you look at NL averages this season, you’ll find they’ve fallen to .249/ .315/.383 for a .698 OPS, and the ISO average is just .134. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, that all hitters’ numbers are down a little bit so far this season.
That’s why Buster Posey’s wRC+ — a league- and park-adjusted metric, using weighted on-base average (wOBA), scaled so that 100 is average (similar to OPS+ in that way) – is 115, or 15 percent better than his average peer. I say peer, but Buster is a catcher and the majority of the other positions on the diamond – all of them, in fact, with the possible exception of shortstop – are supposed to produce more gaudy offensive results.
Posey is hitting .281/.369/.392 (.761 OPS, .344 wOBA). His walk rate is way up this season (3.4 percent from 2010) and above average at 10.2 percent. That’s excellent news, because it’s a skill he had in college and in the minors that didn’t quite carry over in his 2010 Rookie of the Year campaign. The increase in walks drawn has helped him keep a very solid on-base percentage, 12 points up from his 2010 figure despite a 24 point drop in batting average after Sunday’s games.
If there’s one area he could improve, and I believe he can, it’s in driving the ball a little bit better. He only has nine extra base hits (four home runs, five doubles) in 2011. Last season, he slugged .500 with an ISO of .200, and he’s seen significant drops in that department so far with a .108 drop in slugging and .089 point drop in ISO. If I had to guess, I’d say that he’s been trying to pull the ball a bit too often this year, and that his ability to drive the ball to right field has been diminished because of that. But, that’s his bread and butter in my mind, and I feel confident he’ll get back to doing that sooner rather than later. When he does, I expect the home runs and extra-base hits in general will return.
His average on balls in play (BABiP) doesn’t appear to hold a ton of luck in it, sitting at .320, when his career figure is .312. That’s in about one full season of at-bats only, though, and certainly a larger sample size would and will be helpful in time. But, it does make some sense intuitively, because Posey is a spray hitter that has the ability to smack line drives from pole to pole.
Even when not hitting his best, he’s outstanding defensively. Buster’s thrown out 15 attempted base stealers out of the 39 that ran on him, a caught stealing rate of over 38 percent. And beyond the throwing aspect of catching, he looks as comfortable as a 10-year veteran with his pitching staff, a collection of arms that has the second best fielding-independent pitching (FIP) in baseball (3.09 versus the 2.94 FIP of the Phillies).
Add it all up, and the overall value metrics have loved him. Posey’s fWAR (FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement) is 1.7. And, in this particular case, Baseball-Reference agrees as Posey has currently tallied 1.6 rWAR according to their pages.
His fWAR is tied for second best in baseball at the catching position with Russell Martin, and just 0.1 wins behind Yadier Molina. If you had to choose which bat you’d like in the lineup for the rest of the season between the three backstops, you’d probably choose Posey.
Molina is sporting a .352 average on balls in play (BABiP), and has lots of room for regression – his career BABiP is just .285. Probably soon, too, considering his only season with an above average wRC+ came in 2009 at 106, that his career wRC+ is just 85, and his current wRC+ is 135.
Martin, meanwhile, is having a resurgent season after leaving Hollywood. Whereas he’s hit a home run on 9.6 percent of fly balls in his career, he’s done so nearly 22 percent of the time this season. One has to wonder if he’s enjoying the cozy park that is the new Yankees Stadium, but further investigation proves this isn’t the case. However, all four of his road home runs – he has eight in total – came in exactly two contests, two in Boston and two in Baltimore, driven out of two of the best hitters’ parks in baseball.
And while Brian McCann has been the best all-around catcher in the NL for several years, his current wOBA is just .319 and his fWAR 1.1. Posey has outplayed him, with his bat and gear.
Hopefully, this put things in better perspective for Giants (and Posey) fans out there. I think there’s been some disappointment in Posey so far this year. But, even if he keeps hitting no better or no worse than this, he’s one of the top catchers in Major League Baseball, especially when Joe Mauer is on the shelf and the Twins are playing like The Bad News Bears.
So if you’re looking for someone to blame the Giants’ poor offensive output on, and your search ends in Posey and his “low” total of 21 RBIs, you got the wrong guy. Though not to the extent of his predecessor, Bengie Molina, Posey is a bit miscast in his starring role as The Cleanup Hitter. The get with him was always the overall value he promised to provide, not that he’d somehow evolve into a right-handed, catching Ted Williams.
An MVP-caliber season may someday be in his grasp, just maybe, but to expect so much, so soon from the Georgian seems a bit greedy.