Despite Miguel Cabrera getting revenge against Sergio Romo with a home run on a first-pitch slider that stood instead of slid in its approach to home plate, the Giants ran their winning streak against the Tigers to six with a 5-4 victory. And while listening to Matt Vasgersian for three hours was a chore, this was quite the productive day for the Giants and Buster Posey, who went 3-for-3 with a walk — in part because of the presence of Vasgersian’s employer for Saturday’s game.
Posey has been on a ridiculous tear throughout the second half. Everyone knows this. You can trot out the numbers since the All-Star Break, since the beginning of August, or over the last 15 games. But an MVP campaign is not built on a torrid second half alone. In most cases, one also needs to lead a team into the postseason.
Dominating on national television doesn’t hurt, either.
Posey started a two-out first inning rally with a single off David Price, a single that started a string of five consecutive hits that plated four runs. Madison Bumgarner wasn’t at his sharpest, allowing three runs over six innings and going without a strikeout for the first time in his big league career. No matter — Posey hit is 20th home run of the season to give the Giants an insurance run, which they needed after Cabrera hit his second home run of the game.
September 9, 2012
On that date, the Giants beat the Dodgers 4-0 on Sunday Night Baseball. It was a victory that clinched an important series and gave them a 5.5-game lead over Los Angeles in the NL West. Posey went 2-for-4 with a home run (his 20th), and afterward I asked Bruce Bochy the following question. Following his answer, Posey’s MVP campaign — from a PR perspective — was in full swing.
Q: Buster Posey had another great weekend. Obviously there’s a lot of baseball left to play and you’re working towards a team goal, but can you picture any other player in the league being more valuable to a team than he is to yours?
Bochy: No, I can’t. With what he’s done for us, really all year and then you go from the All-Star break on. Here you have a guy catching and hitting in the cleanup spot and has carried us at times. I can’t think of a guy that’s more valuable for a club than Buster is for us.
Posey is now third in the National League in batting average (.310), but there’s some stiff competition. Giancarlo Stanton leads the league in homers, RBIs, walks, on-base percentage and slugging, and he leads NL position players in WAR no matter where you look. Clayton Kershaw is a Cy Young shoo-in, and he’ll get plenty of MVP votes as well. One can make a solid argument for Jason Heyward, Jonathan Lucroy, Andrew McCutchen, as well as Hunter Pence.
It really comes down to overtaking the Dodgers in the division — if that happens, and Posey wins a batting title, we might see him win a second MVP award in three seasons. There’s a lot more baseball left, and with the Giants just 1.5 games behind the Dodgers, the baseball world will pay close attention to both teams. Posey also gets another chance to show off on national TV, as the Giants go for a sweep over Detroit tomorrow evening.
The debate over whether we should care about pitchers’ wins and losses isn’t much of one these days. The arbitrariness of the statistic has left it behind in the eyes of just about everyone besides aging Hall-of-Fame voters and your father. But if there’s any logic to the idea that starters can “pitch to the score,” we saw it on display today. Madison Bumgarner didn’t strike anyone out, so he’s still stuck on 199 (his total from last season). He gave up hit after hit, to the point where I was pulling a Mike Krukow and wondering whether the Tigers were stealing Andrew Susac’s signs from behind the plate. But he somehow turned 10 hits and two home runs allowed into just three runs over six innings, and never gave up that lead.
Bumgarner picked up win No. 17 for his efforts, putting him in a tie with Kershaw for the major league lead. With four starts left, Bumgarner could become the first Giant to win 20 since 1993, when John Burkett won 22 and Bill Swift won 21. Yeah, yeah, who cares. (You totally care.)
— This is not what’s up:
Sergio Romo declined to comment on facing Cabrera.
— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) September 6, 2014
— However, the bullpen overall was quite good. Romo walked the tightrope, allowing two flyouts along with the Cabrera homer, but Jean Machi looked like a new man away from the forkball-thwarting altitude of Coors Field. Santiago Casilla looked like an upper-tier closer.
— Posey walked on four pitches in his second plate appearance (it looked like Price was pitching around him, actually). It was his first walk after 63 consecutive plate appearances without one. He hit .492 over that stretch.
— The new market inefficiency may be *impatience*. Here’s something interesting Eno Sarris of Fangraphs recently wrote in a great story about Bumgarner:
This year, though, it looks like we might be facing a tipping point where batters are becoming too selective on the pitch. Seven of the 28 batters swung at first pitch strikes Tuesday night. The league has a 25.8% first pitch swing rate right now. A near perfect match, and it didn’t favor the hitters Tuesday night, just as it doesn’t seem to be favoring them in general this year.
Buster Posey is doing more early-count swinging. That’s apparent from the data, but Bochy added to that by saying Posey’s hot streak might have been triggered when he stopped overanalyzing and trying to figure out what the pitcher would throw him.
Hitters always have a better average when putting the first pitch into play — it’s .331 among all NL players — but the advantage is especially distinct for Posey. He’s hitting .500 (25 for 50) with three homers and eight doubles.
Posey’s home run came on a first-pitch 93 mph fastball from Price.
— Joaquin Arias was hitting .187 on Aug. 6. He went 2-for-4 on Sept. 6, and how he’s hitting .236.
— The Giants’ other MVP candidate didn’t have a bad day either: 2-for-4 and this sliding catch:
If you look closely enough, yes, that’s me in the reflection. Taking TV photos during the day never turns out well.