You’ve heard “Pitchers and catchers report” roughly one billion times over the last couple of weeks. You won’t here. I don’t care about the other Giants catchers, at least unless we’re talking about their stable of catching prospects on the farm.
Over at the SweetSpot, Chris provided his pick for the Giant we are most excited to see in 2012.
I think I can speak for Giants fans everywhere when I say the player that I’m most excited to see play this season is Posey, and it’s not even close. His injury in 2011 was a black mark on a year that we’d all like to forget. Beyond the numbers, Posey has quickly become the face of the Giants. He’s young, energetic, talented and — for us fans — we hope healthy. Regardless of what happens, I’ll be happy to see him back on the field in 2012.
When first asked to answer this question, I immediately went to the Brandon Belt and Madison Bumgarner well. As excited as I am to see those two in ’12, I now realize I swung and missed on that one like Aaron Rowand would on, well, pretty much any slider. (This is my last Rowand joke, I think. In this post.)
Buster Posey. Of course.
While I don’t think that Posey’s return should be considered a “free agent signing,” which was apparently the case with the front office of the Giants, I do think his return has the potential to be a monumental step forward for the club that lugged their weary, offense-less bodies onto the diamond the last several months in 2011. Don’t know how anyone could think otherwise.
Posey can really catch. He can really lead a pitching staff. He can really hit, especially for a catcher. And, more importantly than anything else, the guys squatting in his place last year really could not hit. At all. And in Whiteside’s case, they couldn’t catch, either.
Chris Stewart, in 183 plate appearances: .204/.283/.309 for a wOBA of .259
Eli Whiteside, in 236 plate appearances: .197/.264/.310 for a wOBA of .251
Hector Sanchez, in just 34 plate appearances: .258/.324/.323 for a wOBA of .292
Posey, at least in my opinion, really hadn’t hit his stride yet in 2011 when he was lost for the season in May. He was hitting .284/.368/.389 for a wOBA of .338. That kind of on-base presence is so desperately needed in the Giants’ lineup, it’s not even funny. And, of course, he was doing his usual behind the plate: perpetually solid in all aspects and flashing utter brilliance while wiping out attempted base-stealers.
Posey accumulated an fWAR of 1.6 in just 185 plate appearances. In a hacky way, we can attempt to understand what that would have meant over a full season. If we neutralize plate appearances, Posey was producing one win per 116 plate appearances. To put that in perspective, the National League’s top three catchers accrued each win at a lower rate. Arizona’s Miguel Montero led the league with a 4.3 WAR (1 fWAR/129 PA) , St. Louis’s Yadier Molina ranked second with an fWAR of 4.1 (126) and Atlanta’s Brian McCann trailed at 3.7 (142).
(National League catchers sorted by fWAR in 2011, via Fangraphs.)
Would Posey have been the top NL catcher in 2011 if not for his injury? I don’t know, maybe. But am I excited to see whether or not Posey has regained form and what he can do in ’12? You bet.
If healthy, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t a top-five catcher in his league, if not all of baseball.
Update: Yup, we’re excited: