Rarely does Buster Posey chase pitches outside of the strike zone. It’s almost like its been cemented in his mind not to swing at bad pitches, but he hasn’t displayed much of that gaudy discipline in the playoffs.
In the National League Championship series, he walked four times to six strikeouts in 26 at-bats. That’s very un-Posey like. What those numbers are saying, is that he’s eager to produce. He’s trying to do too much, which is limiting his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field and ultimately drive pitches in general. But not all the blame can be put on Posey because his support has been minimal. And yes, Hunter Pence has something to do with this
To his credit, Pence came through with the separating hit during Monday’s Game 7, a two-run double that apparently ticked off his bat three times before entering the field of play. Nevertheless, it gave the Giants a hefty lead that they wouldn’t cough up.
However, Pence has done a poor job of supporting Posey throughout the playoffs so far, posting a .204 OBP. He knows it, manager Bruce Bochy knows it, and even the casual spectator knows it. What Pence is causing Posey to do, is chase pitches that he normally wouldn’t swing at because he’s not getting anything better to hit. Even Posey, who walked 11.3 percent of the time during the regular season, can’t resist the urge to hack when things aren’t going his way. Of course, his worst days in the patience department could never match Pence’s worst days, or even his good days for that matter, but you know what I mean.
The thing is, Posey’s only hope of being productive, essentially lies in Pence’s bat. He can certainly go through the motions and elect to take the free pass that opposing pitchers are basically giving to him, but what good will that do if Pence isn’t going to do his part? That’s why Posey is feeling the heat to put the ball in play which is resulting in an inflated amount of weak ground outs and lazy line drives.
The approach Cincinnati and St.Louis used against Posey is pretty basic. When they weren’t pitching around him, they were pounding him away, then changing his eyesight by elevating fastballs up in the zone. As aforementioned, Posey has chased a higher rate of balls, which is allowing opposing pitchers to elevate their pitches.
The Cardinals, in particular, used a sinker a lot against Posey. According to Texas Leaguers, St.Louis threw him a sinker 21 percent of the time. Naturally, the results of his at-bats were 23 percent ground outs. Also, let’s not forget that Kyle Lohse is a big reason why Posey received a number of sinkers, as it Lohse’s main pitch instead of the fastball. But nevertheless, it prevailed, at least against Posey.
Now, onto the main concern. One word—sliders. In the NLCS, the Cardinals threw him a slider 12 times. Not only did Posey not put any of the 12 pitches in play, but he also swung and missed at four of the 12 bullets. Perhaps this seems like a minor complication, but the Tigers are thirsty to seize Posey’s vulnerable spot, and they’re more than familiar with the slider. During the regular season, the Tigers’ staff threw a slider 16 percent of the time which checked in as the fifth highest rate in the American League. Perhaps Posey receives a massive dose of sliders? Just a thought.
In short, Posey will have to adjust like all good hitters, and Posey knows that. Obviously the clock is ticking for him to do so, but an MVP type series against Detroit will certainly make the NLCS struggles seem like a distant memory.