This is my Saturday column on Buster Posey. WARNING: This is a baseball column. 49ers’ fans — feel free to skip this.
SAN FRANCISCO – Buster Posey turned on C.C. Lee’s hanging slider and crushed it deep into the left field bleachers during the bottom of the sixth inning of the Giants’ 5-3 victory against the Indians Saturday afternoon. The solo home run was Posey’s first hit against a right-handed pitcher in Posey’s past 25 at-bats.
He went 1-for-3 Saturday afternoon, but is just 4-for-his-past-41. That’s an .096 batting average. What’s going on with him?
“I’m getting asked that a lot,” Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy said in the dugout before the game. “I’ll keep saying the same thing: He’s human. These guys go through their bumps in the road and they will have the occasional hiccup. That’s the way this game is. I don’t care how talented you are, you’re going to go through it. He’s going through his little thing right now but he will come out of it.”
Maybe the sixth-inning home run signifies the end of Posey’s slump. Or maybe it signifies nothing – we expect Major League hitters to crush hanging sliders.
With all due respect to Bochy, Posey’s slump is not a “little thing” or a “hiccup.” Posey’s slump goes all the way back to last season’s All-Star Break. That’s 81 games, exactly one half of a season. Since then, Posey has been a bad hitter, the second-worst everyday hitter in the Giants’ lineup, hitting .238 with seven home runs and 27 RBI.
A liability in the lineup.
For half of a season, Posey has hit worse than Hunter Pence, worse than Brandon Belt, and – if you can believe it – worse than Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval has hit .259 with seven home runs and 43 RBI since last season’s All-Star Break – big-time numbers compared to Posey’s puny production.
Posey has slightly outperformed just one everyday hitter on the Giants the past half season – Brandon Crawford, the Giants’ defensive-specialist shortstop. He has hit a Posey-esque .224 with five home runs and 22 RBI during the same stretch.
It gets worse for Posey.
He doesn’t have a single base hit to right field all season. In 2012, he had 33 hits to right field.
“When you have a hiccup,” Bochy said before the game, “You’re coming off the ball a little bit. You try to get back on track by thinking up the middle.”
Posey doesn’t seem to be thinking up the middle. He’s pulling practically everything. Defenses have noticed, too. The Indians’ infield played Posey to pull. When Posey was at bat, Indians’ shortstop Asdrubal Crabrera lined up on the grass near the third baseman. Second baseman Jason Kipnis lined up behind second base and left a big hole on the right side of the infield between him and first baseman Nick Swisher. Posey couldn’t take advantage. The best he could do was hit a line drive right to David Murphy, the Indians’ right fielder, in the bottom of the fourth inning.
After the game, I asked Hunter Pence why Posey hasn’t gotten any hits to right field this year.
“He doesn’t have any?” Pence asked.
“He doesn’t have any,” I said.
“He doesn’t have one?”
“Not even one.”
Pence shrugged. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to get some hits to right,” he said. “Maybe it’s his home run year.”
When Posey first got to the majors, he used the whole field and hit for a high average, but lacked some power. Now, he’s the opposite – a dead-pull power hitter.
When Posey finally appeared at his locker, I told him what Bochy had said before the game, that Posey was coming off the ball.
“I agree with that,” Posey said.
Then I told him he hasn’t gotten a hit to right field all season
“I wasn’t aware of that,” Posey admitted. “I’ve lined out a few times that way. I probably haven’t hit the ball over there as much as I’d like to, but I feel like that will come. I’m trying my best not to think about forcing the ball one way or another. That can become a problem.”
The Giants need the old Buster back, the Buster who hit to left field and right field without forcing it. As long as he’s coming off the ball and trying to yank every pitch into the left field bleachers, he’s not Buster. He’s a bust.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.