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Posey explains swing changes that have been key to hot start

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Buster Posey

Buster Posey has more than 5,200 plate appearances in the big leagues and is approaching 9,000 innings behind the plate, so there are few on Earth better equipped to explain the changes in Major League Baseball over the past decade. When Posey has been asked about the evolution of the game in recent years, he generally has focused on velocity.

Pitchers are throwing harder than they ever have, a fact the Giants were reminded of over the weekend when they faced Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias, with the two righties topping out at 97 mph and Urias hitting 96. Velocity across MLB in April was the highest it has ever been in the first month of a season, and Posey is seeing an average fastball of about 94 mph, an increase of more than two mph from his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2010. 

The change in the game led to changes for Posey, who is off to his best offensive start in his 12-year career. Posey is batting .355 and slugging .645, nearly 100 points ahead of his previous best. He has nine homers already, easily surpassing his finishes from his two previous full seasons, and has an OPS+ of 200, 29 points better than his MVP campaign in 2012. 

Posey is a different hitter at the plate, and he looks different, too. He is standing more upright, has closed off his stance a bit, and starts with a noticeable change in how his hands are set up. On this week's "Giants Talk Podcast," Posey said the velocity increase around the game was a big part of why he made changes to his swing as a 34-year-old. 

 

"It was me kind of looking around at the league and all of the velocity in the league and really thinking, what's the best position I can start in that's going to help me move as fast as possible, as efficiently as possible, and I kind of collaborated with the hitting (coaches) and made a few adjustments," Posey said. "Really, I think my whole goal with hitting my whole career is to be simple. I think where I'm starting now kind of takes some of the movement out of my swing that I had before. It just allows me to feel like I'm moving through the zone really well."

Posey always has been able to hit some of the hardest throwers in the game. He's 5-for-9 against Aroldis Chapman, and the list of players he has had success against includes Zack Wheeler (three homers), Andrew Cashner (14-for-33), Matt Harvey (6-for-10) and Jacob deGrom (4-for-14, one homer, one strikeout). 

Every player slows down in his thirties, though, particularly when he's a catcher, and Posey appeared to be hitting a wall offensively in 2018 and 2019. After a year off, he has come back to hit .353 against fastballs with a .701 slugging percentage. He already has seven homers against fastballs and is hitting them with an average exit velocity of 93.2 mph, a huge jump from 2019 (90.1). 

Posey had a summer off last year to watch the continued changes in the game and think about how he would attack them, but even before he opted out, he was making changes with hitting coaches Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind. The Giants were excited about the way Posey's body was moving last spring, and this season he has been able to attack pitches the way he did a decade ago. 

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Posey already has four homers on pitches 94 mph or harder. He had two in his previous two seasons combined. 

"It's obviously trended that way for a while now. I think there's a trust factor that has to come in for somebody like me and Craw and Belt, who came into the game when (high velocity) wasn't as prolific as it is now," Posey said. "And just being okay with 95-96 (mph) -- almost treating it as the norm now and not necessarily thinking that you have to cheat to it, but just trusting that the work that you put in leading up to that is going to suffice for getting you in the position that you need to be in."

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