Giants Review: Buster Posey's hip injury robs him of power in 2018


Giants Review: Buster Posey's hip injury robs him of power in 2018

SAN FRANCISCO — Sometimes it’s easy to see the way an injury affected a team. Seven years ago, Buster Posey got run over at the plate, and the Giants lost their most important player in the blink of an eye. But in 2018, it wasn’t nearly as black and white. 

Technically, Posey was out there 105 times. But he wasn’t truly Buster Posey. 

A hip injury robbed Posey of the ability to consistently use his lower half in his swing, and sapped him of pretty much all of the power that remains after a decade in the squat. There were good days and bad, and through it all, Posey did his best to hide what was really going on. Only when he finally gave in and accepted surgery did it become clear that his whole season had been compromised. 

How much did the hip affect his numbers and the Giants? We’ll never know. But it’s clear that Posey wasn’t himself for most of the 2018 season. Here’s a recap of how it all went down … 

What Went Right

In casual discussions in September, coaches, teammates and staff members quietly marveled about the numbers Posey was able to put up while dealing with an injury that would require major surgery. He hit .284 in 398 at-bats, with a .359 on-base percentage that ranked second among MLB catchers. Unforgiving AT&T Park actually ended up being kind to Posey, who often couldn’t do much but try to put the ball in play up the middle. He peppered center field with singles, batting .337 at home. 

Posey was still the Giant you wanted up in a big spot. He hit .329 with runners in scoring position. 

Posey made his sixth All-Star team, although he didn’t make the trip to Washington D.C. His hip might have affected his throws at times, but he was still elite behind the plate, and he is a Gold Glove Award nominee despite making only 85 starts at catcher. 

What Went Wrong

Early on, it was clear that something was up. Posey has always shifted over to first base during some of his “rest days” but in 2018, he made just 13 starts away from catcher and Bruce Bochy talked often about how Posey needed a full day off. He didn’t even pinch-hit that often. In late August, the Giants finally admitted how bad the injury was. Posey had surgery Aug. 27 to address a hip impingement and torn labrum, and he underwent a microfracture procedure to promote healing.

Posey played in just 105 games, his fewest since 2011. He led the Giants in Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR (2.9), but this was the first time in seven years that he wasn’t worth at least four Wins Above Replacement.

More than anything, the injury robbed him of his power. He hit five homers and had a .382 slugging percentage, his lowest (if you exclude 2011) by 52 points. His .741 OPS was a career-low and he drove in just 41 runs. 

Contract Status

Posey is two years into the portion of his massive extension where he makes $21.4 million per year. He’s due that much in 2019 and each of the next two seasons, with a club option for 2022. He has a full no-trade clause. 

The Future

As he sat alongside his locker the last weekend of the season, Posey said the rehab process was going well, and he remains on track to return during spring training and be behind the plate on Opening Day. The Giants are optimistic, but this is a major injury and it’s not a guarantee that Posey will be ready for the first game.

What is a guarantee, barring a surprise health issue, is the fact that he’ll be the catcher when he returns. This surgery should clear up some of the issues he has had the last couple of years, and players who have had it before say the power should return. Will he ever get back to that 20-homer range? Maybe not.

The hip was an issue, but Posey is also 1,144 games into his career, with three long postseasons tacked on, and a lot of his peak power is likely lost forever. But he should be pretty close to his old self in 2019, and given how many issues this roster has, the franchise certainly could use that version.

Former Giant Randy Winn describes feeling of month-long hot streak

Former Giant Randy Winn describes feeling of month-long hot streak

A starting pitcher can take control of a game and singlehandedly lead his team to a win, but in general, it's hard for baseball players to will their team to victory day after day.

Starters pitch once every five days and position players know that even on a five-hit night, you're dependent on your own pitchers standing tall, and every time you reach base, you have to wait a couple innings for another chance to impact the game.

But every once in a while, a hitter gets so hot that it seems he's carrying his team for weeks at a time. The Giants last truly experienced this in 2018, when Brandon Crawford briefly thrust himself into the MVP race and earned an All-Star selection with an absurd stretch in May and June.

Buster Posey won the MVP award with his second half of 2012, and Melky Cabrera dragged the Giants to plenty of wins earlier that year before failing a PED test. In the first half of this century, Barry Bonds could carry the lineup for weeks, even seasons, at a time. 

Randy Winn experienced that after being traded to the Giants from the Mariners in 2005, and that year he had his own hot streak that to this day is one of the most impressive in franchise history. Over the final 30 games of that season, Winn had 54 hits in 123 at-bats, good for a .439 batting average. He hit 11 homers, 13 doubles and three triples, with a slugging percentage of .862 and OPS of 1.331. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Winn recalled what it felt like to get that hot for such a long period of time. 

"Nothing felt different -- everything just felt really, really easy and really slow," Winn said. "Whenever I felt like I wanted to take a pitch, the pitcher would throw a ball. If in my mind I was thinking, you know what, he might throw me a changeup, and he would throw me a changeup and it was very hittable. When anybody describes 'the zone' or being on fire, what they say is always the same: Everything was really slow, I was really relaxed, and my mind was really clear.

"When I think back on that time or other times when I was hitting really well, those are always the things that I remember. I didn't feel different, I wasn't really doing anything different. It just feels like you're in control of everything."

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Winn was having a solid season to that point, with a .273 average and .742 OPS. He opened September with eight hits in a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks and never looked back, finishing the year with a .306 average. Winn had 17 multi-hit games in September, including three four-hit games. His 51 hits that month set a San Francisco Giants record that Cabrera tied in May of 2012. 

"It was a great situation for me," Winn said of the midseason trade that brought him to San Francisco. "Coming home, still live in the Bay Area, grew up in the Bay Area, my wife is from the Bay Area, our parents at that time lived in the Bay Area, so for us it was a homecoming and it was just great to be back home."

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On the podcast, Winn also talks about how he would handle this layoff, what it was like playing college basketball with Steve Nash, what made Bonds and Albert Pujols so great, and much more. 

Giants fans vote 'Champ' Tim Lincecum as best version of former ace


Giants fans vote 'Champ' Tim Lincecum as best version of former ace

You the fans have spoken.

We asked you to designate your favorite version of former Giants ace Tim Lincecum, and the social media response was overwhelming.

Lincecum was a part of all three World Series-winning teams in 2010, 2012, and 2014 in San Francisco.

During his first postseason run in 2010, Lincecum put together an impressive stretch of performances, solidifying himself as a franchise icon.

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He kicked off the 2010 MLB Playoffs by throwing a 119-pitch shutout with 14 strikeouts against the Atlanta Braves in Game 1, propping up an offense that only mustered one run of support to give the Giants a leg up in the five-game division series.

He followed that effort up by striking out eight Phillies in a Game 1 road win in Philadelphia, when Cody Ross’ two home runs led the Giants to a 4-3 win.

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Lincecum wrapped up the postseason by earning two World Series wins, including the series clincher in Game 5, striking out 10 Texas Rangers over eight innings as the Giants won their first Fall Classic since the franchise relocated to the west coast in 1958.

Although Lincecum earned plenty of nicknames during his legendary career in San Francisco, “Champ” definitely has a nice ring to it.