While the San Francisco Giants path to the World Series has been nothing short of miraculous, Buster Posey has been the struggling piece holding them back. I know, I know, who would have thought, right?
Posey’s postseason struggles come as a surprise, considering he was named the NL’s Comeback Player of the Year and is the league’s easy choice for the MVP award. He led the league with a .336 average, registered 24 home runs and knocked in 103 RBI’s, all while handling the defensive responsibilities behind the plate. In his effort to regain his form after his devastating ankle injury that kept him out of much of the 2011 season, he tallied a staggering 7.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a stat that measures how many wins a given player can contribute to his team than an average replacement-level player, according to stealingfirstbase.com.
During the postseason, Posey has been unnoticeable. In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, the 25-year-old catcher posted a mere .154 batting average, with a .267 on-base percentage and a .154 slugging percentage. The seven-game series dropped his 2012 postseason stats to a .178/.288/.311 slash line with ten strikeouts, four runs and six RBIs (four of which came on a grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS). His career postseason stats are not much better. He’s registered a pedestrian .240/.325/.356 slash line. Not quite Posey-caliber numbers.
Busting out of a slump won’t be easy, especially against the Detroit Tigers pitching staff. Together, they have accrued a miraculous 1.02 ERA in the playoffs with four pitchers totaling a strikeout-to-walk ratio that ranks as one of the best of all-time in the first two series (66 strikeouts: 19 walks).
In Game 1 of the World Series, Posey will face one one of the best pitchers in baseball in big game situations and the likely AL Cy Young Award winner — Justin Verlander. The 29-year-old right-hander is carrying an astounding 0.74 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and a .122 batting average against in three playoff starts, which have earned him a perfect 3-0 record. It’s not by luck. In the regular season, he ranked as one of the best pitchers in the AL in almost every pitching category, including 238.1 innings pitched (1st in NL), 6 complete games (1st), 239 strikeouts (1st), 2.64 ERA (2nd), 1.06 WHIP (2nd) and 17 wins (4th). Posey will, in all likelihood, face Verlander twice in the series.
The next few games, Posey will have to find his swing against Doug Fister (1.38 ERA in the postseason), Anibal Sanchez (1.98 ERA) and Max Scherzer (3.74 ERA). The three have been solid contributors for the Tigers, especially after helping sweep the New York Yankees in the ALCS. They each nabbed a win while only letting up a combined two runs between them.
If I were a betting man, I would say Posey doesn’t have a shot at regaining his MVP stride in the World Series. His numbers continue to fall as he gets further into the postseason and the Tigers pitching staff looks almost un-hittable during these playoffs.
Can the Giants win without Posey’s bat in the World Series?
The short answer: Unlikely.
While San Francisco has earned their spot in the Fall Classic without Posey hitting, it did it with remarkable performances by Barry Zito, Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum and Brandon Crawford, four players that have never been celebrated for their consistency this year. Zito pitched a career-game against the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS, while Pence followed up with a miraculous three-run double in Game 7 to bounce St. Louis out of the playoffs, just to name a few of their performances. And Marco Scutaro, the NLCS MVP, is batting close to .500 in the playoffs. These performances cannot possibly continue.
If the Giants are to pull off another World Series championship, they’ll have to do it behind Posey’s bat. But that chance is largely in doubt.