Buster Posey’s Terrible Second Half

Buster Posey was great as a rookie in 2010. He was fine in a 2011 that was largely truncated by his broken leg, then was outstanding in 2012 as the Giants won another World Series. He was almost certainly the first catcher off the board in just about fantasy draft this year, with perhaps a few holdouts for Joe Mauer making it less than unanimous, and they were rewarded with… well, it’s hard to be disappointed by .294 and 15 homers from your catcher. But it was merely a good season, and not a great one, wasn’t it?

That’s backed up by the fact that he finished seventh in catcher wOBA (min. 250 PA), behind guys like Jason Castro and Yan Gomes, and also seventh in Zach Sanders’ end of season rankings. Seventh isn’t bad, of course; it’s a starter in even the shallowest of leagues. But it’s also not what fantasy owners were expecting, and that means we need to understand why in order to figure out where he’s appropriate to draft headed into 2014.

Any review of Posey’s 2013 has to start with a simple breakdown of his first half and second half, because the differences were huge.

PA
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
wOBA
BABIP
R
HR
RBI
ExBH
1st
367
.325
.395
.536
.931
.400
.337
38
13
56
41
2nd
228
.244
.333
.310
.643
.287
.272
23
2
16
9

Before the break, Posey’s .400 wOBA was only slightly behind his 2012 career season; after, his offense was in the Eric Young / Zack Cozart range, which is an enormous problem, especially when you look at the shocking drop in extra-base hits from 41 to 9. (It should be noted that the “first half” is actually more than 50%, so “second half” will always be less, but still.)

So what happened? It’s not injury, so far as we know. He had a small fracture in his right ring finger in early September, but his troubles started far earlier than that. In late July, he said he was “pressing”; near the end of the year, Bruce Bochy said Posey was a “victim of high expectations”. Neither of these help us all that much.

One possibility, perhaps, is overuse. With Brandon Belt emerging to take the first base job, Posey spent most of his time behind the plate, starting¬†73 of the 94 games before the break at catcher, along with another 10 at first (and two at DH). Bochy said that was a goal in April, but it remains to be seen whether it was a wise one. Posey ended up catching the most games of his career, but at one point — in late June, just around when the slump began — he saw some time at first due to what was termed “general tightness in his legs“.

On that day, June 30, Posey homered in Colorado, his fourth longball in five days. His OPS stood at an excellent .940. But he’d go hitless in the next four games and would homer just twice in June, tumbling that OPS down to .889, and then he’d hit just one homer in August and September combined.

I’m not sure we can say with absolute certainty that all the catching killed Posey’s bat, but in the absence of any other reasons, and with all the history we have of catchers taking such punishment that they can’t keep up the pace at the plate, it certainly fits. He’s still young at 26, of course, but he’s also suffered a catastrophic leg injury.

Headed into 2014, Posey remains a top-10 catcher, an easy starter in all leagues. He’ll almost certainly be drafted as a top-3 catcher on his name alone, but unless we hear that the Giants have more solid plans to get him out from behind the plate more — which may be tough, since Belt was so productive in 2013 — there’s more than a little reason to tread lightly with him going forward.



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Mike Petriello used to write here, and now he does not. Find him at @mike_petriello or MLB.com.

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abjohnson16
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abjohnson16

In my 14 team OBP league I took Santana (61st overall) behind Mauer (59th)and Posey (26th) and couldn’t have been happier. In AVG leagues I realize this isn’t helpful but if you can nab him at this spot in an OBP league he becomes an EXTREMELY valuable pick up. Especially when you consider he will get quite a few ABs as DH which theoretically should help him stay healthy.